Humming “All Things Bright and Beautiful” all the while

Part I We humans call that ‘perverted’

Part II

My high school Biology teacher had a repertoire of anecdotes, and it was clear which were his favorites.  There is one story he told half a dozen times throughout the year, whenever the situation called, ever so faintly, for a yarn about the dissection of common household pets.

Back when he himself was a Biology student, his own teacher told the students (all boys) on the first day of class that they’d spend the whole year preparing for one a major dissection lab assignment, the culmination of their high school science education.  On a deeper level, it would represent a coming of age, for each student would be asked to supply his own specimen.  “Gentleman,” the teacher said, “go out and procure yourself a cat.”

In a way, that is exactly what I did.

On the day after the Mus walked in on me in the bathroom, I went out and procured myself a mouse trap.

I hoped it wouldn’t come to that.  I resisted the idea as I crouched on the bathroom floor, still wrapped in just my towel, head cocked to peer after the flashlight beam I shined under the sink.  I resisted the idea when the dust layered there distracted me.  I resisted the idea as I collected the vacuum cleaner and assembled the hose extension.  A mouse trap was the farthest thing from my mind as I jabbed the power switch and aimed the hose.

But then, that slim furry body shot out from the corner under the sink, veered halfway under the toilet, and darted under the radiator, hovering just beyond the end of my vacuum hose the whole way.  I wasn’t aiming for it, I swear.

Caitlin said the pitch created when my shriek combined with the moan of the vacuum probably scared the mouse to death, but I made up my mind right then.

I selected my weapon the way I choose everything else: I shopped online.  Home Depot offered some intriguing options.  Poisons and traditional, Tom & Jerry style mouse traps, as well as contraptions called Havahart traps were all possibilities, but to be honest, I was less concerned about the humanity of the demise than I was about my own sanity.  I did not want to face this creature again, dead or alive.

So that left the mouse trap supreme, the Boss Level equivalent of small rodent extermination, the well reviewed Victor Electronic Mouse Trap, Model No. M252.  Powered by four AA batteries, this baby is equipped with two metal plates that deliver a 4500 volt shock when the electric circuit is closed.  It also features a status light that blinks when an intruder has been apprehended and a hinged lid that flips open for quick disposal.

I spent $19.99 on this mouse trap.  Plus tax.

And I bought batteries, too.

At home, I poured a glass of wine and spread a dab of peanut butter on a Cheerio.  The wine was for me, the peanut butter was for my little friend.  I set the trap near the bathroom radiator, where my target was last sighted.  One review on Home Depot’s website reported results within the hour.  I put my feet up while I waited.

Twelve hours later, I woke to a blinking light.  Three hours, two phone calls to my parents, and a cup of coffee later, I stood over a tall garbage can wearing boots, long, green rubber gloves and my coat, with my house keys in the pocket.  I squeezed my eyes shut and hummed at the top of my lungs as I picked up the little black box, loosened the top, and turned it over above the garbage.  I was singing so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything land in the trash bag, so I gave the trap a vigorous shake, just to be sure.  Without breathing, I tied up the bag and Baywatch-ran (you know, high knees?) down to the curb to dump the body.

I mean, to dispose of the evidence.

I mean, to take out the trash.

That night, my roommate and her boyfriend and I made dinner together.  They got back to the building with groceries before I got home from the liquor store, and Caitlin had forgotten her keys, so they went to ask our super for the spare set.  The super opened her door and before Caitlin could say a word, said, “I know just what you’re looking for, you don’t even have to say it!” and handed Caitlin a shrink-wrapped package.  Bewildered, Caitlin wondered, what do you think I’m here for? and looked down at the rat poison in her hands.

Apparently, other tenants have noticed the mice, too.

“Actually, we’re just looking for your spare keys,” Caitlin said.  “But yeah, how ’bout those mice?  You know, just yesterday, Em went out and bought herself a trap, and she caught something this morning!”  Like, next I might go out and catch myself an urban squirrel.  And then I’ll go after a park raccoon.  And next thing you know, we’ll have a wall covered in stuffed game heads.


I set the mouse trap again that night, but it was empty in the morning.  I did have one more sighting.  I was sitting in the dimly lit kitchen a few evenings later when a mouse came out from a tiny gap in the baseboards.  It stopped short in the middle of the floor, rose up on its hind legs and leaned toward me, and then scampered under the oven, apparently uninterested.  It was as if it said, “Oh, it’s just you.  I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”

I moved the trap into the kitchen that night and the mouse had the nerve not to be caught dead in it.  That’s the last I’ve seen of them.  I can only assume the rest have all been poisoned by my neighbors.

I really hoped to eliminate more than one mouse in my $20 trap, even if only to reduce its cost per use.  With every catch, I could have cut the life cycle expense in half.  But for now, that one mouse rings up at $20, and I guess that’s not a bad thing.

Now that I think about it, I never did find out for sure if that cat dissection story was true.

We humans call that ‘perverted’

Part I

I thought I had come to terms with the undeniable fact that mice, rodents, live among us in the city.  I could accept their mostly invisible presence in my kitchen.  Even when they made their presence known—once I caught one scurrying across the counter and down into the stove; another time I came home to find a sink full of dishes and two tiny ones hiding among them—I got over it . . . by scooping them up in the colander and dumping them out the window.

Though I knew they were there, around, somewhere, as long as their existence was no more than conjuncture, if I never gave too much thought to the transient wisps with tails ghosting through the walls, it was fine.

