In my senior year of college, I had the joy of living completely alone. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. No one will ever know this, but I can beatbox. Fart sounds count, right? In my solitude, I was responsible for every aspect of my own life: housekeeping, yardwork, utility bills, etc. One such routine chore that I took for granted when living with others was critter removal.
It began subtly. While watching TV I would wonder if I’d really heard scratches in the kitchen. A week later I heard something scramble frantically through the crawlspace above my ceiling. Eventually, the source of the noise became bold enough to walk across my counter, pick open a bag of rice, and start munching while making direct eye contact with me. It was time to do something.
I sent my landlord a text: “There’s a mouse in my apartment.”
He responded: “Take care of it. I believe in you.”
Gulp. I thought back to my childhood and my father’s methods for such a task. Nightmarish images of squished faces and bulging eyes made me tear up with anxiety over the duty I’d been charged with.
Seeking advice, I walked to the local hardware store where a frail old man with a big smile greeted me, “Wh’tkin I help y’with tidday?”
“I’ve got a mouse in my house.”
“We’ve got whatcha need here.”
I followed him down the aisles filled with marvels of human ingenuity to a much less lovely corner of the store. He pointed at the conventional mousetraps: $2.99 for 4 traps. A great deal!
“Mmmm… those are too barbaric.”
“Ah! I see! We have these. Y’kin take ‘im to a forest to set’m free. Don’t do it near a farm.” He pointed to the Have-a-Heart traps. $17.99 for 1 trap; it might as well have cost a million dollars. At that point I’d already spent most of my loan money and was living on food bank donations and bone broth I’d made from my friends’ Wing Night leftovers.
“Do you have anything more… middle of the road?” I asked. The man ran his bony fingers through his thick white hair. He pointed to the glue traps. I was ready to be done with the whole ordeal and I could see that I was exasperating him, so I picked up the glue traps. $4.79 for 3 traps.
I set the trap in the closet behind Tupperware bins of memorabilia and waited.
Two weeks later I awoke in the middle of the night to a terrified, desperate chirping coming from my closet. My heart sank, already regretting the method I chose to remove the mouse. The sound of it trying in vain to escape was far worse than any contortion caused by a conventional snap-trap. I made my way to the trap and looked. The poor thing’s feet were completely buried in the glue. Taking it out of the trap was out of the question.
With a heavy heart, I picked up the trap and placed it in an empty shoebox. Crying hysterically, I phoned my best friend Andrew. I thought that every man had the answers to situations like these. He did not. Although, he was at my house in less than 10 minutes. After hearing the creature’s please for mercy, he too was crying like a child.
We ran through our options: hide it, burn it, crush it, drown it. With every suggestion, our shared guilt grew. What did my dad do to small animals that had to go? He did the dirty-work with one fell swoop of a shovel. I thought that seemed like a merciful, swift end for a suffering rodent, so we searched my apartment and the space outside for a shovel. I’m not a gardener. No luck.
“What now?” Andrew asked, no longer as weepy as I was.
“Do we have anything heavy enough to do the same job?”
“We could drop one of your textbooks on it?”
“I’m an English major, I only have novels. Maybe my dictionary.”
“What about your car?”
My stomach dropped. As unusual a solution as it was, it would be fast and final. I nodded. “Do I have to do it?”
“Friend, you don’t have to.” Andrew hugged me. I put the shrieking shoebox in a garbage bag and handed to him. He frowned the biggest frown a man could frown, picked up my keys, and walked outside.
When he came back inside we embraced and cried and stayed up late talking about the fragility of life.
Never again will I put finances above humanity. I’m talking to you, Arkansas.