Every new year, I make resolutions to grow my compassion.
And in case this sounds a little Mother Theresa-ish, I also make resolutions to clean the bathroom more often and work out four times a week, which seems reasonable considering how much time I spent looking at cat videos and Facebook. I could shave off enough time to train for a half-marathon and still keep on top of the latest, “Write 14 things about yourself,” thing going around. But seriously, I should get to a gym more often.
And I do try to grow my compassion. I like to think of us all as fellow travelers on our own life journeys but then my fellow travelers cut me off in rush hour traffic and I get pissed. I verbally assault the oxygen around me, curdling it into carbon dioxide with a nasty hangover. Not just traffic. I get impatient with coworkers, my friends, myself. Sometimes I am a sea of calm. Other times, well, don’t poke the bear with a stick. It’s not a good day.
However, my compassion toward fellow travelers does not extend to rodents.
Not in my house.
The first time I found a mousicle in my housicle (naming convention thanks to Jason) was fifteen years ago, a blustery November night, two months after I moved in to my current home. A night where Minnesotans look up at the non-existent daylight at 4:45 p.m. and say quietly, “And so it begins.” The night was cold. Windy. Home from work, eager to feel the warm embrace of a preprogrammed thermostat, I clomped into my kitchen, laptop slung over my shoulder.
It’s tiny furry body zipped in front of me along the baseboard and yeah, okay. I screamed like a twelve-year old girl.
Then, I swore vengeance.
I tried to envision the poor mouse shivering outside and think of it all cuddly and shit, but while trying to think compassionate thoughts, I found myself suddenly in my car. Then suddenly at the hardware store. And I kept thinking about compassion as I purchased mouse poison. Huh. How about that. Now I’m driving home.
Oh, I should explain that on the night in question I wore heavy boots, excellent thick tread, which matters to this story because the minute I walked in the front door with that bag of mouse poison cradled in my arm, I stepped on it. I knew I stepped on it because I heard the wet crunch under my boot.
Sorry about that description. I try to stay away from upsetting imagery.
But you have to understand, I was just as horrified to hear it then as you are to imagine it now. I mean, yes, I wanted the mouse gone, but I didn’t think I would, you know, crush it myself. I looked down and confirmed my first successful mouse killing and felt confused that I felt sad while also holding a bag of poison to accomplish this same thing.
Compassion is confusing.
Compassion is confusing with people, too. I feel compassion for someone’s unique situation and then they say something snotty I didn’t expect to hear and I’m irritated. That person should be more understanding, given their circumstances! Then, I’m irritated with myself for not letting people be who they are, even if it’s not who I think they should be.
People of earth refuse to believe everything I believe. Some days, this is hard for me to accept. I mean, clearly, I think the right way about everything. And when you think you’re right about how the world works, compassion can be hard.
That night, I felt sad for the mouse and yet felt glad he was gone.
Over the years more mice tried to make mine their winter chalet.
No. No way.
Not gonna happen.
I clogged up basement mouse entrances wherever I could find them. I caulked. I laid traps and more of the infamous poison along the basement rafters route. Trouble is, I live in an old house. I guess any house could have mouse problems but old bungalows are the equivalent of EconoLodges for winter mice on vacation. My house may not boast the best amenities but you can always find a room.
Well, a mouse was in the house two weeks ago.
True to our roles as panicked rodent and terrified home owner, he zipped across the floor and I screamed. Yes, twelve-year-old girl scream. Again. The mouse seemed to sense my reaction was not welcoming and turned and fled to the furnace grate where it emerged.
Then, I swore vengeance.
I was working from home that day, so I couldn’t leave and go to the hardware store for more mice poison. Gosh, you’d think my house is rat-infested from reading this post but it’s not. This is the first mouse I’ve seen in my home in three winters. Most of my patch jobs do pretty well at keeping them out. But once every few years…
The mouse taunted me all afternoon by zipping around the periphery of my vision, darting around corners in time for me to see its ass dash away. I stopped screaming, but cold determination raced through me.
The hardware lady promised the biggest thing these days was glue pads. The mouse runs across it and sticks. This seems horrible. It is not the compassionate way to go. But I can’t deal with rodents using my 1920′s furnace grates as their private subway line. She promised it would do the trick, especially if I made a little tunnel by taping a piece of cardboard to the base of my wall and sliding the glue trap under it. Very cozy for mouses hoping to quickly pass through.
I called Jason to complain about my mouse in the house and he suggested we make it more fun to discuss by calling it “The Mousicles.” For reasons not clear to either of us, we keep adding “icles” to words. Let’s have dinnersicles. I bought us treatsicles. I lost my cell phonsicles. Perhaps because everything around us is frozen and icy. Our entire world is a giant icicle, so we rename everything else to match the theme.
We live in a polar vortexicles.
Although I did not laugh in the moment, I do appreciate those who can help me find my humor when I have lost mine. I do. Sometimes laughter helps me find my compassion. By calling it ‘the mousicles’ I found myself less ashamed. Until speaking about this with Jason, I hadn’t realized how ashamed of myself I felt, a bad home owner, that I couldn’t keep out a mouse.
The mousicles did not respond to my glue traps cleverly placed in the observed running path under cardboard tunnels. I placed a glue board in the furnace duct under the grate. Every morning I’d peer down there like a warden staring through prison bars to see if Prisoner #77215 made it through the night. The glue boards were empty. Day after day. My mousicles was too clever.
