Well. It’s happening.
The trees are peacing out, dropping bits of themselves in preparation for spring resurrection, fresh and green in ’23. I hope that’s how I go out; at the top of my game, vibrant and flashy, a graceful fluttery goodbye. Not like those trees still clinging onto dead, crunchy wisps of life. Who you fooling; everyone knows it’s over, tree. Give up the ghost.
The mornings are brighter earlier, the evenings darker. Home hibernation and 9 PM bed times in full effect. The white ground on our morning poop walk is a black light revealing why Fred’s favorite sniff spots are his favorite, nonsensical darting now connected in perfect urine soaked dots. And I still let him lick my face. The rodents are taking up residency in posh indoor spaces.
I’m a homeowner, but like, not a good one. Leaves have been rotting in my gutters since 2016, the last time I dared to climb a ladder that high. Okay, I held the ladder, someone else dared to climb that high. And yes, I know you can call people who will do this for you. But I also know a good downpour sometimes pushes a clump of decay through the downspout, and I feel accomplished just looking at it.
The tree between the sidewalk and the street is slowly, albeit aggressively, attacking my roof with every gust of wind. I regularly find pieces of shingle on the ground and even though I 100% know where they came from, I look around for other possibilities that aren’t my roof. “Call the tree people” has been on every To Do list ever made since 2012.
For years I’ve watched rodent shaped holes develop outside in the thin plaster + foam insulation foundation of my 100+ year old home (fixed to sell…to me) and think, that can’t be good. I’ve investigated what to do about it (asked more responsible homeowners), but have fallen short of any real action aside from blocking one of the holes with a brick, which I saw a chipmunk scurry around yesterday.
And I leave old mice traps set in the basement filled with uneaten peanut butter that slowly disintegrates until there’s nothing left in the little trap hole. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. And it’s 67% likely true as these traps will go off if you even look in their direction. Which is why it’s easier to just leave them with a moldy dry PB base. That’s also something I tell myself. You can explain away anything when you live alone. Win, win. Lose, lose. It’s just you dealing with the consequences.
So I went down to do laundry a few days ago in my dungeon basement (which is why I don’t consider visual aesthetics of these machines and it’s kind of ridiculous we care what they look like in the first place, because I feel like we should be focusing on function, thus why I ran through my house the other day yelling, “Houses should be used! Not displayed!” Was I of right mind? Time will tell…) and something caught the corner of my eye. A headless mouse.
More accurately, a mouse body, it’s head perfectly encapsulated by the trap. No telling how long it had been there. I don’t travel to the basement daily and when I do, I don’t always look at the traps because I might see a mouse in it and then I’ll have to do something about that. But this day I looked. And there it was, undeniably a dead mouse in the house. Now I knew.
I walked on by with my pile of clothes.
I’ll get it later, my hands are full, I told myself. Also, what a shitty last meal. Sorry, dude.
Over the next few days I would walk past that dead mouse…a lot, glancing at it sometimes, consciously or subconsciously (no one knows the tricks of the mind) completely forgetting about it other times. It lived on my To Do List, not quite as far down as calling the tree people, but below any Activities of Daily Living, which turns out, take up a lot of time.
I told my friend Michael the mice were arriving one day when he was over – that there was one in the moldy peanut butter trap at this very moment.
Do you want me to go get it?
Nah. I’ll get it.
Are you sure?
I can go get it right now.
No. That’s okay.
Why didn’t I let him get it? Beats me. I’m not afraid of mice. I’ve disposed of hundreds over the duration of my homeownership. I’ve watched my cats torture many. I just didn’t want to do it. I can’t explain why. Apparently I didn’t want anyone to do it for me either, which for the record, I had no idea I felt that way until asked. It was my dead mouse. I’d get it to it. Eventually.
Well I would have.
I finally brought down the huge box of toilet paper sitting in my hallway for a few dozen days because yes I buy my toilet paper from the internet. And you should too. Or at least find some bamboo toilet paper somewhere. Some years ago, during the heat of Covid, I purchased a bunch of different brands of bamboo TP after I discovered how shitty regular toilet paper is for everything (the environment, your pipes, my vulva), boxed it up and shipped it to friends all over the country for them to sample in an organized fashion. Because who doesn’t want to receive a bunch of toilet paper in the mail. I called it the Toilet Paper Wipe Test. Had a survey for each brand and everything.
But back to the mouse. I carried the box of toilet paper downstairs (because where else do you store 70 rolls of TP in a sub 1000 ft sq home) and on my way back up, I noticed the dead mouse was gone. Well kiiiiind of. It appeared the body had been sucked from the fur trapped in the trap. Don’t ask me where the head was or how it was ripped out of the trap. The jaws now held but a small strip of fur. No head. No tail. No body.
Some…Thing. Had taken my mouse.
I picked up the trap, pinched between thumb and finger, way less scary when triggered, even with the strip of mouse fur sans mouse clenched in it’s jaws. I examined it from all angles with 70% curiosity, 20% whoa and 10% fear, shrugged, and made the journey to the outside garbage to dispose of the whole thing. Seemed like a good time to retire that trap.
I shared my dead mouse tale with Alex over dinner at Turnkey, where we’ve decided to become Regulars because we’ve reached the age that being a regular somewhere feels like the right thing to do. I’ve always wanted to be a regular in the neighborhood. Feels like I’ve come close a few times, but something always derails it. I think this place is going to stick. It had that “you’re already a regular” feel from Day 1. Also I told them last night I was trying to be a regular and it would be really great to greet me with a “welcome back!” or “so good to see you!” when I take a place at the bar. They seemed into it.
Alex’s reaction was expected: amused, confused and somewhat horrified.
Are you sure you don’t still have a cat living down there?
God, or the ghost of Elsa. That would be so her, terrorizing Fred after death.
For the record, my old cat Elsa is still alive. Folks sometimes ask if I ever visit her at her retirement home (aka, MTran’s house). Please people, she’s not a dog. I was dead to her the moment I gave her up, even if it was for her own peaceful end of life (which is approaching 20). I tried a few times casually, but she acted like our 14 years together meant nothing. I chose Freddie. She was making a point and I respect that.
All that to say, I haven’t sat down at my computer with the intention to write in almost three years. Semi-lie. I’ve tried, but that half-assed trying. You know the one. Like a quarter ass even. Maybe less. But here I am, talking about a dead mouse. I made it!
Writing used to be fun. Home and an escape. I’d think deeply about random interactions with friends, family and strangers, process out loud, silently to you, my computer, the World Wide Web. For awhile, a long, long while, it felt I couldn’t do that. The world had gotten too heavy. The concepts too big. Too much to unpack. Felt like I was ignoring the elephant in the room. Writing fluff. How could I write about dead mice when democracy is crumbling, the planet is burning + 100 year storming all at once and my uterus is being regulated by hypocritical men with religious beliefs I don’t share?
And then. Something shifted.
Can’t keep me down for long, even if we’re hurling through space toward our ultimate demise (a topic for next time).
Life’s a party. Except for the dead mouse.
We are who we are. It’s good to be back.