I BRUTALLY KILLED A MOUSE last week, but I am also an expert and have trained myself to not feel badly about killing mice. I started off killing mice casually and only as needed.
We couldn’t afford an exterminator at work, and for some reason, killing mice overlapped enough with my current position for it to become my responsibility. In the beginning, I felt remorse with each dead mouse I found. I would count the mice I killed as if remembering them would somehow lessen the pain of taking a life. I knew that some of them died in pain, because while a blow to a mouse’s tiny neck is always fatal, it is not always instant. That is why I always set my traps at night. Even now, though I am trained, I do not want to hear the mice die. I am not so heartless. If I allow myself to remember how fragile mice are, or that they are softer than they are mean, and that many terrible things are allowed to remain on this earth while mice are almost always hunted and hated, I begin to feel a deep and unsettling pain.
To avoid thinking like this, I am systematic. I only buy the classic style of mousetrap, those made of wire and wood, to remind myself that being systematic is more important than the technology I use. I modify each mousetrap by bending the trigger such that the slightest touch will set off the trap. I put a skull and crossbones on the peanut butter I use as bait to remind myself that it is not a snack, but is instead a direct pathway to a quick death. I use very little peanut butter, because one does not catch a mouse with an excess of bait, but instead with a well-placed trap. I place my traps only in locations where I have caught mice before, because mice, like human beings, are creatures of habit and will continue to use convenient pathways even if they are dangerous.
In this way, I have killed countless mice, and if I am faithful to my system, I am never bothered by how many tiny, soft, and sometimes warm little bodies I throw into the dumpster.
Last week, however, I strayed from my system. I set a trap during the day to prove a point. I shouldn’t have broken my own rule because of my pride, but I am sometimes too proud, and I am working on that. Hannah and I had been trying to rid our house of mice for a week, but I had allowed her to set the traps because I knew that I was proud of my skill as a mouse killer and was trying to practice being less proud. After a week of empty traps, I let me pride drive me to show her how an expert trap was set.
I still regret this and have since apologized.
We had turned to go outside when the trap snapped. We both looked back to see a mouse struggling to scamper away with its neck crushed beneath the unforgiving wire of the trap. We heard its feet scratch against the tile, and it started to convulse in the way that animals do when they experience serious neural trauma. It struggled unconsciously, like a body in an ambulance paramedics might give up on. I couldn’t say this to Hannah, and I still haven’t told her, but the mouse we caught was very young, probably weeks old. It had probably been born when its parents found our house to live in, and it was probably coming out of its hole for the first time. Hannah couldn’t stop crying, and I felt so much pain for having killed something so delicate and innocent.
I remembered why I had become more systematic in my killing, because I remembered how fragile mice are, and how fragile I am, and that if my neck snapped, I would probably convulse in a similar way and die as quickly as that mouse did, and that afterwards, my body would be warm and still, like the small mouse that I had just killed in my kitchen.
This week, I went back to work and looked until I found the hole through which the mice were entering our building. I patched it, even though I am not an expert and do not have a system for patching holes. I probably could have spent my time more efficiently doing something else, but I couldn’t bear to be so systematic anymore.
Rafaell Rozendo is a peaceful person living in southern California.
"Untitled" by Jimmy Sicord