‘Tis the season for all God’s creatures big and small to find refuge from the harsh elements. Evidently, there is a tiny mouse-sized blinking neon sign flashing “vacancy” and pointing at our house. We have three excellent outside mousers. These little guys are always leaving their trophies on our doorstep (thank you excellent mousers for your continued spirit of sharing your headless rodents with us). However, it never fails that when the weather turns cold, a couple of industrious little critters manage to slip past the feline Gestapo and setup residence in our already fully occupied residence. Heavy sigh.
Our first cold season on the farm we were cat-less. The mice took full advantage of the city dwellers as we transitioned to farm life. We are learning the game. Armed with our feline front line of defense and traps locked and loaded, we have battled back. Mouse hunting is not for the faint of heart.
As the Christmas holiday winds down, be advised that the soldiers in the mouse army have no regard for the spirit of the season. With reckless abandonment, these beasts rape, pillage and burn with the brutality of seasoned Spartans (and by rape, pillage and burn, I mean they ate all my Rolos and left little bits of gold foil in their wake). And what is with all the little mouse turds they leave behind!! Do these tiny ninjas feast on Metamucal and FiberOne bars all summer long or is leaving their shit behind a part of their modus operandi? If you eat my whole pack of Rolo candy, I expect at the very least, a thank you. Nope, just a pile of shredded gold foil sprinkled with turds.
It goes without saying that I have a healthy dislike for my unwanted winter guests, but even with the pent-up resentment I harbor, I tend to balk at engaging in the hands-on portion of the mouse wars. I leave the dirty work to the man of the house. Kevin is in charge of any and all prisoners of war. This includes disposal and execution as required. I feel no shame in being second in command of our little platoon. It is a perfect role for me. I can scout out the territory, mark the trail, bitch and complain and damn them all to a cheese-less hell; but I wasn’t designed for hand-to-hand combat, even if it is with a mouse.
Our battle plan was going well, until I found myself ALONE behind enemy lines faced with a snared captive. I heard the faint squeak of distress before I saw him. I turned away to reflect on the ruthless deeds doled out by these thieving shitting rascals and this seemed to bolster my resolve. Channeling my best Xena Warrior Princess, I turned to boldly face my enemy, prepared to deliver his demise. I marched over to the trap, and there entrapped on the pad of industrial sticky glue, WAS THE CUTEST LITTLE BABY MOUSE ON THE PLANET!
The little guy was straining in vain to free his tiny little paws from the glue…and that pitiful squeak. The entire scene was heart wrenching. Picking up the glue pad to get a closer look, his little nose twitched and I swear I saw a tears welling in his big sad eyes. I tried to regain my focus. I mentally went over my options: roll him up like a mouse burrito and toss him in the trash; whack him in his baby mouse head with a boot; scrape him off the pad with a putty knife and turn him over to the trusty mousers??? Every ounce of Xena the Warrior Princess drained from my being and I grabbed a bottle of vegetable oil and headed outside.
Walking about 50 yards out into the field, I proceeded to tell the mouse that according to the rules of engagement, I was pretty sure I had to spare the lives of women and children, not to mention pitiful little mouse babies. As I poured cooking oil over the mouse to free him from his snare, I explained in great detail that my superior officer wouldn’t be so inclined to show mercy on him. Finally, the glue gave into the oil and he slid free and scampered into the distance. “Keep going, little guy. Run far and fast and never return or surely you will die.”
Walking back to the house with my cooking oil and empty slick glue trap, the weight of what I had done hit me. Kevin must never know. I stashed the cooking oil in the cupboard, threw the empty trap in the trash and headed to work wearing the cloak of a traitor.
That very evening I found myself in the kitchen with Kevin and my daughter, Sophi. There was no talk of mice. As we chattered about our days and the upcoming holidays, the thoughts of my aiding and abetting our enemy started to fade. Then, without warning, Sophi drops a bombshell, “So, did we catch the mouse?” All of our eyes went to where the trap and been set and now was just an empty corner.
Kevin says, “I didn’t” and they both look at me. My attempt at a smile failed and I casually said, “Oh, yeah. I caught a mouse this morning”, hoping this translated into “I AM XENA THE WARRIOR PRINCESS AND I SLAYED THE MOUSE LIKE THE BADASS I AM.” It did not, evidently, translate quite the way I had hoped. The remainder of the conversation went as follows:
Kevin: “What did you do with it?”
Me: “With what?”
Kevin: “The mouse.”
Me: “Oh, I just put it out there,” and I gestured toward the door leading to the garage.
Sophi: “You let it go, didn’t you?”
Me: “It was a baby! I looked so sad and pitiful! I didn’t know what to do.”
Kevin: “You… are…. the…. dumbest….. thing.”
Sophi (to Kevin): “Well you married the dumbest thing. What does that make you?” (Thank you, Sophi…sort of).
Now we wait for the predicted return of the exiled mouse. So I gave a little mouse a break. It made me think of all the posts on Facebook about holiday donations of toys for needy being returned to the stores by the parent or sold to get money to buy beer and cigarettes. Does that make me the dumbest thing if I choose to still give? Is the spirit of giving snuffed out by the actions of the receiver or is the act of giving with sincere intentions the real heart of the matter? I choose to stand on the latter. There will always be those who exploit the kindness of community and there will always be those children who will suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them. But I know in my heart of hearts that there are those dolls, Legos, and clothes that make it under the trees each Christmas season. I don’t know if what I am able to give will end up as a treasured gift for one with little or a pack of Pall Malls for a shitty parent and if my spirit is right, it shouldn’t matter. A gift is no longer a gift if there are any strings attached other than those tied around the package. There is a good chance that my greasy mouse will return to gorge on my candy and shit on my counter. But there is also a good chance that it won’t. Either way, sometimes being the dumbest thing isn’t the worst thing. Sometimes, it’s just who I am.