Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Tragedy

We were about to take Bo for a walk. The boys had exited into the garage and were waiting for me to get my shoes on. When I came out, Will excitedly cried, "Mom, look at this cute little mouse!" They were standing not six inches from, sure enough, a cute little mouse, sitting on the carpet and looking like it was eating something grasped tightly in its paws.

"Don't touch it," I warned immediately. "Usually mice run away from people, so there's a reason that it's not. It's probably sick, so don't touch it."

"Oh, mom, he's so cute," repeated Will. "He's just sitting there and eating his cheese."

From the second I'd seen it, I'd known with a sinking feeling that we had poisoned this mouse. But unlike the other mice we'd poisoned, who had courteously died deep in the wood pile, this mouse had ventured out to make a spectacle of himself in front of my adoring children. I felt SO bad, mostly for the mouse.

(Later, Brian told me that I should have put him out of his misery. "HOW would I have done THAT?" I'd asked incredulously. "With a shovel," he'd replied. I couldn't imagine how traumatizing that would have been to the kids, who already have to endure seeing adorable little chipmunks shot with a pellet gun on a regular basis because they tunnel under our house and patio. "You could have put them inside and come out and done it," asserted my husband, who has the gift of clear and decisive thinking without the complexity of concern for the emotions of small children regarding furry creatures. Alas, I suppose I did let the poor mouse suffer, and for that, Mr. Mouse, I really am sorry.)

I warned the kids that he was probably dying. Again, I explained that mice usually run away from people, and since this mouse wasn't running away, that meant he was sick and probably dying. I assumed he was dying at that moment, and I advised us all to get moving on our walk and leave him in peace to pass.

When we returned, Barrett checked on him immediately. "He a-yive!" The mouse had moved a couple feet, off the carpet and onto the concrete, and Barrett was overjoyed. The creature's little sides were still quivering with his breath. We watched him for quite a while, but while the boys enjoyed the novelty, I just felt sad with the knowledge that I was slowly killing this creature, and that if my sons knew I was his murderer, what would they think of me?

Will was full of ideas to save the creature. "Mom, let's put him in the grass." "Mom, let's put him in some water to make him better." "Mom, I think he needs some cheese."

Barrett wasn't worried when I warned him it would likely die. "Ok, we'll get ano'er one."

Will, who is lately full of nonsense if/then statements (his logic skills still developing), formulated his thoughts. "Mom, if he dies... Mom, if he doesn't die... Mom, if he needs to eat some cheese, then we will go for our walk and... Mom, if he doesn't die, then he will get better and we will give him some cheese."

Bo sniffed the little guy gently, inhaling the rare scent of a living animal that didn't flee from him. He didn't know what to do with this strange mouse, who sat undaunted by his big, wet nose pressed against his fur. Bo cocked his head from side to side, looking at the mouse out of one eye, then the other. "Come on, guys," I finally pleaded, unable to face the guilt of the mouse's slow demise. "Let's leave him alone and give him some peace." It was time to go water the garden.

William watered my front plants while I did the vegetables and the deck flowers. He's such a big help to me lately, his little psyche learning the pleasure of completing a job to the success of the team. Barrett did all he could to hinder the work, first impeding Will's progress, trying to take the hose away, shutting off the water, and generally being a thorn in Will's side. When I finally called him away to be with me, he contented himself with picking loose pieces of concrete out from between the patio flagstones, dropping them into the rainwater collected in the baby pool until he had quite a collection (which is when I discovered what he was doing and promptly instructed him to stop!).

We finished the job and the boys were rewarded with popsicles. Barrett inhaled his in record time, while Will slowly whittled his away with tiny licks until it was dripping down his fingers and onto the porch, and yet he still preferred not to bite it. Barrett asked for another one; upon hearing the word NO he commenced wailing. He was THIS CLOSE to being disciplined when Will offered him his own popsicle. How could I stifle his generous gesture? Barrett had eeked his way out of that one for sure. His eyes dried instantly, and under my instruction shared a few bites with his brother as a thank-you.

We were outside for a while, Neva having decided to take a really long nap. It was time to go back into the house. We had almost forgotten about the mouse, but there he was, having traveled all the way across the floor to where the Honda was parked! The boys were thrilled by his progress, but he looked no better to me, and I kept reminded them that he was dying (or at least very sick, in which case we did not want to touch him). They boys were very obedient and didn't even attempt it.

It was three hours later, and Brian was on his way home, when Barrett followed me into the garage for the watermelon. I heard him shriek. "The 'quirrel!" he cried, mixing up his animals. The "squirrel" was dead, all right, lying stiffly on its side. "Oh, buddy, he's dead," I murmured, SO relieved and thankful that he has finally passed.

Barrett was crestfallen. "Call peace-man!" he cried.

"Oh, honey, no. A policeman can't help him."

"Get ano'er one."

"I can't, Barrett. All the other mice are hiding from us."

Like he does when he's trying not to cry, he shrugged one shoulder up to his ear.

"I'm sorry, Barrett," I said.

Suddenly Barrett realized that he was now the bearer of some exciting news, and ran to tell Will. "William!" he yelled as he burst into the house. "The 'quirrel! I 'membered dat!" The rest of his his enthusiasm was unintelligible and I translated for him. "William, the mouse died."

"YEAH!" confirmed Barrett. "Da mouse died!"

"Oh no!" Will ran out to the garage, and then ran back in. "Mom, let's put him in some water to make him better."

"That won't help him, honey. We need to go put him in the woods."

"No!" he yelped. "Then he might really, REALLY die!"

"Buddy, he's really, really dead already."

After much discussion, I finally persuaded to boys to let me find "a soft bed of leaves," upon which we could gently "rest" the mouse in case he decided to make a full (though unlikely, Will finally conceded) recovery. I scooped the mouse onto a dustpan. Will stayed back in the garage, his grief not strong enough to risk walking on the driveway gravel in bare feet, but Barrett, more heavily invested in the mouse's wellbeing, followed me to ensure that the bed of leaves was indeed soft enough for his friend. I had hoped to fling the creature as far away as possible, but Barrett stood there supervising, and I had to content myself with reaching out into the brush and gently dumping him out. "Say 'bye, Mr. Mouse,'" I told Barrett.

"Bye," he said.

Back in the house, we reminisced. "Mom," said Will, "when we were in the garage Barrett said to me, 'I like him,' and I didn't know what he was talkin' 'bout, and then when I went over, I saw him! I saw the mouse."

"Oh, so Barrett found him?"

"Yeah and he was eating his cheese. Mom, if we - if we - Mom, if we can find a new mouse, then we can, and if he dies, then - Mom, if he dies, then we can get a new mouse, and if we can't, then we can find another one. Okay?"

How can you say no to that?


  1. I loved this. You are such an excellent writer and the boys are so thoughtful and sweet. :) That was just a perfect story.