WIP: Friday Morning, 8 AM v0.5

I’ve already had a workshop for this and it is in for some biiiig revisions and rewrites and changes. But here it is in the form that my workshop got it:

Friday Morning, 8 AM

This morning, our garbage bag chirped. I was surprised at how long it kept on for. I guess mouse lungs are small, so even the little air in the bag would last it some time.

It happened like this: we check the restaurant traps every morning – those multi-purpose sticky papers that were supposed to catch all our little nuisances. Most of us were convinced that our nuisances were on vacation from the Chinese place across the food court hall from us.

If we were neurotic about our food prep and sanitation, then they were balancing out the food court karma just by existing. We dated every food item as soon as it was opened and put it in a standardized container. The employees at the Chinese place sneezed into their containers. We wore hairnets and baseball caps when one or the other would have done the same. They wore their hairnets in their shirt pockets as see-through corsages. We washed our hands every time we changed our vinyl gloves. The only gloves that their restaurant owned were bright yellow and used for absolutely everything, including as oven mitts and to wash floors.

But all of this is beside the point, except to say that we blamed our pest problems on them, and this morning, we had what some might call a pest “resolution.”

“I know you didn’t push the trap this far back when we placed it,” said Matthew, and reached for it under the fridge. He jumped back when the paper began cheeping. Placing the sticky paper and changing it periodically was just something we did – we never thought of the end result, like the fact that we might catch something. At least, I never did.

The sound that the live mouse made reminded me of opening a glass door with metal hinges over and over again – or a persistantly rhythmic watch alarm. It wouldn’t shut up.

“Do you want me to handle it? I’ll handle it – I’m used to it – I’m the one that does this sort of stuff at home,” I said, all in a rush. My words gave the wrong impression and I knew it – we didn’t regularly catch and kill mice at my house. What I really meant was that I had always owned rodents as pets, so I wasn’t scared of them, and that, on the two or three occasions that we had had bats in our house, I  had stepped in to help. We caught the bats live, my parents holding a comforter against the doorway of whatever room I was holed up in with the bat, and me wearing thick workgloves to guard against its needle teeth. I would catch them and then release the silly things outside again. One time, I had been trapped in our living room with one and whacked it with a broom. It had been stunned, and I put it in a laundry basket outside. It didn’t fly away the next day, and I worried. I tipped the basket over eventually, and then it took off – maybe it couldn’t echolocate in the bin or I woke it up.  This was the first time that I would be murdering anything.

I had never killed anything bigger or with higher brain function than an insect. I even carried spiders outside in tissues rather than squash them. I would gladly kill a house centipede though – those things were horrors. As a child, I remembered looking up at one, being terrified by its too-many legs and its spikey appearance. I shut my eyes and when I looked again, it was gone as if it never was. I thought I had imagined the nightmare creature until I got older. It had been unsettling.

Actually, it wasn’t true that I had only killed insects: I hold myself responsible for feeding my pet mice orange with the peel still on when I was eight or so. The pesticides paralyzed them, and my parents made me flush them down the toilet.

That chirping – that cheep-cheep sound – it killed me. I wondered how long after closing the poor thing had gotten itself stuck. We might have woken it from exhaustion after it had spent half the night fighting to get free. I had heard that mice on sticky paper died of starvation or something like that if they weren’t found. I thought that they must die of fright.

I tried to tell myself not to feel bad – mice were unsanitary, and we couldn’t have them pooping in the food and chewing everything up. It was them or us, in a way. We couldn’t co-exist. And, at that point, there was no choice. There were no solvents strong enough for the glue that wouldn’t also kill the mouse, and if you tried (I had heard this somewhere – maybe from the parents of a friend or something) to pull the mice off, it would rip off their paws and skin, open up their little bellies.

I reached beneath the fridge and moved the sticky paper. The rhythm of the cheeping stayed exactly the same, never varying. The paper was stiff, and heavy with the weight of its small body (or maybe it had a deceptively small-sounding chirp). It took some doing to avoid catching the paper on the refrigerator’s metal undertrays and moisture catchers. Even then, absurdly, I didn’t want to be cruel and hit the mouse against anything. I lifted the yellow pad of glue clear of the undercarriage. The struggling mouse was no bigger than my thumb and it was still chirping constantly. It was nestled up against a bigger brown mouse. The brown one was dead. I threw the paper into the mostly empty garbage bag.

“Well. That’s that,” I said, a model of efficiency. Then, I paused. I could still hear the mouse cheeping from the garbage bag. “Well. We’re not listening to that all day.”

I tied off the garbage bag and carried it out of our kiosk. The mouse kept it up all the way to our garbage drop-off point in front of one of the food court murals. I wondered how long it would take the mouse to suffocate.

While I was gone, our pest control guy – and every restaurant or complex of restaurants has a guy like this – showed up for his regular Friday visit. He shined his light in all the corners and looked for bugs and whatnot. He said that they were going to spray outside the kiosk because next door was having cockroach problems. Matthew told him about the mouse – he hadn’t seen the second one.

“Where did you put the paper?”

“In the garbage,” Matthew said. “She took care of it.”

“What? The Chinese place will give you twelve bucks a head.”

They started to joke about it. Matthew mimed squishing both halves of the sticky paper together. “That’s the way that you kill a mouse!”

I wasn’t laughing. The white mouse had been nestled up to the larger, already dead brown mouse. I wondered if the little white creature had heard the brown one and come running to help it, getting stuck itself. I wondered if the brown one had even been stuck first, or if it had come to the sound of that pathetic chirping and its heart had just given way first. Was the brown mouse the white one’s mother? I had this weird thought, even though I knew from Discovery Channel or the internet or something that mice were born hairless, that maybe the clean white mouse had been born right there onto the paper. How had it forced its way across the glue to get stuck right next to its dam?

“I wasn’t scared or anything – of the mouse – ” said Matthew, when the pest guy had gone. “I was just surprised by its squeaking.”




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