Artemis in the City

N.B.: This post is not about cancer, just death. And it's probably not that interesting, either.

For Chanukah, L's kids got us matching pajamas, coordinated robes, a six-month gift certificate for Netflix, and four bags of flavored popcorn. We had some of the popcorn and put the rest in a kitchen drawer.

I was in the kitchen the other night and I thought I heard a rustling. It came from the popcorn drawer. I opened the drawer and found loose popcorn, and holes in the popcorn bags, and, of course, mouse droppings.

For years we've had a cardboard box sitting on the kitchen floor. It was put there by an exterminator and inside was a mouse trap. I noticed a tail coming out of it.

I cleaned out the drawer and set a trap there. Next day there was a dead mouse in the trap and I gingerly put it in a bag and threw it away. I bought more traps from the Walgreens on Broadway.

No one showed up.

In the kitchen and office we have little black boxes that the exterminator also put there years ago. Yesterday we noticed that there was a bird seed scattered around it, and then today, I heard little crunching noises coming from it. Apparently this is poisoned food that the mice are attracted to. The plan is for them to take the poison back with them to the nest. In my office this afternoon I heard some crunching and it seemed to be coming from the little black box. Then I spotted a little gray mouse running along the wall.

Not much later I was in the kitchen I was talking on the phone and saw a little gray mouse feeding from the black box there. He scampered on top of the mousetrap, ran into the cardboard box, and ran out the other side. Fuck you, I hissed into the phone at my bewildered friend P. I explained that I was cursing at the mouse who had stepped right on the yellow plastic fake-cheese platform on the mousetrap. If someone steps on the platform, it's supposed to set off the trap. But apparently our mice are too light to set off the guillotine. This mouse was about half the size of the gerbils I had when I was a kid.

Tonight I bought some Victor traps from the Ace up the street. These are smaller and I hope more sensitive traps than the ones from Walgreens. I set them with jelly (we were out of peanut butter) and I put them inside the cardboard boxes and around the little black boxes.

So I wait and obsess. I kept running back and forth from room to room and checking the traps, over and over so that I had to leave the apartment in order to get work done. It's such a shame: I think the mice are so cute, I've always been enchanted by stories of prisoners and servant girls who tame the mice who come into their quarters. I'm thinking of A Little Princess, how Sara tamed the rat Melchisedec. And my parents bought me rodents as pets. Plus I haven't eaten mammals for almost 30 years: no mammal has been killed in my name. But these mice don't belong in my living quarters. They're unhygenic. Of course. So we have to go after them. This is what makes me feel guilty: I like hunting them down. It's so satisfying to catch one. I'm a hunter. I grew up stalking little lizards in Houston. I didn't kill them. I usually let them go. But the capture is thrilling. How happy cats must be.

But beyond all that--they are fascinating. This is like going on safari. They are funny furry little animals suddenly in my purview. They are outwitting me. It's in their best interest to do so. Otherwise, down comes the wire necklace with a snap.

Victor makes Live Catch Mouse Traps. I could catch and release. Where? Outside, in the cold, so the rodents could scurry back to the warmth inside?

The cold spell is supposed to break soon. Maybe the mice will leave on their own, about the same time the ground hog comes out to predict the rest of the season for us humans.