On the Death of a Mouse
Molly caught a mouse in the garage.
Don and I watch her poke at it.
She is proud.
She sprawls happily on her side
The picture of feline contentment
Stretches one sharp little paw and give it a lazy push.
It twitches a little.
How do you think she killed it, Don asks.
It doesn’t have any visible wounds.
And although she is a fine mouser
She never learned to eat them.
Maybe she scared it to death, I say.
Maybe it had a heart attack.
Prey can sometimes panic themselves to death.
They are so close to panic already
Their nervous systems strung tight as harp wire.
How could he not break under the weight
Of the persistent cat’s killing intent?
I go into the garage and get the shovel
Scoop the mouse up
And take it outside.
It still twitches.
So I drop it onto a shady spot beneath the maple
And bash its brains out with the shovel.
I remember when killing was hard.
My first mouse in a mouse trap haunted me for three days
And intermittently again
For two more years.
My first roadkill made me nauseous with empathy
For about five minutes.
After a while
Killing didn’t bother me anymore.
What bothered me more than anything
Was the fact that I wasn’t bothered.
I butchered a rooster
To see if I really was what I suspected I might be.
It was easy.
My only regret
Was that the knife wasn’t sharp enough.
With this act
Came the dizzying knowledge
That I was capable of worse.
Of much, much worse.
Is it this way for farmer housewives
How do you come to terms
With your own capacity for good or evil?
I thought a lot about it
(I did a lot of thinking then)
I decided that it was like driving.
At first, when driving, I was afraid
Of the weapon I controlled.
One impulsive wrench of the wheel into oncoming traffic
And how many people would die?
What was stopping me?
I waited for myself to do it
But I never did.
So it is with murder.
Knowing that I am capable
Does not change anything.
I trust myself not to do something awful for no reason.
Coming to terms with one’s own power
Is a test of ethics.
I haven’t hurt anybody.
I don’t plan on it.
But knowing that seed is in me
And embracing it
As part of myself
Means it has no need to grow.
I wipe off the shovel and go inside
With only a slight and transient wonder
At my lack of feeling.
I forget all about it
Until recounting my day in my journal.
What feelings did I have today? I write.
And I come up with seven other notable events in my day
Before I remember killing the mouse.