I’ve yet to slaughter any cats, but I once killed a mouse in front of my son with a tennis racket. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as satisfied in my manhood as at that moment, or so attuned to nature. We can admire the songbirds with our binoculars, but it is worth remembering how prone they are to murder. Death and violence are our surest, most unavoidable connections to the natural world. We cocoon ourselves from the critters outside, but they soon find out who the apex predator is when they trespass inside the bear cave.
I had been trying in vain to destroy the vermin for weeks. Every year around Thanksgiving when the mercury dropped, a mouse would find a way into our home. The first two years it happened we got him with a sticky trap, but after that the traps failed to work at all. I had come to expect the intruder, so I put out traps prior to his arrival, thinking the novelty of the trap was what was alerting his rodent mind to danger. But no matter where I placed them or what bait I chose, the traps wouldn’t work. Both my wife and I were beside ourselves. The mouse had to be killed. I imagined the toothy little animal sniffing my baby as he slept in his crib. In the back of Miles’s closet, I discovered a basket that the mouse had used as a nest. The bottom of the basket was peppered with feces.
“Throw that away,” my wife ordered in disgust. “If you can’t kill that thing, I’m calling an exterminator!”
“Give me three more days,” I implored.
I mopped my son’s room with disinfectant. I set out more traps. Every evening after Miles had been put to bed, the mouse would travel through our dining room.
“There it is,” Emily would hiss as we relaxed together on the couch.
We watched in horror as it sniffed around the legs of our dining room table before disappearing under the door that led to the bedrooms. I would search after it, but it was always nowhere to be found, lost somewhere in the ductwork of our house.
The mouse had taken up residence in the bowels of our oven. That much I had figured out. All the mice have done this. I think the heat from the pilot light attracts them. I removed the back panel of the oven to try to find the mouse’s lair, but all I discovered was another panel and a maze of wires that made me realize I was in over my head.
I called the neighbor and arranged to have his orange tabby stay with us. This accomplished nothing except to encourage another animal to violate our home. After that, the cat took to hanging out on our deck and running inside whenever we opened the door.
I placed a solid line of sticky traps in the kitchen and bedroom doorways. The mouse simply leaped over them. I blocked its escape route with a door snake and waited with my tennis racket. It was suspenseful to know it was coming, but not the exact moment. Finally, the mouse crept out from the oven. I saw its pink feet, twitching whiskers, and trailing tail. I raised my weapon and carefully advanced toward him. The mouse froze in alarm at the crossing of my shadow. He darted toward the door. The door snake blocked his exit. He lapped the dining room in panic. I slammed the racket down on the hardwood but came up empty. The mouse had escaped again down a heating vent.
“I almost had him,” I said.
“I wish you would kill that thing,” my wife scolded from the couch.
A couple of days later I was broiling a steak and the excess heat drove the mouse from the oven. We were about to have dinner. Miles was buckled into his high chair.
“There he is!” I yelled.
Emily tossed a blanket in front of the door. I went for the racket. Miles watched me with a wide-eyed expression on his face. The mouse ran in a tight circle at my feet. I knew I had him.
“DIE YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” I screamed and slammed the racket down. He lay there twitching, his legs curled, contorted, as if his back was broken. I gave him another hit, but not so hard as to spill his guts. Emily came and stood beside me. We admired the kill together. I was shaken and full of adrenaline. I looked guiltily back at Miles. He didn’t seem traumatized or concerned and had resumed play with a measuring cup. I apologized to Emily for swearing in from of him.
“I’m just glad he’s dead,” she said with a shiver.