The Mus musculus, commonly known as the house mouse, lives in close association with humans, and its survival depends on that association. Bodies range in length from 65 to 95 mm, not including the tail, which is from 60 to 105 mm long.  Weight is between 12 and 30 g.  Not a very intimidating size, is it?  Compared to their strictly rural cousins, house mice tend to have longer tails and darker fur.

Apparently, they are also equipped with bigger gonads.

That’s just what I need.  Gutsy mice.  Mice with stones.  Mice with reckless courage.  Mice that breach the lines of neutral territory and come down the hall to the bathroom.  Mice that enter without knocking first.

I was putting up my hair, about to get in the shower, and only happened to have my gaze directed at the floor, when I saw it shoot under the door, round a quick corner and go under the sink cabinet.  It was so small.  It seemed to move without touching the floor.  I would have mistaken it for a dense gray dust bunny if its body hadn’t had such marked forward thrust.  Clearly, it had places to go, and my towel, which I’d dropped to the floor, blocked its path between the doorway and the heating vent.

My yell began as a groan, a sound of dissenting horror.  I snatched up my towel and clutched it to my chest, only to wonder if I shouldn’t burn it—how close did those little feet come to it?  But by then, I’d thrown the bathroom door open and my roommate had come running down the hall.  We both stood in the doorway while I professed my absolute certainty that I’d seen a mouse and not a hairball and she tried to persuade me that whatever I’d seen was already long gone, and I reasoned that to get long gone, it must have had feet.

When I finally reached into the shower to turn off the water, which I’d already had running, we both heard the scratching of paws from under the sink.  She cracked up and I whined one long, wordless note of misery.

I detest being such a girl about it.  It’s not like I’ve never encountered a mouse before.  We had them in my house when I was a kid.  One summer at camp, I named the mice we saw darting into dark corners of the cabin.  I called them Stuart, Stuart, Stuart, and Little, and I hoped my campers would accept that woodland creatures roam the woods, or at least be more comfortable with their harmless little cabin mates.  Maybe the mice got too comfortable, though.  I was reading on the couch one night when one of the Stuarts crept toward me across the top of the back cushions, trying to get close enough to read over my shoulder.

A curious mouse in a cabin in the woods in the middle of the night is one thing, but Speedy Gonzalez had the pluck to interrupt the dinner hour. He entered an inhabited room under a closed door.  He saw me naked.

And he’ll pay for the privilege.  With his life.

Part II—Humming “All Things Bright and Beautiful” all the while

Obeying weather patterns

Sometimes it snows in March

Last week, I was tromping around in the snow on the roof of my office building.  It was so windy that my pupils couldn’t focus properly, like I had a layer of slush coating my eyes instead of tears.  My hands were slow and stiff in the cold, but I managed to take the token self-portrait above.  For posterity.  Because I hadn’t expected to hear the voluminous hush of snow again in Winter 2009, and then I got this one last chance.  And you never know where I’ll be for Winter 2010.

Over the weekend, positively balmy temperatures drained away every remnant of that last chance snow storm.  I went out in a cotton tank and a light wool cardigan.  Wearing sporty silver flats.  My bare ankles were exposed and they were like, “hello world!”  We opened all the windows on Saturday morning and when I got home early, early Sunday morning, the smell of warm, damp bricks still swished around the perimeter of the apartment.

One year, my high school closed for a day in the middle of May because all the school buses had been vandalized.  Usually it takes a snow storm to cancel school, but they couldn’t transport students in buses with blacked out windows.  The weather was warming up, but that day, the air just happened to be saturated with the scents of sun and grass.  It was so, so hard to go back to school the next day, having had that taste of summer, and knowing that our long vacation was so close.

Now that there’s no real summer vacation to anticipate, the weather taunts me with just the coming of a different season.  Me and my ankles.

Fluff feather pillows daily

What does it mean when you repeatedly dream about marriage and bed linens?

“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Was I? Oh no. What did I say?”

“You said, ‘if we get married, will you fluff my pillow every night?'”


“My answer is no.  Just so we’re clear.”

“Oh, we’re clear.”

The February Shoe

Do other people do this?

When I’m picking out a new calendar, the picture on the page for my birthday month is a big factor.  I like when the whole year’s worth of images is printed on the back cover so I can see what I’m getting in to.

It’s silly, I guess, because February is the shortest month of the year.  If my favorite picture is on the February page, I only get to look at it for twenty-eight days.

Two years in a row, I’ve had the same calendar in my office: The Metropolitan Museum: Shoes.  And two years in a row, a pretty purple 1930s-era pump has been the shoe of February.

Oh, right, so my birthday is tomorrow.

I put clean sheets on my bed and fluffed all my pillows.  I’ve got my favorite t-shirt and my Dunkin’ Donuts card laid out for the morning.  There are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (!) in my lunch bag.  My desk at work is all cleared off (there were a couple of things I just did not want to deal with on my birthday, and I put them in the bottom drawer for Wednesday morning).  Caitlin and I are getting our nails done after work.  Marie and I are going out later this week.

I want to spend my birthday on these little things, these inconsequential things that make me feel special.

When I turned twenty, I hadn’t shaved my legs for a week because I was having them waxed before my trip to Chile.  I spent this perfect, quiet morning at home in my bathrobe, I had lunch with my grandmom, I went to work and did math homework and ate cake with my sweet boys.  If I could have changed about that day, I would have shaved my legs.  That’s it!

I don’t need a perfect day.  I just want the nicest possible totally normal day.

And a new mattress.  I want a new mattress.  Which my parents are getting for me because I’m turning twenty-five, and old ladies need back support as much as they need beauty rest.