Yeah, I saw him. That adorable wee mouse in The Green Mile. The cute-as-a-button little creature who danced and entertained; the one befriended and trained by a death-row inmate who dreamed of his mouse in the circus. I admit I cried when Sidney, the sadistic prison guard, stomped the mouse to death and cheered when the Michael Duncan character magically brought the little guy back to life.
Yeah, I saw him.
But trust me, it’s different when it isn’t Hollywood. When the drama is your under-sink kitchen waste bin and your mind is elsewhere trying to remember if you had the propane tank serviced and you reach for the bin and a brown blur jumps AT YOUR HAND — then, Sweet Jesus, it’s easier to play the Green Mile’s mean guard than the sweet-spirited death-row inmate.
Mice can make you bump your head against the ceiling. It’s not rational, of course. It’s reflexes and adrenalin. Something about unexpected brown fur moving at the speed of light in dark places gets the heart racing and blood pumping big time.
I know no country home is without its mouse or two, and up to a point, I believe in live and let live. But figuring where there is one mouse seen there are more unseen, I declared war on my Las Golondrinas mice.
I grabbed my trusty “Victor” mousetrap, dolloped chunky peanut butter as bait on the trigger, and set the trap by the kitchen waste bin under my sink.
My rascal invaders– one of them, at least — ate a peanut butter “last supper” sometime that night. My trap did its job with a bodacious snap.
When I removed the mouse from the trap next morning, holding it up by its tail for inspection, my house cat, Katie, sat on the floor in front of me watching with indifference. I reprimanded her slack ways and tossed the dead mouse onto the floor in front of her. She batted the carcass once or twice, bored like an ‘entitled’ Valley Girl teenager, then toddled off to a morning nap! House cat, yes; mouse cat, NO.
By contrast, I took the dead mouse outside to dispose of it and Burnsie actually grabbed it from my hand! A natural mouser, he shook it violently and flung it toward nearby shrubs.
That’s when the day’s spectacle occurred. From nowhere, one of the two orphan kittens that hang around my place suddenly appeared, grabbed the mouse in its mouth, growled a kitten gargle that said, “This is MY lucky day!”, and disappeared into the bushes, trophy held high in its mouth.
Funny how privilege stunts and necessity sharpens wits and ways. I think of my parents who lived through the Great Depression and learned frugality in the school of hard knocks. Their sense of the value of a dollar and “less is more” thinking stayed with them till they died. They were ‘orphan kittens’ in their own right and took nothing for granted. Necessity sharpened their wits and ways till the end.
Wish I were more like Mom and Dad. Wish I had more of the honed wits and ways of my Burnsie and the fierce opportunism of the Orphan kittens. I feel soft and effete by comparison.
But although I’m no child of the Depression, I do nurture some sense of utility — in the way I now think of ‘victims’ in my mouse war, for instance. My new thinking is in keeping with my folks’ frugal, waste-not-perspective on Life. You see, the spectacle of the orphan kitten seizing the moment by grabbing my first dead mouse showed me a virtue I prize– a virtue worth feeding, literally!
So, I may not be Hollywood’s inmate ’saint’ befriending his mouse, but I am a utility-minded grandson of the Depression. My mouse war is helping with my feed bill. Besides kibble cat food in their down-by-the-well-house-food-bowl, my two always hungry, half-wild orphan kittens are now beneficiaries of the spoils of war!
Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine