When I first heard the feeble scritching noise of a mouse coming from somewhere beneath the nests of filth that festered in my hellhole Alphabet City apartment, I didn’t panic. The soothing sounds of Yes were flooding my stoned brain, drowning out any coherent thoughts that might try and seep through.
My roommates at the time, Jan and Marty, were completely in sync with my lifestyle. We all lived on weed, tacos and lethargy. So when Jan heard the mouse the following afternoon, her response mostly involved moaning. My problem is that my degree of laziness is matched equally by a tendency toward paralyzing neuroses, manifested mostly in hysterical internal monologues and the desperate need to please everyone I meet. After the weed haze wore off, I couldn’t get the mouse out of my mind. I spent a day curled up in a canvas chair, staring with psychotic intensity at the space under our refrigerator, the spot of the last known mouse-sighting. When Marty and Jan arrived home that evening, I gave them my ultimatum. “It’s the mouse or me,” I said. “I pay a million dollars a month rent. That little fucker is a squatter.”
Jan and Marty, who truthfully wouldn’t give two shits if I left and never came back, decided that traps from the bodega downstairs would be easier than finding a new roommate.
We bought a humane trap and two six-packs of beer.
I’m almost sure that we weren’t sitting there waiting for hours to catch the mouse, but it was some interminable length of time. Around the time we began dozing off, a soft click came from under the counter and then a piercing squeal. It was startlingly loud, like an air-raid siren.
“Oh, fuck! We caught it!” Jan said. “OK, now Jenny, you pull it off the trap and we can take it outdoors.”
“Yeah, fucking right.” As it was, I was standing in the extreme far corner of the room, making small noises and digging my fingernails into my palm. The mouse looked furious—capable of damage. You, his eyes said to me, you’re the little pissant druggie who has it out for me. I’m coming for you, you little cunt.
“I’m not doing it,” I said firmly. “Marty?”
“No way in hell,” was Marty’s contribution.
We all sat there, trying not to look at the trap. It’s our duty, I said to myself. I wanted the thing out, and here it is. Look at it. It’s in pain. We’re torturing it. I’m like a modern day rodent-torturing Josef Mengele. I’m a terrible person who profits from the pain of other living things.
“OK,” I said finally, picking up a pair of industrial-strength rubber gloves. I felt better with them on, like a doctor about to perform a life-saving surgery. This feeling lessened when I neared the mouse. It turned its small head toward me. I know where you live. It said. I’ll come back and I’ll bring my friends and they’ll find your corpse two weeks later with half your face gone.
I thought for a second about throwing myself out a window. Instead, I turned and smiled reassuringly at my roommates like a deranged Kelly Ripa. I firmly grasped the warm, wriggly body in one hand.
If I was previously unsure about this idea, this pretty much sealed the deal. I screamed and let go, but the little fucker just hung there, attached to my glove with the sticky trap glue. Shrieking, I flung my hand around, trying with no luck to dislodge the mouse, smacking it into the wall, then the floor and bruising my knuckles in the process. Jan managed to regain some sense at last and brought me a big jar of water.
“PUT IT IN THERE!” she yelled, trying to get me to pay attention. “JUST TAKE OFF THE GLOVE AND DUNK IT IN!”
I did. With a shudder I peeled the glove off, and the whole works—the mouse, the glove, the trap—sank slowly into the water.
I watched in horrified silence as it twitched, spasmed and then died.
We all sat there for a moment, and then Marty spoke. “What are we going to do with that?” she asked, indicating the jar of water that now contained a tiny corpse, a rubber glove and a humane trap, which sat uselessly at the bottom under the dead body.
Jan took it, walked over to the window, opened it and then poured everything out. We all watched it thud wetly on top of the police cruiser that happened to be parked below.
After an awkward moment, Jan started laughing; but it was a strangled, uncomfortable sound. Then there was silence again, except for the soft sounds of Eric Clapton wailing on the guitar in the background.
Allison Smith lives in Boston and makes a meager living doing freelance illustration, graphic design and writing self-deprecating short stories. See more at http://foxontherun.wordpress.com