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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Today we had a little death in the house.


It was probably a big death to the being who was personally involved, and I know that I tend to use the word little far too much as a descriptor.

And now I feel guilty because I'm the one that saw the streak of gray fur out of the corner of my eye, the wiggle of the inanimate paper grocery bag on the floor as though a tiny gust of wind came from behind the stove and shook the bag, surprising me. Had there been a chair handy, I would have jumped on it and shrieked, like in the cartoons.

I thought at first I had one of those optical migraines, where artifacts not real put themselves into our reality, and we believe in them even though they are entirely manufactured in our nervous systems.

How could a mouse run so fast? I thought I had imagined it. But still I got the heebie-jeebies, so The Boy did what he does best, being The Boy of the House. He bought several types of traps (the best kinds), loaded them with tiny bits of peanut butter (per the instructions) and then placed the traps on the floor, out of my line of sight.

So all this time I thought I had imagined that smooth gray swoosh, until this morning when I saw the tail.

gray. adjective. variant, also grey: 5. having an intermediate and often vaguely defined position, condition, or character


I got all queasy looking at that little tail. Feeling terribly guilty and wishing I hadn't said anything to The Boy. I told him he had to come and get the trap, that it was his job as The Boy to deal with such things, and he said he would get it, in a bit.

And then he said jokingly, Tell me you're not really that much of a girl! Meaning that I had gotten all wussy on him, to which I freely admitted at that point, Yes, I am a girl. You have to throw this trap away!


When The Boy came to take the trap, all of a sudden I realized that I could look at the mouse (or at least the tail, and then later, its hindquarters) under the mental disguise of taking a photo of it.

In that instance, the mouse became an object. Life or the lack thereof no longer mattered. It's just a mouse.

And that thought made me feel brave, but it also made me sad – in a different way.

The old chestnut remains: the camera reveals, yet it also shields. How can one be engaged and remote at the same time?

How do we decide what we wish to see?

How do we decide how we want to see?


Mary-Laure June 30, 2009 at 12:03 PM  

I would have felt SO queasy too...

Rachel June 30, 2009 at 12:33 PM  

We used those traps at a co-op where I used to work... I always thought that if we were going to kill something we should be able to see it, not treat it as trash to be thrown out... I don't know.
I guess I'm saying that I agree with you.

Mari June 30, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

He's just sleeping.

namastenancy June 30, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

I wonder if we are hard wired to scream at the sign that a rodent (wee or not) is present? After all, our ancestors were farmers. Rats and mice were threats to the crops. Ditto for urban dwellers where rats and mice meant dirt and disease. So, it's probably something in the unconscious female hive mind as we were (and in some places still are) the keepers of the hearth, the home, the pantry, the food stocks and the sick room. You are just reverting to your primal heritage. I did the same thing a few years ago when I had a mouse in the house. I can't believe how frightened I was. I probably screamed. I went out and got the best trap that I could, courtesy of the guys at Cliffs who gave me good information. And then, dear reader, I slayed the wee creature. Nancy the Mouse Killer! I felt a bit squeamish when I went to dispose of the corpse but I threw it into the garbage with a feeling of triumph. Take that! Oh fast scampering mouse that is no more.

Bill Stankus June 30, 2009 at 5:55 PM  

We live on the edge of a forested area ... shall I make a guess at how many snap traps I've used on mice and then tossed away ... in one season?

I have a simple guideline. Mice in the woods and grasses, that's fine. Mice in the garage and house, zero tolerance.

smith kaich jones June 30, 2009 at 7:03 PM  

Someday when we meet, I'll tell you the tale of the night I spent refusing to move from a bench in my "bookroom", trapped with a mouse, on the phone to my boy, screaming like the girl I am.
And that's why God invented testosterone.

