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

For butchers

For hunters

For soldiers?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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