Catch and Release

Tuesday, December 02 2003

I (meaning all of us (meaning humanity)) have a mouse problem. The evidence of the mouse is clear. Small, black, crescent like droppings left in places for us to discover at moments where we’d simply love to not have the problem. There have been two confirmed sightings, although if we could will ourselves to blink less, we might catch the mouse tempting to break the sound barrier more often as it travelled from one hiding spot to another.

As in all cases of pestulence, my duty was clear. Destroy the intruder. I’m a unifier with humans, but if you’re not a human, you live in my home, you’re not a pet, and you break the rule (announcing your existance) it’s my intrinsic duty to evaporate you. There are no loopholes, no conditions. The rule is as fixed and solid as my preference for comfortable shoes.

Sunday night I set two clever traps below the stove, a favorite place for The Intruder. Small grey boxes, baited with half a Fun Size Snickers bar in each. On one end, a trap door. Off center, on the bottom of the trap, a ridge to act as a fulcrum. When a mouse enters to consume the bounty, his weight on the box floor invokes the simplest of machines – the lever. The lever is used to disrupt the position of the trap door, which swings down as violently and forcibly as gravity will allow (which to a mouse, must be utterly terrifying, or at least I can hope).

The position of the second most simple machine, the axle, is exploited to the fullest advantage of the trap door, prohibiting the mouse from escaping his new home. Rather than snapping the neck of the mouse, the trap simply confines him. No crawling off to die a cowardly death in the walls. No shrinking to death from ingesting poison. Just pure and simple containment.

Monday morning I checked the traps. One had been tripped, the other open. This was nothing to be excited about, the traps were quite sensitive, and would be closed often in the mornings after setting them. I once set up my digital video camera with night vision to record to my computer all night. Upon review of the footage, the traps were never approached by rodent, nor did they close. The trap closings remain a mystery.

I lifted the trap as I did other mornings, noticed it was too light to contain a critter, opened, knowing it would be empty. The cute mouse that poked his head out was very confusing. I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening as it jumped out, back under the stove, where it hit me. I had caught him, and he had just escaped. “FOOL!” I yelled, at myself more than the mouse. The mouse acknowledged me for a moment, and as he did, I considered pounding him with my fist to regain my dignity. But as I thought of the mess I’d have to clean, the mouse retreated into the confines of the stove, where I heard him settling into bed for the day, charging up for another night of intrusion.

And so, the mouse problem goes on, and now that I’ve seen the enemy with his mask of cuteness, his removal from my domain is simply a matter of time.