We’ve all read Clement Clarke Moore’s holiday poem stating, “All through the house not a creature was stirring–not even a mouse. No offense, Clement, but you’re full of it. Since the weather turned cold, mice are stirring all over the place and leaving their little “gifts” on my kitchen counter.
A few days ago, as I was reading the newspaper, one of them boldly sauntered across the kitchen, inches from my feet. Astounded by his boldness and his nonchalance, I rustled the newspaper and stomped my feet. He barely flinched. I thought all self-respecting mice were supposed to scurry when startled. He looked too well fed to scurry, likely from all my groceries he’d been raiding. If he gets any fatter, he’ll have to strap a tiny roller skate under his pendulous gut. I’ve named him Orson Wells, for obvious reasons.
He’s also taken up residence in my bedroom closet, where his nocturnal rustling and scratching keep me awake all night. At first I thought he was in the wrapping paper I store there. Perhaps he is wrapping the little “gifts” he’s been leaving. Maybe the tiny, gayly wrapped box I found in the cupboard is not a jewelry surprise from my husband.
Then I found out what Orson was doing in my closet. He was nesting. He had gnawed dozens of holes in my brand-new Kelly-green sweater. Evidently new fabric makes a superior nest, since he didn’t touch the tattered old jeans or paint-spattered sweatshirts in the closet.
Orson must die, I decided, just like that other Orson in the final scene of “Citizen Kane.” I baited the trap with cheese and peanut butter. My diet won’t allow me cheese and peanut butter. That blasted mouse is eating better than I am. I hope his cholesterol level soars so high he drops dead of a massive coronary.
But, no, the trap worked. There he was, his little neck compressed by the trap’s metal bar. I thought I’d be happy to see the little pest dead, but it seemed so barbaric a way to die. How could I be sure that his death was quick and painless? Perhaps I could simulate his final moments, snuffed out by the cruel snap of the trap. Not that I wanted to die as he did. Just a little experiment to replicate his final moments.
Let’s see, what could I use that’s similar to the metal bar of a mouse trap? A spring-loaded hanger for slacks. I smeared the bar with peanut butter and slid it carefully behind the stove. Scooting my head into the narrow crevice, I stretched my my tongue toward the peanut butter and…snap! Ouch! Geez! That hurts like the Dickens! This was a really dumb idea. Maybe if I back out slowly, I can…sniff, sniff. Gee, that peanut butter smells pretty good. I think I can still reach it. Yuck, it’s picked up a metallic taste from the hanger. The poor mouse’s last taste of life was tinny tasting, cheap, generic peanut butter. That really is cruel and unusual punishment.
I couldn’t even swallow it with that metal bar across my neck. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even breathe. I think it was cutting off my oxygen. That was my last conscious thought before I had that near-death experience. It was just like everybody says: the tunnel, the bright light, the beckoning figure of a holy being. Here was my chance to talk to God and have some philosophical questions answered.
“So, God,” I said, “I saw a movie the other day and this woman was dead and her spirit was unable to leave the house where she died. Every time her spirit appeared, she was dusting furniture. I have to tell you, God, if I’m dead, I’m not dusting anymore. As a matter of fact, I refuse to do any cleaning in heaven. I’ll bet most people feel that way, so heaven must be a very dirty place.”
“I must go, my child,” He said. “I am very busy.”
“Just a minute. About the dead mouse. Sorry. But what’s the deal with all the pests and parasites of the world?”
“All of God’s creatures have a purpose,” He intoned. “Now I really have to go. There are many others who need me.”
“Do I detect a hint of irritation, God? God? It’s getting very hot in here. And where is the maniacal laughter coming from?”
When I came to, I found out why it was so hot. Due to a lack of oxygen, I’d passed out with my head in the oven. The bright light I’d seen was the oven light. As for the maniacal laughter, did my husband have to bring in all the neighbors? You’d think they’d never seen a woman with a slacks hanger on her neck, peanut butter smeared on her face, and her head in the oven.
I was so angry and stressed out by the experience, I found it hard to enjoy my annual outing to the local ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. I’d just begun to relax when the Mouse King character came prancing onto the stage. Hmm, there was something familiar about that mouse; the bulging tummy, the faint aroma of peanut butter, that scrap of kelly green fabric caught in his teeth.
“Orson!” I bellowed as I rushed the stage. Jerking the stage curtain from its hooks, I stuffed it down his throat. “Take that! You greedy little flea-bitten rodent!”
Grasping my lapels in his cheese stained hands, he pulled me close and with his last dying breath, he whispered, “Rosebud.”