There’s a mouse in my house. Well, possibly two. One lies dead in a glue trap, waiting for its compadre to cross over into mouse heaven. The other – the mouse on the lam – is nowhere to be found. Late last night, while enjoying an evening at home alone, I heard the all-too-familiar tell-tale sounds of a “visitor” in the area of the pantry. Now our pantry is really a free-standing little cabinet that’s served many purposes over the years – from a baby’s armoire to a bathroom cabinet to a general storage unit. Its latest incarnation is as a pantry, because, for whatever reason, the builder of this house we now occupy decided that people don’t necessarily need a place to put their food. So we put many of our non-perishables in this smallish cabinet. But I digress. . .
I sat frozen on the sofa, listening to the sounds of cellophane packaging rustling, watching for movement. Nothing. Just little mouse sounds. Then I made the gutsy move to grab a glue trap from under the kitchen sink. Since the weather turned cooler, we’ve had to invest in some traps to keep up with the steady invasion of furry little visitors. By my count, this is invasion #3. Apparently, the mice that live in the fields surrounding our house have spread the word that the Rosewells have a nice, cozy little Mouse B&B and we’re open for business. So we wait. . .and watch. . .and listen. . .and lay traps.
While I wait, I ponder this question: Why do we entertain ourselves with cute mice? There are the Mickeys and Mighty Mouses (Mice?) and Jerrys of my generation; my children have grown up with Mickey and Minnie (some vermin are timeless, I suppose), Desperaux (as in “The Tale of. . .”) and even the bold move with Remy from “Ratatouille”, the story of a rat who dreams of being a chef! I admit that I’ve enjoyed all these characters over the years. I went to see “Ratatouille” with my daughters a few years ago with some trepidation, thinking it near impossible that anyone could make even an animated rat cute or charming or lovable. Not only was it possible, I found myself really liking Remy, cheering on his success. But I distinctly remember feeling a bit queasy when Remy’s rat friends invaded the pantry, watching them slide across the floor en masse. That was a bit too real to be cute.
So why do we go to such creative lengths to anthropomorphise these skittish, sneaky little varmints? Why do we try to make them cute? Why don’t we just ignore them until it’s time to set another trap?
Even the representative mouse pictured above is the cutest one I could find. When looking through pictures to download for this post, the samples ran the gamut from photos of real mice to realistic drawings to cartoon figures to crafted – and yes, even cute! – mice. I decided pretty quickly that if I was going to be on eye level with one of these creatures while writing, it’d better be something attractive, something made of pink felt with blanket-stitched, chintz ears, something, well, yes. . .cute! Which automatically means “not real”. The thought of staring eye-to-eye at a real mouse – even a picture of one – makes me shudder. I don’t think I feel threatened or scared, necessarily. It’s more a reaction to their habits: scurrying along the edge of a room, lurking in the shadows, watching us from under refrigerators and other hidden places, eating food they neither bought nor earned. They’re dishonest. I don’t trust them.
We share the planet with these tiny abominations, but not willingly. Perhaps to assuage our instinctive fears of such prolific pests, we choose to make them more acceptable, more likable, more like us. We personify them to be able to coexist with them.
But herein lies the crux of the problem. I don’t want to coexist with mice. They could easily take over, so we look for entryways and lay traps, hoping that this one will be the last one. Very soon here, I’ll become obsessed with the mouse-on-the-lam’s annihilation. It’s inevitable. I have other things to think about, and this little guy’s an inconvenience, a nasty little nuisance. I’m reminded of that scene from “The Untouchables” where Al Capone learns of Eliot Ness’s interference in a business transaction. To paraphrase DeNiro’s Capone: ”I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burnt to the ground!”
I’m off to grab another trap.