Sunday, November 8, 2009

Of Mice and Women



You know how it goes. Though my day was filled with poetry and beauty, there loomed the matter of the dead rat.

My cellar is pitch black, and I get to it by opening the trap in a bedroom closet. Then I scoot my butt over the opening, and stretch my legs down to reach the top stair while holding on to either side of the closet floor so I don’t freefall into the pit.

It’s a dark trail often leading to a dark deed. Down below is where you’ll find the furnace, air conditioner, water heater, mice and the mouse death machines. I once opened the trap for the Water & Power guy and he stared down this porthole to eternity and said, “You’re kidding, right?”

I would put it off. I could ignore it, but my dogs were now sniffing around the closet and the heating vents incessantly, which meant something fascinatingly dead down yonder lay. “We got it!” they seemed to say. And their sniffing irritated the hell out of me, partly because it forced me to acknowledge what lies below, and partly because the dogs never sniff out the rats when they’re alive. You got it? I got it, lazy assholes. So I locked the useless beggars away and down I went, with a double grocery bag so I could turn my head as I upended the bodies (Stuart and Remi) from the death chambers.

And no, it’s not as if I can’t get anyone to do this for me, paid or unpaid. But somehow it seems important, if I’m pulling the trigger, I take care of the aftermath. And I think it’s bad form to begin a phone conversation with, “About my dead rat…”

Besides, I am not a handy person. I can’t unstop a tub, fix a leak, replace a board. Killing rats is about the only thing I’m good for around the house. Diana the Huntress may have had bigger fish to fry, but I think we could trade a few war stories.

Earlier in the day, I led a group tour around The Huntington. Somewhere near the Lotus Pond we ran across a dead mouse by the side of the road. One of the women squealed and grabbed the arm of the nearest gentleman. Everyone knows a dead rat outside the house bears no resemblance to a dead rat inside the house. They are not the same animal, they have different genetic codes. So I suspect the woman had just been looking for any old opportunity to meet this handsome single man. They ended up spending the rest of the tour in each other’s company. Something may happen between them, or something may not. But if it does, I will become part of their personal landscape – forever tied to the day they first met. Me and their dead rat. That was the poetry part of the day.

33 comments:

  1. "There loomed the matter of the dead rat." Too much! ;-)

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  2. I'm going to remember that shriek and grab technique.

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  3. Too funny! "We met over a dead mouse," they'll say on their golden wedding anniversary.
    Our cat brought in dead rats and mice from other people's basements, but allowed them to frolic freely in ours. One of the mice she brought in live (to play with, the meany) took up residence in the lining of my stove and lived happily ever after, totally ignored by kitty.

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  4. I actually have the dead mouse concession outside the Huntington, Descanso, and the Arboretum. I advertise in the men's section of Match.com.

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  5. Your opening had me in mind of Indiana Jones lowering himself inside a pyramid or sphinx or something where there writhed a slither of snakes.

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  6. The idea of being like Diana the Huntress is poetic until you realize that to hunt you have to kill animals and dispose of their carcasses.

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  7. Oh I"m screaming and dribbling wine again! I've shared my rat story here I believe and won't drag that back up. I'm still in recovery from Traumatic Rat Stress Syndrome. Suffice it to say that a mouse or a rat...same thing. Had I been on your tour, I would have done more than grab that single man's arm ( how old was he???) . I would have jumped up and down and screamed something like , " OMG, OMG, and #%*@, and @#%( and maybe a loud #)$%&$ etc. in a hysterical manner. Get it??

    And how exactly did you kill those suckers? Just curious. I'm not squeamish about the manner of death. I rather enjoy that part.

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  8. Stuart and Remi? I'm guessing either 12 seconds or 12 hours to arrive at those names.

    Once again, the journey is everything, and each step here is fun.

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  9. I don't have a basement but with critters abounding everywhere, one never knows. The State of Florida is phasing out the use of plastic shopping bags so I'm stocking up, no more recycling.
    You're awesome, Diana Bugge.

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  10. I lived for a while in the Bay Area, in Piedmont, across the street from the Rose Garden, near the top of a hill with a house surrounded by Algerian ivy. This ivy was the homestead of feral cats and rats. For some reason the cats slowly disappeared and rats circled their wagons around my house. They dug underground tunnels, compromised my perimeter and secured a hole. The front line legions established positions within the walls and rested. There were the scratches on the side walls at night, particularly in the attic, until I moved my son in. However, for some reason we coexisted. Some years later in my current abode there was a new onslaught. First the pooches held the perimeter, though some crept in and got caught in an enclosure with a single exit. Big pooch stalked until little pooch saw the color if it's eyes. Then there were the subsequent burial ceremonies, but not before they brought in the remains and placed them at our feet for head pat rewards. However, some did survived, and multiply. $400 for a pro, and "The house is clean." This is an old story, but since KB reintroduced, I took the opportunity to embellish the old saw.

