MY YEAR OF LIVING CONFEDERATELY: WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MICE
The picture above are little mice made from spiced or peanut butter cookie dough. Adorable with their little almond ears. But Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Chucky Cheese, Stuart Little, Despereaux are all lies to extol the myth that mice possess a benign cuteness. Within two months of moving into this antebellum in Franklin, Tennessee (aka, "Sweet Home"), I thought I was seeing ghosts, but little, furry ghosts that ran along baseboards, always keeping in my periphery so that I couldn't honestly say I ever really laid eyes on one. Each night I believed the same mouse to be raiding each of our rooms, leaving black poopies in almost every corner. Clearly the media fiction I'd been fed for the last 40 impressionable years of my life barred me from seeing what I now attest to be obvious realities. Oh, I will confess my delusions first.
First, media never mentioned mice. They always mentioned mouse, as if each is a little, unique individual sparsely distributed throughout vast but proportionately contained ecosystems in conservative ratios like that of the one-Black-man-per-Starbucks-at-any-given-time ratio. It never occurred to me that mouse might be an intentionally individualistic term used by pro-rodent propagandists.
Secondly, I believed that like angels, mice (if they existed at all) must only reveal themselves to that group of humans who don't possess the articulation to snitch on their whereabouts. My then two-year old possessed the vocabulary of the King James Bible (but evidently not the inherency, revealed in heretical statements like "God hit me in the face", "Dobby is bad", and "Mice play in my bed"). It's just like the devil to have me discount the one honest statement of a two-year-old by confusing me with two or more falsifications.
Thirdly (because there has to be a third or its not a legitimate sermon) mice were responsible for the plague in England... but that was a long time ago. They are more progressive now, differentiating themselves and burrowing their little furry selves into the hearts of non-discriminating Americans through the Disneyfication of the masses, fictional superhero antics, bland pizza adverts, and compulsory middle school reading lists.
But the one lesson I learned and learned well is that you never have only one mouse. Field mice move in families with copious reproductive abilities, rapid replication of themselves evidently the focus of all the gnawing on my furniture, scurrying along my walls, and scavenging for my crumbs. Where there is one, there are many in the shadows that support that one. This sunk in when one evening I looked behind my daughter's toybox to locate what I thought was the same little brown mouse I had seen the past two nights, and a larger and heavier mouse thudded along the wooden floor between my feet. When I believed that there was more than one, it was easy to see that one mouse couldn't have pooped all of the mouse poop in my house unless he were the size of a small dog.
One day I was playing piano in my piano room, being accompanied by an awesome cellist, Stonewall Jackson Pent. We actually didn't get to play that Tuesday because each time I hit the keys we heard squeaking. After starting and stopping for a while, I lifted each of the keys of the middle octave only to find a nest of five baby mice living there. Here are two below, peeking their noses out.
You can imagine how baffled I was at a couple of things. Number one, mice really did get jiggy at all times throughout the year (and were doing "it" in my house). Number two, the parents were brilliant to raise their babies beneath the keys I pounded on at least once a day. I presumed that the mice I finally believed existed lived in holes in the wall when in reality they lived under my very nose.
Here are the five baby mice I pulled out (None of these mice were harmed. I simply put them outside in the woods at the base of a tree).
I finally got some mousetraps, liberally spread with peanut butter. One evening I caught six within fifteen minutes of putting out the traps. I finally knew I was getting somewhere when the only mice I was catching were babies (someone has to feed them when the parents aren't around). I now have a cat, which I learned is the best mousetrap in the world. Females are the best mousers actually. Not only does Bailey dispatch of the mice in the house, but she dispatches the mice outside the house as well as moles, and bunnies, and she's crossed the path of the groundhogs living beneath the barn.
I now know that Mickey Mouse is just a cartoon character, Mighty Mouse is just a, I don't know, flying squirrel, Chucky Cheese doesn't really make pizza (he just endorses them), Stuart Little is just the fiction of some post-modern's imagination, and Despereaux is... well, Despereaux is still cute. Below is my tribute (my caricature, compliments of Ahmed Saleem from New Delhi, India to all of the mice who endured a short stay in our now mouse-free antebellum.
Or peanut butter.