Our house has mice. Every now and then we can hear them, at night. A quick patter of invisible feet in the attic above our heads, a gentle drumbeat rousing me to action.
When we first moved in, 21 years ago, I'd set mousetraps in the basement. The kind set on a small rectangle of cheap wood, where you'd place a square of cheese on a yellow plastic trigger, carefully pull back the metal bar, set it with a wire, then delicately place the trap, your fingers placed out of harm's way, on some flat surface where a mouse might find it.
But those traps had significant disadvantages. I never caught my finger in one, but the risk was always there in that set spring, that straining bundle of potential energy. Sometimes they'd sit there for weeks, the cheese drying out, disquietingly. Other times you'd find them, face down on the floor, a tell-tale tail protruding from underneath. Maybe even a rivulet of deep crimson blood. That felt very cruel. You had to look: the crushed mouse head, the bar embedded in its skull, the snout just beyond the cheese that lured it to its death. Cheese it would never now eat. I'd cringingly, though not without a trace of satisfaction, drop the fatal duo, trap and victim, in a bag and go throw the bag directly outside in the garbage, as if the wee timorous mouse corpsie couldn't be allowed to remain in the house.
The Blox came with three traps. I'd put one in the garage, at the base of the back wall, which was simple enough. One in a hole in the brick wall in the basement, and one in the attic, accessed through a small metal trap door
But here came the epiphany. Almost two weeks ago, I removed the trap from the basement wall, and was filling it, when I thought: Hey! If I took this upstairs, and swapped it with the trap upstairs, first, it would save me the journey down with the empty trap. I could remove this from the basement niche, fill it, go upstairs with the filled trap, climb the stepladder, reluctantly open the metal door so as not to get a face full of mouse poop, remove the empty trap, put this full one in, then return downstairs with the upstairs trap, fill it, and put it in the niche in the basement, thus saving a trip up and down the stairs.
Have I explained that clearly? I hope so. And yes, I understand that the destination of today's column is hardly worth the effort of getting there, assuming I have, and I'm not sure about that. But the truth is, it was a long day yesterday, finishing this big project for the paper which turned out to be due weeks earlier than I imagined it would be, requiring a big push to complete, leaving me fairly well sapped at the end of the day. Now it's ... ah ... 3:50 a.m., and I've gotten up to write something for you, because that's the kind of responsible person I am, and the mouse trap situation presented itself, since it seemed a good idea as it was unfolding, and I took out my iPhone and snapped a couple pictures, leaving them like bread crumbs to lead me to the topic, for good or ill.
So no, not how Lori Lightfoot should cure violence—no friggin' idea, start with curbing guns, then creating jobs and do everything in between. But you don't need me to tell you that and, besides, I've said it before, repeatedly, for years. While this is something new and, as the great Brendan Behan said, a change is as good as a rest. With the mouse poison, there was a certain joy in figuring out a more efficient process for doing something. It felt like progress of a sort. And we need all the joy we can get now, the murdered mice notwithstanding.
And yes, I have sympathy for the mouse. If it weren't for that quick nocturnal scamper, I'd never think to kill them. Live and let live. Big house, lots of voids and false walls and attic spaces. You stick to your realm, we'll stick to ours. But one mouse then two then 20, and we can't have that. Nature is cruel; I didn't invent it, just trying to live in it. Besides, they don't stick to their realm, whatever mouseworld exists in the unseen hollows of the house, with little easy chairs made of fabric scraps and tiny reading lights and broadloom rugs on the floor. Oh no. Occasionally they will get into the larder, or nibble into a bag of bread left on the kitchen counter. Bold, unprovoked vandalism of bun bags, clumsy thefts that can't be ignored. They're criminals, these mice, and deserve what they get. If you disagree with that, well, there's the comments section below. Now I'm going back to bed.