I almost want the trap to be empty when I get home. If not, it means that I will have to finish off the mouse inside; and worse, it will mean that the mouse probably suffered a fairly long time. I’ve been at Blim for the last three hours, playing Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies for a crowd of three, not counting Yuriko and the one volunteer. Werckmeister Harmonies is a long time to struggle in a glue trap; it’s not a fate I would wish on any creature – and yet perhaps, I worried on the skytrain home – it was exactly the fate I’d inflicted.
I first saw it this morning. It scooted along the wall in my kitchen and caused me quite a shock. A friend, also with a mouse problem, has recently given up on trying to use humane traps – they’re expensive and they don’t work, and she still has a mouse problem. Things are a little simpler for me: it’s in my kitchen, and the aisles where it can run are fairly narrow and easy to put traps in – folding sheets of intensely sticky glue. Once you’re stuck, your attempts to free yourself only serve to ensnare you further. Cockroach traps in Japan work on the same principle – I still remember peering inside to see how many cockroaches I’d gotten at a given time, and what the biggest and smallest of them looked like.
A mouse is not a cockroach. There was one at work awhile back. It scurried along the floorboards in my classroom. I closed the door, startled it, set a garbage bin on its side, and the mouse ran in. It was very cute, leaping up at the bottom of the bin, squeaking indignantly. I showed it around to a few fellow teachers and then took it aways down an alley and released it behind a garbage bin. It was a sweet moment.
I caught some shit for that. The handyman and our chilly resource person wanted me to kill it. But in a wide open space like my classroom, catching it was easy enough.
It was my second special encounter with a mouse. My first is even more special: I was walking down the street in Maple Ridge one night, at the start of an acid trip, back in my 20’s, when a mouse ran down the street toward me, bopping along in the middle of the road, which, really, you don’t see mice do. At first I jumped: "holy cow, that’s an animal;" then I relaxed and decided it was probably a leaf blowing, some trick of the light making it look like it was living. By the time I realized it really was a mouse I was standing transfixed. It ran up to me, seeming to look up. It climbed onto my shoe. It stood and sniffed. I looked down at the mouse, it looked up at me. And then it ran away, continuing down the middle of Laity Street.
I had gerbils when I was a kid. I have nothing against mice. I kind of like them.
When I got home and checked the trap, a mouse was in it. Fuck. Ah, well. Sorry.
I’d already decided, coming up the stairs, what to do. Gingerly take the trap downstairs with an old, tarnished frying pan I have (that I never use), smash it really goddamn hard, and put the creature out of its misery. As quickly as possible, as the only way I could make up for the time it suffered.
When I tried to move the trap, so that I could get it in the frying pan and carry it downstairs, the flaps popped open and I could see. The mouse was twisted on its side, badly stuck, convulsing within its limited range of movement. I remembered that the caretaker and I had to use all our strength, both of us pulling, to get the paper off the trap so we could set it; there was no question that I would be able to cut this mouse loose. It would be crippled and suffering and die an even worse (slower) death, if I tried. One leg was badly mangled, twisted in the glue. It was breathing in short, panicked breaths, really incapable of struggling much. It looked like it had been in the trap quite awhile.
It had shat itself into the glue and there were little mouse turds stuck there.
I took it down behind the building, near the dumpster. I fished a Georgia Straight out of the recycling bin, set it on the pavement, and dumped the trap, face down, onto the Straight. The mouse no doubt perceived a moment of darkness. Maybe it knew what was coming.
I raised the frying pan above my head.
I hope I hit hard enough the first time to kill it. It sounded like a gunshot.
I hit it really hard a second time, just in case.
I didn’t check. I picked up the newspaper, noticing liquid stains soaking through the bottom of the trap. I quickly chucked it into the garbage bin.
I’m sorry, mouse. I just… I couldn’t have shared my space with you. Not safely, not cleanly. If I could have easily and quickly trapped and released you, I would have. Your life just wasn’t important enough to me to make the effort, and that's that, and maybe I'll suffer some karmic reward and I'll remember you and try not to complain.
I have two traps left out, and I sincerely hope they remain empty.