It had been a few weeks since I saw a mouse, just long enough for me to sign a lease for another year at the building where I live. This morning, a mouse came out of my kitchen, looked at me, gave a start, and then ran under some bookshelves.
I felt quite calm about it. Amazing how one adjusts to these things. I placed a garbage bin beside the bookshelves and threw a pen under the bottom shelf, hoping the mouse would run out and into the garbage can.
It ran out and around the garbage can, and under the fridge.
I blocked off my kitchen and continued working. Pointed Sticks interview to finish, Subhumans interview to prep for, films to review for the film festival and my Discorder column. I cannot be distracted by involuntary rodent pets.
Just now, I was. I was putting the finishing touches on the New! Print! Edition! of my 'zine, based on THIS VERY BLOG, when one of the many mousetraps strewn about my apartment gave a SNAP!!! Before I could turn around, the squeaking had started.
The squeaking of a mouse caught in a trap must be similar to the squeaking of any injured or sick animal, calling for its mother. Plaintive, desperate, protesting, helpless. The mouse was very much alive, the trap having snapped shut across the middle of its back. It was struggling and in pain and very, very scared.
I leap into action. Get the garbage bin, turn the trap over so the mouse is right-side up again. The mouse, while squeaking and dazed, tried to crawl away, dragging the trap. A good sign! It was still pretty spry. I picked up the trap and placed it delicately in the bottom of my plastic garbage bin.
Next, to the kitchen. Find gloves, find gloves. Something to protect my fingers. Injured animals may bite and may carry diseases. Gloves on hands, I opened the trap.
To my relief, the mouse stopped squeaking and began to explore the bottom of the garbage bin. What's going on, it seemed to be thinking? Put shoes on over bare feet, no time for socks. I left my door unlocked and made my way down to the front exit, moving as quickly as I could. There was a Japanese twentysomething with dyed blonde hair entering with his key in hand.
"Hey, check this out," I say, in passing.
He looks inside. "Wow. Mouse!" he says.
I resist the urge to show off and say "Nezumi." I hurry down the street. The mouse, I see, is not really moving its back legs. It looks like maybe I might have snapped its spine. That would be bad. That would mean sure death at the hands of a cat or some larger rodent. Maybe it's not in any apparent pain because the trap snapped its spinal column, and it can't feel anything?
It has grey-brown fur -- no blood or visible wounds -- with little black eyes, and though it is shivering a little, it seems alert. It pulls itself along on its front legs, at first just dragging the back ones, moving about the peripheries of the bin. My plan is to take it two blocks away and leave it somewhere safe. If the spine is broken, perhaps I'd be best to kill it quickly, though?
I notice after a minute that the back legs are working. Not well, but better with each minute. Phew.
I notice a dark crawlspace under a building, big enough only for fellow rodents and insects, and decide that this is the place. I tell the mouse firmly that it is not welcome to come back, that there are things in my apartment that are dangerous for mice and that it will probably die if it returns.
(To see ourselves as others see us: "Look, honey, there a man in plastic gloves standing by the road talking into a garbage bin!").
I walk over to the crawlspace and set the bin down. The mouse runs out. Slowly, but all four legs are clearly fully functional. It takes a minute to gauge the situation -- it isn't particularly afraid of me, I guess because it thinks of me more as "the man who set me free from the painful trap" than as "the man who set the trap in the first place." After a minute, without looking back, it scurries under the building.
I rise to leave, carrying my plastic bin with me.