Saturday, March 18, 2006

Squeaky & Me

Not many of you know about my de facto pet, Squeaky. We’ve been living together intermittently for two years now, and we’ve grown pretty close over that time, despite all my attempts to kill him. He’s a quick, dirt-colored mouse who gets into my apartment when the weather outside is bad. I remember when I first made his acquaintance. I was pouring myself a bowl of cereal in my kitchen when he ran out from under the stove, raced straight at my feet, stopped short, hesitated for a moment, and then raced back the way he had come. I was too sleepy to have much of a reaction. At the time, I was unsure whether it was a living creature or just an unusually mobile dust bunny. His existence was confirmed a week or so later, when he darted out of my bedroom closet while I was doing my nightly push-ups, scurrying past me as I was struggling upwards. I’m afraid I didn’t give him a very dignified welcome. I went “Aaaaah!” and fell flat on my face.

For a long time, I resented him too much to give him a name. Eventually I settled on Squeaky, for the noise he liked to make as he chewed on the lining of my easy chair. He was a low maintenance pet, all things being considered. He tended to drop by in the dead of night, and only when I had freshly-spilled crumbs for him to eat. There were stretches where I forgot about him, only to be faced with another one of his dramatic entrances when I least expected it. He liked to bolt out from underneath my furniture and frighten me. For my part, I liked to throw things at him. Over the course of our relationship, I’ve broken a flashlight, two plates, and innumerable CD cases in my attempts to punish Squeaky for not warning me when he’s about to make an appearance.

One day last winter, my landlord put up a sign by the mailboxes warning his tenants that mice had been seen. Beneath the sign was a stack of glue traps we were suppose to take and set up in our apartments if we had been troubled by them. I took a few and arranged them with great cunning all around my apartment. Take that, I thought, take that you evil fucking mouse. It didn’t occur to me until I was laying in bed that night how cruel those traps were. They were just a bunch of glue on a piece of cardboard. The idea was that the mouse would get stuck there and either a) slowly starve to death, b) die of panic, or c) be whacked to death by your broom whenever you got around to it. That’s just sick. I wanted to kill Squeaky, true, but I didn’t want him to suffer. I climbed out from under my blankets, fearing that my change of heart might have come too late and Squeaky had already been fatally adhered. Luckily, he wasn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I had pasted poor Squeaky.

As I threw those traps away, I devised a sort of truce with my mouse. I would immediately desist any and all attempts to make him die if he just abided by three conditions:

1) Stay out of sight when I had company

2) Never scurry over my bare feet when I’m walking to the bathroom in the morning

3) Refrain from climbing up onto my countertops.

Despite the essential fairness of this decree, I’m afraid Squeaky had broken all of these except one within a week of my declaration of conditional detente. In all honesty, I must admit that he did have the decency to abide by the first rule. The others, however, were apparently beyond him. When he emerged from my toaster one horrid evening, I decided that I could no longer afford mercy. I had no choice. I was compelled to issue a fatwa against Squeaky.

And I was as resolute and steadfast as any dim-witted, born-again President. The very next day I was at Target, buying the most elaborate and humane mouse-beheading contraptions they had. I got a whole bunch of them, and I also got some gourmet peanut butter to use as a lure. Oh, if only you could have seen how I strategized the best way to bring about Squeaky’s demise! The pattern of traps was a thing of beauty, based as it was on not only my understanding of general mouse psychology, but also upon my insight into my particular mouse’s quirks and preferences. There was no way he could escape my mighty judgement. I went to bed that night excited to be finally exercising my rights as a higher mammal.

Squeaky was a slick bastard, though. He resisted the temptation of my very expensive, organic peanut butter. But how long could he hold out?, I asked myself the next morning as I inspected my dozen empty traps. Not long, I assured myself, not long at all. In this, I misjudged Squeaky. He evaded all my snares until the bait in them started to reek and I had to throw every single one away. I won’t lie to you people: there was anger then, the justifiable anger that arises whenever a beautiful plan is foiled, but there was also a new respect for Squeaky. He was sharp. He was subtle. He was a worthy adversary.

Clearly, I could only hope to best him through my greater strength. I resolved to use brute force to bring the whole “Squeaky affair” to a satisfactory conclusion. Whereas my old plan was perhaps a trifle too delicate to be effective, my new plan would succeed because of it’s elegant simplicity. I would wait for Squeaky to make the first move. When he did, I would spring upon him armed with whatever happened to be close at hand. There would be brief tumult, a modest amount of violence, and then inevitable victory. I could raise up Squeaky’s smashed and battered body then, a wee corpse I would treat with the utmost respect. The only question that remained was whether it would honor him more to devour him raw or to have him bronzed into a trophy.

But this didn’t come to pass, either. The weather became nice and Squeaky went off to wherever he summers. We moved on with our lives, Squeaky and I. I never forgot about him, though, and I know he felt the same about me. Because a few months ago he returned. He’s a little greyer now, a little slower, but he’s the same evil rodent who jumps out to scare me when I’m going about my business. I won’t say that I was glad to see him, but I won’t say it was completely unexpected, either. What Squeaky and I have is just too deep to be easily sundered.

We have a bond, that mouse and I, that will endure until the day I finally kill him. Or until the day he dies of old age inside my walls and stinks up my entire building.