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Of Mouse Traps And Men

I didn't mean to save you, Mr. Mouse, I meant to kill you. Brutally, or preferably, humanely — I intended to end your life. But my wussy, spineless heart wouldn’t let me.

I turned on the light. A mouse was in the trap. Rather, half in the trap. The little guy's tail and back legs were affixed to the glue. But the mouse — let's call it "Mr. Mouse" — had managed to free its front half. Now, with its hindquarters stuck fast, it dragged the entire trap across the red sea of my kitchen linoleum. Trying to escape like a convict from Alcatraz. Paddling to freedom.

Now, let's back up to my childhood. I've always been an animal lover. My house was a way-station for abandoned or disadvantaged dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and fowl. Ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would say, "veterinarian,” or "cartoonist," a job I imagined involved drawing soft, fuzzy creatures. I read stories — "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH," "The Mouse and the Motorcycle," "Stuart Little" — featuring the plights of talking, anthropomorphic mice who escaped from evil laboratories to hatch genius schemes beneath rose bushes. I loved mice. So cute! No way would I off a mouse.

Watching Mr. Mouse haul his sorry butt across my kitchen, I realized my mistake. Had I purchased a snap-trap or the Mouse-X-Laser Doomsday Device, any rodent I caught would have experienced instant death. But my Mr. Mouse was going to die slowly. This was cruel. Torture. Worse than water-boarding.

I had to save this mouse.

"Hey. Hang on," I said to Mr. Mouse in my mind. OK, maybe out loud. "I'm going to rescue you." I Googled "free," "mouse," "glue," "trap" and learned that with rubber gloves, Q-tips, and cooking oil, I could save this mouse.

Unleashing my inner veterinarian, I slipped on the gloves and placed the glue-trap-plus-mouse in a box. I lubed up a Q-tip with canola oil, and holding Mr. Mouse gently with one hand, I used the swab to rub oil where the glue met its fur. Mr. Mouse squirmed. A puddle of mouse pee spread across the shiny glue. Worried the little guy would expire from terror, I worked more quickly.

The oil was dissolving the glue! Mr. Mouse finally settled down. Looked at me with its tiny black eyes. Searching me. I got the rear right leg free. Then the tail. Only the left leg remained stuck.

Suddenly, the mouse popped itself free and scampered away about as fast as something can scamper and still be visible to the human eye. Gone.

I felt like a hero. I had saved a living thing. Yet, I felt so guilty for subjecting Mr. Mouse to the trauma, I left him a little mound of food every few days. My idiot heart.

I never saw the mouse again. But I did find poo. I lived with the excrement, all winter long, and considered it a penance for my cruelty.

This winter, Mr. Mouse returned, bringing legions of reinforcements. I wanted to co-exist again. I truly did. But when I saw the mouse poo appear again, I felt different. I was sickened. Feces, urine, filth. Already my apartment was a psychic disaster area. The kitchen was cluttered with hand-me-down furniture and covered in stained linoleum. My chaotic living space represented my disordered life. Time to clean house. Time to grow up. Time to leave my mouse-loving ways behind.

I reread "Mrs. Frisby" one last time, bought a three-pack of simple, spring-loaded snap traps, and let my soft heart harden to the rodent world.

Half-asleep in bed, I now hear a "crack!", the sound of snapping another bugger's neck, painlessly, in a millisecond. So far I've killed about a dozen of them. No guilt. No crisis of conscience. Not yet.

Still, sometimes, I wonder if I've killed you, original Mr. Mouse. Have you escaped my death traps? And most importantly, when will you stop haunting my dreams?

This program aired on February 15, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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