So I added some food. I was tempted to add a small handful of Cheetos but I know how I get late at night when I’m hungry and am convinced there’s nothing good to eat in the house. Plus, I already suffered hand-to-hand combat with one of those glue boards trying to liberate it from its container and that shit sticks. I lost that battle and spent five minutes trying to pry it off my skin.
In the end, I gave into a mouse stereotype and added cheese to the glue board.
The mousicles was never tempted.
I hadn’t seen it in a few days, which unnerved me. Apparently it didn’t like my messing with his subway entrances and hopefully split. But I had a hard time imagining the mousicles seeking refuge outside. Surely he’d been keeping up with the news about the polar vortex. Even he wouldn’t risk that shit.
So we played cat and mouse, me and mousicles, me overly-alert, eyes constantly darting into corners and occasionally falling asleep in a sun beam. The mouse stayed hidden. I would hunt casually for it, pretending I wasn’t really hunting at all. Couldn’t care less. And then I’d jump around a corner and see nothing. The cardboard tunnels began to creep me out. I couldn’t take much more peeking into the tunnel to discover whether they had worked as intended.
I pondered the mousicles situation a little from my sacred throne, the overstuffed Comfy Chair upstairs in my bedroom. But I did not allow myself to ponder too much because this is my Comfy Chair and it is sacred. It was left to me by my scientist father, Jor-El who whisked me away from our exploding planet, Krypton, and I ended up here on earth. That’s how much this chair means so much to me. It is my fortress of solitude.
In the mornings I drag my ass from bed to this fat cushion where I reflect on my dreams and wait for the day to find me. I watch TV and read books in that chair. Before bed, I read comics and drink milk in the Comfy Chair.
And from that sacred spot, my legs curled under me, I witnessed mousicles race across my bedroom carpet and shoot into a duct.
The dude had upped his game, literally, to my upstairs where I have never seen a mouse ever. Never.
My upstairs? My naked room? This was ultimate not cool.
I swore vengeance would be mine.
(There’s a lot of vengeance swearing in my home.)
The Home Depot guy and I spoke so long about ways to kill mice when we concluded our tales I thought we might hug. I did not confess that one of my more successful executions included walking on mice by accident. I purchased three different killing experiences because dammit, that was my bedroom.
A full thirty minutes later, I turned my bedroom into a death trap.
I set the old fashioned kind, wooden traps that will snap the fucker’s neck. Others that were not quite so alarming in their bare-bones appearance yet accomplished the same thing. I poured the poison, creating an all-you-can-eat buffet in likely locations.
After my work was accomplished and I was terrified of my own sleeping quarters, it was time for bed.
I lay there in the dark, staring straight up into blackness with the covers held up to my neck under my clenched hands and waited. Would I hear it? Would it happen as I drifted of, this exploding SNAP meaning the end of a creature’s life? Would it happen in the middle of the night and wake me from a sound sleep, my heart pounding? Would the sound haunt me? Was it running around the baseboard right now sniffing the poison thinking, “This smells like cheesy potatoes to my mouse nose.”
Then I got to wondering about how I will die. Something horrible like a car accident that snaps my neck? A heart-attack? Maybe I should take a closer look at the poisons I eat on a daily basis, Earl’s cheese puffs, second helpings of cake, or the occasional White Castle. Maybe my death is a trap already sprung, waiting for me to sniff it out and walk into it. The mousicles and I had more in common than I thought.
I slept uneasily that night.
And the next.
But the third night, I slept better. Hadn’t heard any sharp snaps in the middle of the night and all traps remained barren the next morning. I made my rounds daily, the subway entrance glue traps, the old-fashioned death snappers, the plastic traps I swear look like shark teeth.
I created sixteen death stations in my home.
Where did it go?
I tried to think more compassionately about mousicles but I now wore shoes in every room in the house, no longer quite relaxing in my awesome relaxing house. It’s hard to feel compassion when you’re checking your sixteen death traps regularly for corpses.
The other night, I dozed and watched TV on my computer in the Fortress of Solitude, when I felt a scratch on my stomach, right on the side where the cushion meets the chair base. It scratched that vulnerable belly flesh where your shirt hikes up. I ignored it once or twice, thinking it was a tag inside my tee shirt or a dropped chip (I like to eat in the Comfy Chair). Thinking it might be a chip roused me into taking action because I am diligent in keeping counters clean, food contained. I slip up and leave out cookie crumbs on the floor once in a while, but generally I keep a pretty clean house.
So. The potato chip.
Except it wasn’t a potato chip.
I moved over a little bit and peered down to discover it was a little scratchy yes, but there was fur, grey fur–it was mousicles.
I leapt from the Comfy Chair, the Fortress of Solitude that had betrayed me and yanked up the accursed cushion to find, yes, a dead mouse. I had no idea whether the poison did its job and this is where it crawled to die, but that fucker’s little foot was scratching my naked belly. Even now, I shudder when I type that.
I cleaned up mousicles, vacuumed every crevice, rubbed every inch of fabric with one of this disinfectant wipes. Hell, I turned the Comfy Chair upside down and whacked it with a broom to force out any hidden family members. Nothing.
Fucking mouseicles was under the cushion!
That little fucker destroyed my Fortress of Solitude. I still check under the cushion every night before I lower myself into it, uneasily. I have to ask myself, “Who got the last laugh?”
On the phone, I advanced my dead-by-poison theory to Jason who considered the possibility but then said, “Yeah. Or you smothered it with your ass.”
First my boot, now my ass. Sixteen death traps around my house and still, the biggest threat is me.
I killed mousicles with my chunky butt.
I really need to start going to the gym.