:) Debi

Ps - swear to that same God that my word verification is howls. :)

Sandra June 30, 2009 at 7:22 PM  

I live on a farm. 'Nuff said. I picked up a rather large, dead mouse off my bathroom floor this morning. Margaret, my cat, aka Margaret the Hun, got me up to tell me she slew a mouse. I was so relieved to see it was still whole. Usually she eviscerates, decapitates and overall mutilates her kill. Generally I get to clean up an organ or two, a tail and sometimes a head. My gender is female, as is Margaret's, but we are not girls. : )

Yoli June 30, 2009 at 9:17 PM  

I have a humane trap, works very well. I release them in a field later. I've never had the horror other people have towards rodents. More like compassion. I think any animal deserves an ethical death. If you are going to kill it, just do it fast, nothing cruel.

georgia b. June 30, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

how very funny.

only you could take pictures of a mouse in a mouse trap and make it look like art! wonderful shots. i especially love the second one.

i love that the comment above mentioned that the word verification was "howls". i love when stuff like that happens.

{haven't forgotten about you, either. just need to get my act together.}

glnroz July 1, 2009 at 7:42 AM  

Traps?? huhhgg,, I use a .22 cal revolver with "rat shot". Keeps my reflexes sharp. I don't know how in the world I "jumped" here, but wonderful site. I even clicke on the site you set up with your Mom's check. It is great too. May I return when I have more time.. :),, Thankx

robinbird July 1, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

i decided to comment on the grey mouse rather than the gray meat you had for dinner last night. you raise interesting questions in addition to your entertaining humor.
"The old chestnut remains: the camera reveals, yet it also shields. How can one be engaged and remote at the same time? "In that instance, the mouse became an object. Life or the lack thereof no longer mattered. It's just a mouse."
i think about this a lot. photography involves a lot of personal and social responsibility. It requires one to think on a political level much more than it seems possible when you thought that capturing a slice of time and space was what you headed out to do. this may be only a mouse and yet.... in that soft and most honest and compassionate place of your heart you know it is a little lost life. maybe i;m projecting. let me know.
you are a wonder to me! always making me feel and think and think some more. oh and laugh. you frequently make me laugh out loud.
love and kisses to you.

Cartooncharacter July 1, 2009 at 2:34 PM  

I thought this post was brilliant.

I think mice are cute, though, so I was a little sad to hear of your visitor's demise.

My mom is deathly afraid of mice. With her, though, I think it is related to her childhood during WWII and the bomb shelters. Apparently there were a lot in there. I used to enjoy teasing her over the phone, telling her that right before she visited, I was going to get a pet mouse.

Funny story... in college once my roommate and I realized that there was a mouse in the apartment, and she insisted on buying traps. These traps were like little squares of glue -- the mouse would come to get the cheese and its little tiny feet would get stuck. We knew the mouse had been caught when we came home one day with her best friend, who headed into the kitchen and started screaming bloody murder. Although I was sad for the mouse, we sure had a laugh at the expense of her friend.

Art and comedy thankfully act as buffers to help us through the hard parts of life.

TheElementary July 1, 2009 at 6:09 PM  

Some months back my mother was in bed, just had turned out the lights, and realised that a mouse was in the bed with her, against her leg, trapped.
Now that was horrifying. Poor woman.
I don't mind them so much. Better than spiders, anyhow. I just love how you turned a story about a mouse into a question about seeing, and tragedies big and small. It's unique perception that alters an entire scene, without which there would be no adventures, no second way to see something, and, I suppose no compassion. I think we choose what makes us most comfortable- and we've been too comfortable for too long, hence the decline in caring for one another. It's easier to see each other as rivals or objects and rarely so we think of the old maxim about treating people as we'd like to be treated.
With that question posed, you made it about so much more than a mouse story.

Starlene July 7, 2009 at 1:16 PM  

I went for a walk in the woods a few days ago...it's funny, I have to drive to the woods, how ludicrous...and as soon as I set out on a path I, too, saw a gray streak. I stopped dead in my tracks and froze for awhile, hoping to confirm that I actually SAW something, and then finally, it poked it's little nose out of the leaves and started rooting around right next to my feet. It was a vole...some kind of long-nosed, short-tailed mouse. I'm with Bill though...outside, okay. Inside, zero tolerance. : )