Monday, June 20, 2005

Unexpected Classroom Guest

I didn't believe my eyes at first: literally, I thought I was hallucinating. There was a streak of motion along the corner of the wall, as I tidied and put up posters in my basement-level classroom at the downtown ESL school where I work; it seemed to move in the direction of the filing cabinet, and I thought it might have been a mouse, but since I had only seen a blur of motion, I couldn't be sure. I kicked the filing cabinet and again, saw a flash of motion, mostly out of the corner of my eyes: and then, finally, I saw it. A mouse indeed, running along the sideboards in a panic.

I scared it back behind the filing cabinet and went out to notify the school custodian, and one teacher, who came in and saw the critter with me. Our custodian, a tidy little Filipino-Canadian, wanted to kill it, when he arrived, but it was easy enough to catch in the class garbage bin, whereupon, after showing it around a bit, I carried it outside -- a small brown terrified live thing with big ears and a fast-beating heart, which set its whole frame vibrating; it jumped every now and then, as if it could possibly get out by such a means, and stared up at me in confusion and panic. I released him behind a dumpster in an alley a couple of blocks away.

It's my second close-up encounter with a mouse. The first was ten years ago or more, in the suburbs where I grew up. I was walking down the backroads of Maple Ridge, coming up the hill on Laity Street; I was on LSD, and it had yet to quite kick in. I've always held that when you're on acid, the rules the universe play by change; it somehow knows that you're twisted, and does things that it would never do otherwise, just to baffle you (I recall vividly, on one trip, riding on a bus that ran at least five red lights in a row, without so much as a honk or hestitation). On the occasion of my walk, things were fairly normal still -- there was a slight metallic taste in my mouth, a slight feeling of tingling, announcing the early onset of the trip -- when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I started, as one sometimes does outdoors, when one sees what one thinks is an unexpected, live, wild creature nearby; but this feeling was fast-on followed by relief, as I realized that what I was looking at was probably just a leaf or such, blowing down the hill towards me. I looked closer and realized I'd seen it right the first time: a mouse, tiny, fast approaching.

I stood stock-still in the middle of the quiet evening street, under the shadows of tree leaves dancing on the street, as the mouse ran directly up to me, stopped, looked up at me, climbed onto my left shoe, looked up at me again, and paused a minute, raising up on his hind legs and sniffing. There was a moment of contact; I felt joy, amazement, bewilderment, and I probably said "hello" in a happy, small voice. I looked at the mouse, and it looked at me; and then it ran off.

Quite possibly, that mouse then saved the life of the life of the mouse today. I've always been kind to animals, and the idea of actually killing a mammal for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time is abhorrent to me (though I did once, when on LSD, embrace the murderous forces of the universe to kill a cranefly; but it had molested me anally . It's a long story). My past connection with its species made it completely impossible for me to allow any harm to come to the mouse today. I'll have to take some sort of action if the school ends up setting up traps -- like putting non-fatal ones in my classroom, to try to rescue as many mice as possible. I'll find a way to smuggle them out and give them a stern talking to about never coming back.

One of my higher-ups actually got annoyed at me for not killing the mouse -- and for further being so careless as to show it around: "they have germs." She clearly didn't grow up playing in fields like I did...

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