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  11. Don't tell the dogs, your masters, all you're good for around their house is playing coroner or murderer to rats. They might evict you from their castle.

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  12. I don't know how you do it, but you make poetry out of dead mice. Are you enjoying the docenting - dead mice withstanding?

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  13. If push came to shove {not recommended when approaching a cellar}, I don't think I'd have a problem starting a phone conversation with, "About my dead rat..." But are you sure you didn't simply forget about the blood sausage and stinky cheese you hung down there to cure?

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  14. You don't suppose the woman on tour carries a dead mouse in her purse for just these occassions?

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  15. Ok Virginia, I guess these words are French poetry.

    Be careful here though, not to destroy Karin’s nice poetry about the dark trail and the double grocery bag.

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  16. I was really wondering how that statue in the Huntington linked to the dead rat in your home.
    Hysterical.

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  17. Mr Earl, I think you've found a recession proof industry.

    KB,

    http://video.pbs.org/video/1321600279/

    It could happen.

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  18. Paula, can you just give a short resume.

    50 min. are far too long; I have more important things to do!

    I can’t offer the whole evening watching unimportant videos of black mamba’s!

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  19. Funny thing, I watched this yesterday Paula, and thought, why not get a pet snake for the basement. (I also thought, that husband must really love his wife.)

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  20. I admire how you glossed over the cellar death scene-this is something private, even between rats.

    Ooh, Julie, a 'slither of snakes'!
    That is delicious!

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  21. I guess when the grocery bag boy asks if I want em double bagged, I'll think twice now. I'm not watching any of the videos. I don't trust a one of you. KB, get someone, anyone, to do the cellar job for you. I"ll chip in some euros if necessary. Ewwwwww.
    V

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  22. Really V, watch the video, it's a love story of epic proportions between a wife and husband, really extraordinary.

    Shell Sheree, I had forgotten about the stinky cheese and the blood sausage...

    wv essefu
    Essefu to say.

    PS The hurricane is now a tropical storm, we have lots of rain, the cotton crop is probably in the crapper, my sinuses are buzzing, but tomorrow I hope to be on the beach to catch the fury.

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  23. PJ
    So glad you’re not in danger, though I'm sure the rain and muck are no treat.

    Yeah, three things struck me about the nature special yesterday (and why Virg should watch it) – how we can never really understand someone else’s obsession; how much a man can love a woman; how cute a snake looks when he’s anesthetized.

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  24. OK I tried to watch the black mamba thing. I lasted 1 second!!! I can't do it . I hate snakes worse than rats and mice. No way can I do that. Now where did I put my therapist's phone number......
    V

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  25. You are far braver than I. I would let it rot forever, even if I had to temporarily move out of my house by taking an impromptu vacation. Either that or I would pay someone to do my dirty work. I am really that pathetic and wimpy.

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  26. Margaret, you're not pathetic and wimpy. Most people would do the same as you. Hiker's just gotta be different. In a good way.

    I didn't think I had time to watch that video, but once I put it on I couldn't turn it off. Love the warthog! Must get one!

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  27. A dead rat inside the house is downright frightening. I had one buried in my closet for a week. Yeah, everything had to be washed. Twice.

    It is very brave of you to go into a dark cellar. I like the lack of basements in California myself. Too many scary things hide down there.

    I wanna go on one of your Huntington tours! I'm a loser and still haven't gone on a tour. Email me your schedule?

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  28. Another artful exposition of daily life (and death). Marvelous!

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  29. A few years ago I noticed a vile scent coming from my car air vents. Whenever I turned on the air conditioner it smelled, well, like something died in the car. Jon kept saying he thought it was mold on the air conditioner filter or something like that and I was convinced that no mold on earth smelled like DECAYING FLESH.

    When we opened up the car and looked, we found a dead mouse trapped on the air filter.

    I would have sold the car but no one would buy something that smelled like it had a corpse in the trunk. It took a solid 4 months for that smell to go away.

    Shudder.

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  30. Margaret, I'm right there with you. No way would I go down there.

    And I want to know right now.... was I the only one that couldn't watch that snake movie? HUH? I know some of you didn't , fess up.

    My WV is FERAT , eeeekkkk

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