Sunday, September 17, 2006

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ee cummings
"The most wasted of all days is one without slaughter." Hulles

Autumn is here. American football is starting, American baseball is beginning to show signs of ending, and mice are looking for nice warm buildings in which to set up housekeeping. Lebensraum, they call it among themselves, appropriately enough.

My devoted fans will recall that I have mentioned my ongoing battle with these pesky little guys before (see Mickey Must Die). Recently, I was comparing rodent war stories with a friend of mine – a new homeowner – and recalled one of the first skirmishes I ever had with unwanted mice in the house.

At the time to which I refer, I was married and a homeowner myself (you can see from this that I was still charmingly naïve in my outlook on life). We had a cat, Mikey, who turned out to be quite a mouser. The first fall we spent in the house, Mikey caught himself a little mouse and played with it for a couple hours before I finally ensconced the mouse in a peanut butter jar. This was before I discovered the virtues of (what used to be) one-pound coffee cans. At any rate, there I was with a disgruntled cat and a trapped mouse scrabbling at the sides of the jar. What to do with him? (The mouse, not the cat.)

As I mentioned, I was not the hardened veteran then that I am now, so I tried and tried to come up with a way to humanely kill the little fucker. Hunh, I thought. If I was a mouse, how would I like to die? Finally, I came up with the idea that I would drown him in scotch (albeit cheap scotch). I had a bottle of Passport Scotch lying around that would do admirably, so I poured about five fingers of scotch into the jar and watched the mouse get drunk and drown. It was sort of creepy -- he recapitulated in about 30 seconds what usually took me several hours and a lot more money to accomplish. At last, however, he was dead and not even bubbling any more.

I had a good idea where the mouse had entered the house, so I set the jar with the scotched mouse[1] by this putative entrance pour encourager les autres. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

A couple of days later, Mikey had found another little playmate. I scrounged up another peanut butter jar, and eventually trapped this mouse as well. Still trying to be relatively humane, but being unwilling to part with more scotch (albeit cheap scotch), I decided to drown this one in plain tap water. I consoled myself with the thought that he at least wouldn’t suffer cirrhosis of the liver before he died. That was a belated worry of mine with the first mouse. So, no sooner said than done. That jar went next to Uncle Lenny in the scotch.

A few more days went by, and once again Mikey came through with a mouse. I was feeling like the rodent equivalent of the Joad family was moving into my house. This time, I just put the mouse into the jar, closed the lid, and let him suffocate next to the rotting corpses of his relatives[2]. I now had three jars lined up by the hole.

Apparently, after three fatalities, the mice were finally deterred from invading our house for the rest of the season. Either that or I killed the entire clan. Whatever, the resulting mouse-free environment was a welcome relief to me and my wife (!), although Mikey was nonplussed.

Now, I’m sure it hasn’t escaped you that, over the course of the above events, I not only quickly became accustomed to killing but cared less and less about the suffering of the subjects in question. This concerned me even at the time. It seemed like a classic example of the “you can get used to anything” theory, and made me really question my own personal ethos.

I finally resolved this by claiming that I was only following orders, and blamed my wife. I still believe that this saved me many hours of psychotherapy and led directly to my divorce.

- Hulles

[1] I believe this is considered a delicacy in the UK. I’m fairly certain it was served to me a number of times when I was visiting there.

[2] Actually, the corpses were still quite well preserved, thanks to the Skippy folks. This is just a literary device – i.e. a lie -- to make for better prose.

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