Jan 22, 2014

Tales of tails

"A mouse just ran over my foot!" is the status I chose for my FB wall today.

It was one of those supposedly funny chain gags that ripple out from FB from time to time.The modern version of a chain letter. I commented on someones odd sounding status and was then tasked with picking an odd status for myself from amongst a list to trap unsuspecting commenter's from MY FB network and further the chain.I didn't find it particularly funny and was about to pass when one of the status options caught my attention. To be fair, they all did: included were "I was approached by someone to become a prostitute" and "I'm going to adopt a monkey". (Really, who thinks up this stuff and have they considered using their powers for good?) Anyway, the one about the mouse tugged gently at me, suggesting I lighten up a bit and laugh with some friends.

     Perhaps the real reason though was this Sunday's confusing bloodshed in our home. Let me clarify that any other time there would BE no confusion over 'bloodshed': we're all firmly 'anti'. We like all blood to stay inside the bodies they belong to in general. Well, I sometimes recant when the 7 year old drops half his dinner on the floor for me to clean up. (Just for the instant hoovering perk might I give in to Dad/sons request for a family dog one of these days.) But in general, children of Gandhi are we.

  I hold the recent intense cold snap responsible for the telltale signs I found this Saturday that there's a 'mouse in the house'. Again. Our last visitors arrived 3 odd years ago, driven unwillingly out of their subterranean outdoor homes by severe flooding. I became adept at setting mouse traps just so, ensuring they wouldn't snag my finger-tip (ok, once) or be triggered by our footsteps. It's a bit of an art, mouse trap rigging, though an under appreciated one. I'm drafting a letter to the Olympic committee though, don't worry. My prodigious skills had me eventually even outwitting the bunch of lil Ninjas that had mastered the art of nibbled off the peanut butter with impunity. I had bagged half a dozen critters before the invasion ended and even mastered my gag reflex enough to proceed with disposal. But before planning each murder, I carefully flicked off my Empathy and Sympathy meters, for with them ticking, the essential innocence of these critters would've paralyzed me. 
The mice aided my cruel plans substantially with the potentially disease ridden droppings they gaily decorated our eating/cooking surfaces with every night. Then 6-year-old Oyon, was sternly reminded every day that the '5 second rule' was temporarily suspended as all surfaces were teeming with evil bacteria. It certainly helped out with overall hygiene practices too, as a silver lining. As his eyes sparkled with exciting images of microscopic swarms forming ranks against us on the countertop his hands worked harder than ever before with soap and water.
   In the midst of this unreal violence that few weeks brought to my life, I slipped once. Hard but temporarily. He caught my attention for the spectacular lack of survival instinct that made him run through open spaces and even pause for happy little nose twitching breaks in the middle of the room. In broad daylight! I wondered how he had survived as long as he did and named him Cyril in my head, against all instinct to humanize my victims. (For all the feminists out there, the 'he' is simply a random choice: next critter I don't know the sex of, will be addressed as 'she' in the interest of equal opportunity.) In addition, it was hard to not be charmed by his peculiarly upturned tail. It didn't trail behind like the others' , but rose up to curve over his back in a jaunty little arc. Hard not to smile even if it had made me hop up onto the couch clutching my non-existent skirts like the mammie character in a Tom and Jerry show. Anyway, I steeled myself against cute arced tails and pink twitching  noses, let the germy droppings fuel my evil intent and Cyril met his me-destined end. His tail curves no more and his twitching nose has stilled. As have my tears: it had to be done.

   This weekend was even more heartbreaking though the loudest tinkling sound probably came from the vicinity of my husbands chest rather than mine. This weekends rodent, a little grey thing, couldn't catch a break. That's an unfortunate pun intended to soften the visual of a mouse that spent part of the night dragging its broken and trapped, bleeding hind quarters (instead of the broken back/instant death these traps promise) around in piteous attempts at freedom. Sho descended to the kitchen in the morning before me as usual and did the best he could by removing the doomed thing to the sub-freezing outdoors in a bag, hoping the cold would would end his pain quickly. It was beyond any of us to do anything more violent than we had already done. I was spared this experience, to my eternal gratitude, though cleaning up the blood and fur from the kitchen  was a sobering experience.

It did trigger a recall of the two other somewhat traumatic mice experiences in my past, ones I'd carefully buried until now, it seems. The first, when I was 8 (ish), in Doha, Qatar. A desert peninsula stuck on the side of Saudi Arabia, mice abounded in this city. They delicately ate my mom's carefully grown watermelon down to the rind and could be seen skittering along the margin of our tiny patch of lawn. My parents tended this precious drop of green diligently, with limited amounts of water and careful fertilizing and resented the vermins marring their hardwork but we coexisted. Until the day they invaded. All I really remember of the episode really is my mom and a friend blocking all egress from our dining room with sheets of plywood as my dad wielded a hockey stick. I had been banished upstairs but the thwacks and squeal echoed and found me anyway.
  A few years later, we were in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia, a small wannabe town North West of the capital, Riyadh. Doha was truly a cosmopolitan, burgeoning city but this was a throwback to Arabian Nights. We lived in a large, echoing, mansion-esque villa facing a mosque that sounding 5 daily prayers (one of them at 3 am). Surrounding us were a few more villas with mystery inhabitants since strict Islamic law forbade women from appearing unveiled in public. Beyond our few blocks of dusty villa-hood lay the main street, lined by a few toney shops and supermarket or two catering to the small expat workforce involved in infrastructure development in the area (my father being one of them). Drive a few minutes past and it was low single storied brick buildings (painted in bright colors) backing onto sand. Weekly souks materialized but women, veiled and covered fully in black, were always to be seen squatting by the roadside. They were usually displaying gold jewellery for sale on scarves laid out on the pavement. Abandoned wives perhaps or just struggling families, we'll never know for sure. Inside our vast home, immersed in stillness broken only by Muezzin calls for salvation, were the skittering, chittering vermin. Perhaps driven in by the nightly chill or chased by other wildlife we'd never sighted. My fathers tolerance for blood must have lessened significantly as he resorted to the latest gimmick in the stores - glue traps. It took for just the first trapped victim, doomed to starve to death, to convince my parents they no longer had the stomach for any kind of death.
     I'm not sure how that invasion ended for us but it must have had a resolution as I don't have any Edgar Allen Poe-ish recollections to haunt my nights. Just the picture of that one pathetic little creature splayed out on glue, squeaking miserably and with ever diminishing hope.

Perhaps we'll get another visitor, here in frigid Massachusetts - as far removed as it can get  from the dusty, shimmering-hot lands of my childhood - to trigger more recalls.

Oyon-isms (7+):
After repeating something his dad and I had discussed amongst ourselves (or so we thought) ages ago...
Me: How did YOU know that?!
Oyon: Oh, I have ears all over my body.

He'd read/heard somewhere that some people leave their body to science after death. After last nights shower, as I'm clipping his big toenail.. 
Oyon: You know how people leave their bodies to science?
Me: yes?
Oyon: Scientist should cut those dead bodies and see what's inside.
Me: They do. But why do you ask?
Oyon: Then they'd be able to tell me what it looks like under my toe nail.

Same convo, 5 minutes of discussing medical research later (still naked and still getting nails clipped in the bathroom)...
Oyon: I think I'd like to be one of those people who cut bodies
Me: A Surgeon? Cool. That's a kind of doctor so you'd go to medical school to learn that. Oooh, what fun that'd be!!
Oyon: I know! And I would have SO many questions!
Me: You'd know so many ANSWERS too though. I'D be the one asking you questions then!
Oyon: No. I'd still have a lot of questions to ask you.

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