Of Mice and Men
“Omigod!” Julie, one of the waitresses shrieks. “A mouse!”
“Where?” I ask.
“Right there,” Julie says, pointing to the floor. “Stuck in the glue trap!”
I look down. Stuck on a piece of adhesive cardboard next to the dishwasher is a small brown and white field mouse. It’s looking up at us, making little squeaking noises, clearly frightened out of its tiny mind.
“It’s still alive,” Julie groans.
“Dammit,” I say. “Why can’t this place buy mouse traps that snap their necks?”
“That’s even worse,” Julie whimpers.
“I’d rather deal with a dead mouse than a trapped live one.”
“Will you get rid of it?” Julie pleads.
“Can’t you peel it off the paper?”
“I think that would do more harm than good.”
“We can’t just leave it there.”
I look down at the mouse. It’s rolled onto its side where the glue’s gotten a real hold of him. The rodent’s squeaks increase in intensity as he wiggles on the paper desperately trying to free himself. Glue traps are the cruelest way to catch a mouse. Inwardly I curse the owner for selecting such an inhumane solution to his rodent problem. It could take days for the mouse to die. He’ll probably gnaw off his leg or rip open his skin trying to free himself.
“I’ll take care of it Julie,” I say.
“How?” she replies.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t want to know,” Julie says, throwing up her hands and walking out the door. “I can’t stand watching animals suffer.”
After Julie leaves I grab a linen napkin, pick up the glue board holding the mouse, and take my shrieking cargo to the back alley. Once outside I crouch down and examine the trapped rodent. I give the mouse a gentle prod and it screeches in pain, defecating on itself in the process. I feel a dull ache spread across my chest. The mouse is really stuck. I don’t know how to free it from the trap without hurting it. I also have a party of thirty people coming in ten minutes. I’ve got plenty of work to do.
Placing the mouse gently down on the pavement, I note the position of its head and cover it with the linen napkin. Standing up I raise my right foot high into the air and drive it down on the mouse with as much force as I can generate.
The squeaking stops.
Just in case the mouse isn’t dead I stomp it again, grinding my heel as I do so. Hopefully the mouse felt nothing. Hopefully it was merciful and quick. Fighting off a twinge of nausea I pick up the glue trap and put it in the garbage.
“What’d you do with it?” Julie asks as I walk back into the restaurant.
“I killed it.”
“Quickly,” I mutter.
“Oh well,” Julie says, looking relieved. “It had to be done.”
“Yeah,” I reply, slightly angry about what just happened. “But so much for Women’s Lib.”
“Huh?” Julie says, befuddled.
“Whenever something needs killing you girls get all helpless and ask a man to do it.”
“It’s a man’s job,” Julie retorts.
“So you’re equal in the board room and the bedroom, but not when it comes to taking care of some of life’s more unpleasant tasks?”
“I think you’re reading into this too much,” Julie says.
“Perhaps,” I reply. “But I still feel like the kid who had to shoot Old Yeller.”
“And Old Yeller had rabies,” Julie says. “And God knows what that mouse was carrying.”
“True,” I say. “But you get to kill the next mouse Gloria Steinem.”
“No way,” Julie says. “I’ll act like a helpless female whenever it’s to my advantage.”
“Whatever,” I say. “I guess a man’s still gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
“C’mon,” Julie says. “We’ve got to set up for that party.”
“Let me wash my hands first.”
I head into the bathroom and lather my hands in hot soapy water. As I’m running my hands under the tap a bothersome thought pops into my head. Did I kill that mouse because it was the right thing to do or did I kill it because I couldn’t stand to see it suffer? If I could ask the mouse to evaluate my handling of the situation, what would his reaction be? He might be unhappy I decided to crush his head so quickly. As I dry my hands I examine my face in the mirror. I shake my head in disgust. Sometimes I over think things.
“Get over yourself,” I say to my reflection. “It was just a fucking mouse.”
I go out and finish helping Julie set up for the party. Any negative feelings I had about killing the mouse disappear in a few minutes. Yeah, he might have been a cute little thing, but he’s got a thousand siblings waiting to take his a place. Carriers of filth and disease, mice have no place in a restaurant. There’s nothing cute about Hantavirus. A rodent problem can shut a restaurant down for a long time. For the common good they’ve got to go.
When it comes to mice, a man’s still gotta do what a man’s gotta do.