I’m still co-habiting with various voles, shrews, and deer mice. They run energetic circuits around the one-room cabin: behind the sofa, up the printer onto my desk, down to the floor, across the shelves, over the linen-chest, and across the fireplace mantel, where they peep out from behind the bowls and trinkets. Then hop! down onto the stereo and around again.
Brewing coffee in a little in-cup drip filter last week I noticed that one of the coffee grounds was not a coffee ground, _after_ I’d drunk. I didn’t gag: I’ve seen enough restaurant kitchens to know I’ve consumed worse. In the staff kitchen pantry, they peeled off and shredded the label from my sesame oil to make a nest, and chewed holes in a ziplock bag of coffee I’d left out by accident. I emptied the shelves, swept off the droppings and swabbed down with bleach while I pictured my caffeinated mice wired up for a brainstorming session on how to breach those metal towers of food.
Some nights they party in my cabin like Bush Jr. at Yale, and I lie awake listening to them snuffle around the traps. I feel the self-pity of the killer as I hold my breath before the metal bar smashes them: they _made_ me do it. They are unsentimental creatures. When a trap is sprung, a mouse will lick the peanut butter clean from under the warm, dead nose of its fellow rodent. I respect their respect for the primacy of the living.
I am now able to empty and reset the snap-traps, though I prefer cajolery when possible. To empty the traps I hold them upside down through a tissue to avoid contact with my victims’ popping, accusatory eyes. I try not to brush the whiskers, and I never touch the tails. In the charnel ground behind the cabin, I prise up the metal bar with another tissue and shake the trap out. The stiff little bodies with dented heads plop onto the duff, and I shout a ritual incantation: “Oh Jesus I’m sorry sorry sorry little mouse!” Then I sprint to the staff kitchen to wash my hands.
Two days ago I abandoned a trap up there: a mouse had clamped his teeth around the metal bait-holder, and I wasn’t about to pry his jaws from his last meal. When I confessed, Ranger Tim retrieved it, quietly contemptuous of my simpering. I can only deal with the neatly dead. Since then he has had to de-trap another creature who haemorrhaged under the stereo, and stomp a squeaking mouse who was pinned by the ear. At the Frater cabin one morning I squeaked myself when I was greeted by a live mouse, sitting in the kitchen sink pinned by the tail. I am ashamed that my inner Carrie Bradshaw has not yet been snap-trapped by rural life. But oh, the rodentry.
If you leave them in the trap for even half a day, the carpenter ants take a break from chomping through the ceiling beams and troop down to swarm the corpse. When the mice are deposited in the charnel ground, the cadaver beetles are ready. They are fabulously industrious creatures. Our mice are usually buried within 12 hours, ready to host beetle babies. Life goes on.