Out Damn’d Spot

mouse

A sudden and desperate squeaking started from somewhere in the room.   I looked at the old fellow, Mr. W. Alva, sitting across from me.  He busily studied a set of forms on his lap with a magnifying glass that he produced from the depths of one of the many bags that were placed at his feet.  He was a retired bottlemaker and amateur scientist who found himself quite homeless after a series of unfortunate events and now sat in my office.

“Do you hear that?”

Mr. Alva set the magnifying glass down on the table next to him. The handle of the magnifier was carefully wrapped in layers of duct tape for a most comfortable grip.  Everything he owned was customized to fit his needs, from his banana spoon, which was a pen taped to a white plastic spoon and stored in his top shirt pocket, to his watch which had about twenty-seven rubber bands wrapped around the wristband.

“What?” He looked up and asked questioningly with his toothless mouth agape. In his mouth moved a strange pink tongue like that of a parakeet, mashing up words like pellets. Under the wrinkles of his eyelids, he peered at me with tiny eyes in the process of receding into his face.  They were greyish, the blue, green or brown washed out over the years.

Clearly, he did not hear the squeaking. Mr. Alva was nearly deaf from earwax, long white hairs that grew outwards and inwards, and years of experimenting with explosives. It would not have been a surprise for the man to reach into one of his bags and pull out an ear horn, and say, Come again?

I was alone in my quest to identify the sound. What a gift to hear birds singing and what a burden to hear the suffering of a baby mouse stuck to a sticky trap by its little baby mouse head.

Mr. Alva, although nearly deaf, maintained his ability to see sharply across the room. He warned with a waving finger before returning to his reading, “Better not let it bite you, its belly might be full of poison.”

Very helpful, Mr. Alva, thanks.

I had to decide the most decent and humane action and quickly to end the squeaking and squirming of the trapped creature. A quick test of the trap proved its effectiveness in that the mouse could not be separated from its ultimate demise, voluntarily or forcibly.  It was too late for both of us.  The mouse would never escape and I would never regain my innocence.

Like Lady Macbeth, the blood was on my hands and forever in my conscience.

 

Abuse of Power

Nightmare
mice

Earlier in the day, a call was placed that concluded with a general agreement on the need for traps with better bait and bigger snaps. We had an ongoing pest problem that strangely existed in one unit, in spite of our best pest control and extermination efforts.

It could only be assumed that the biggest and brightest of the mice had formed a gang and randomly set up headquarters. While the gang prepared for an all-out war/building take-over, they had to first increase their numbers and somehow co-exist with the original tenant.

“Lars, we know about the mice in your apartment. We aren’t mad, although, I’m not sure why you didn’t tell us there were so many.  Not to worry, we will take care of it for you.  The maintenance man will be setting traps tonight.”

Lars did not respond; he clutched the sides of his chair with both hands. His heart fell from his chest and splashed into his stomach.  Bile rose into his throat, displaced by his heart crashing into the sea of his organs.  He swallowed hard, forcing the acidic juices back to their original reservoirs.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

It appeared that Lars was a second away from throwing up or passing out; he swayed back and forth in his chair, pale and still silent.

“Why are you doing this?”

Lars pleaded with dark eyes to forget about the mouse droppings on the table, countertops and stove. Ignore the Tupperware dishes on his bed with a half-eaten hotdog left behind, with very tiny nibble bites taken from both ends.

“The mice are going to take-over if we don’t intervene. Did you know they have figured out those sticky traps and the “special snacks” we set out in your unit?  I don’t know how, but I think they are actually getting bigger.”

He proudly nodded his head in agreement, “Yes, they are getting bigger.”

“Right… and that’s the problem so we are going to use bigger traps and better bait, starting tonight.”

He thoughtfully considered this for a minute and counter-offered, as though this was a business deal on the table with negotiable fees and contingencies.

“I need a week to make arrangements.”

“For what?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, and I knew it was for the mice.   Clearly, he was their accomplice and advocate.  How else would they be able to not only outsmart the traps, avoid the poison but also to grow, be fruitful and multiply?

“Lars, they cannot be pets. They are pests.”

I hoped that he was not harboring these fugitives but knew that he was doing more than just allowing them to take up residency with him. I imagined the late night dinner parties with Lars surrounded by at least 57 very fat and happy mice eating ice cream and potato chips. I envisioned him sleeping with a mouse on either side of his pillow and a few around his feet.  I could see them watching tv, lined up on the couch, shaking their heads at the evening news.

He shook his head, these terms were unacceptable. He tried to explain that the mice were his friends and so on and such forth.

“Just another week and I will have them taken care of,” he begged for time, practically on his knees.

“No deal. The traps are going out tonight.”

Letter writing blues

  
I have a box stuffed full of unanswered letters. It sat on my desk for weeks, guiltily reminding me of my responsibility to respond. The weeks turned into a month, two months, and now it is approaching three months without a single response.

Officially, I am the worst pen pal in history.

The letters flew back and forth, at first. A real connection existed, made strong by carefully thought out reflections and responses, a sharing of lives and hopes and dreams. We invested time and postage in our exchanges. I felt a sense of duty to write back, as a courtesy for their trouble but moreover to keep the art of letter writing alive.  

Slowly the connection grew weaker, like a handful of fireflies trapped in a glass jar. Time passed and then too much of it to write an apology and start over or to jump back in and pretend nothing happened. So I did what any person driven by shame might do.

I locked the box into a dark drawer to let the final lights flicker out.

Tuesday’s Preface

I would feel less guilty as a fly on the wall.

The woman stared straight ahead at a blank computer screen.  Thin, brown hair fell against the cheeks of her very pale face.  The phone rang again.  She heard it through the thick haze that spread over her brain and filled her delicate ears.  She moaned in anguish and envisioned herself flitting out the window carried by a tiny pair of buzzing wings, able to see everything without the responsibility of knowing.

Why this guilt? You didn’t do anything, the woman berated herself. 

A tinny voice that may have been her conscious reminded her, it’s exactly because you didn’t do anything.  You should feel bad. 

Oh shut up, she told the tinny voice.  You are exactly what I don’t need.

The internal monologue may have continued for an indefinite time if it wasn’t suddenly interrupted and the woman was saved from herself.    

“Kel, I overheard you on the phone,” her red-haired co-worker, Samantha, said without apologizing for eavesdropping.  She rolled into the shared hallway, barefoot, like usual.  Her palms and fingertips pressed together as though in prayer, she was about to launch into amateur therapy mode.  The first woman had been subjected to this in the past.

 “You must tell yourself that it’s not your fault.  You couldn’t have done anything to change what happened.” 

“Thanks,” the first woman said, “that helps.”

“Well if you don’t want my help, why don’t you just say?” the red-head declared indignantly and rolled back into her work space.

Inside, the first woman cringed, she knew things could have been different if she hadn’t been too busy to follow up or make the right reports, if she hasn’t been so behind in her work or burned out, this never would have happened.  She felt certain that everything could have been avoided if she just tried a little harder.

She glanced at her watch and it was later than she expected.  

I will deal with this tomorrow, she decided.  She stood to leave the office, uncertain that she would return in the morning.  On second thought, she turned back and grabbed a picture from her wedding and a mug with the presidents’ faces on it. 

“Just in case,” she muttered and left.