Sunday, May 17, 2009

Me and D'Ontrell

This last Friday, I woke up to the sound of a mouse springing a trap. Relax, it was a live trap; the kind that the little critter triggers by stepping inside. A door shuts behind him and he's caught. Once caught, my girlfriend at the time and I would sequester them in a bucket with shredded paper and an empty toilet paper roll for them to hide in. We'd make sure that each of them had a name and then hop in the car, drive to the Arboretum and let them go. They would be free to frolic there for the rest of their lengthy and fulfilling lives. Over the last few years, we'd caught five mice that way: Mr. Frisky, Brother Frisky, Cousin Frisky, Senor Scampers and Greg Tinymouse. This was the sixth. As I listened to the trap rattling, my sleepy mind resolved to name this mouse D'Ontrell, because why not name him D'Ontrell? It's a good name. It doesn't mean anything.

I got up and made the bucket presentable for him, adding a little bit of food and a some more paper for cover. I could already tell that he didn't like being in the trap. If I was an angry little mouse, I'd rattle around exactly like that. Once everything was ready, I picked up the contraption, held it over the bucket slowly opened the door. At first, nothing came out. Clearly, even though D'Ontrell hated the trap, he was even less inclined toward the bucket. I gave the trap a few gentle shakes and he finally tumbled into the bucket. He was a small dark gray mouse, not unlike the mouse I had trapped one evening a few weeks before and accidentally released. To be honest, I thought the trap had shut by itself, as it often does, but when I opened it, a small dark gray mouse darted out, gave me the finger and disappeared. Actually, he didn't give me the finger. I just made that up. Mice don't have fingers.

As soon as he hit the bucket, he was jumping and squeaking and being generally unruly. I covered the top of the bucket with a rectangular bit of framed window screening, so that escape was completely impossible. There was no way to explain to him that he would soon be bound for the green fields of the Arboretum, so I just let him carry on until he wore himself out. I went off to the gym, came back and had breakfast. D'Ontrell was still not happy with his temporary digs. He scrambled around a lot.

I figured that traffic would have died down enough by 10:00 for me to make it a quick trip to the Arboretum. I taped the screen to the bucket and left to go get my car. My garage is about eight blocks away, so it generally takes me about 15 or 20 minutes to get back. Today was no different. All was quiet when I came back up to get D'Ontrell. I figured that he'd probably tired himself out. I gently carried the bucket down to the car. None of my crazy neighbors thought it was at all unusual to see me carrying a bucket with a screen taped to the top. As I've said before, they've got their own troubles to attend to.

I placed the bucket behind the driver's seat. It was as stable as it could be. I took off and quickly ran into some terrible traffic both on I-5 and 520. I eventually made it to the Arboretum. There was only one minor mishap; the bucket had tipped slightly when I took a corner. But D'Ontrell had been quiet for such a long time, I was positive that he had pretty much resigned himself to being incarcerated. After pulling into a parking space, I carefully detached the screen from the bucket and solemnly took it to a clearing in the woods where we had let the previous five former Rivoli tenants go. I gently tipped the bucket and slowly took out the toilet paper tube. That's where all the other mice ended up hanging out. I gave the tube a little shake, expecting D'Ontrell to tumble out and make a mad scramble for freedom. But funny thing, the tube was empty. I poured out the bucket's contents, expecting to see at least one small dark gray mouse. Nothing but paper spilled out. D'Ontrell was gone.

It's difficult to say where I lost him. Either he managed to escape at the Rivoli when I was out getting the car or he escaped in the car itself when the bucket tipped. It was my first botched mouse liberation and I felt bad about it. I had D'Ontrell in my keep and I screwed it up somehow. Of course, I'm much more comfortable about having him escape at the Rivoli. That way I'll have another chance at giving him his freedom. Next time I'll do it right. But having him in my car does not sit well at all. The thought of him living and perhaps dying in my car is not pleasant. And although I've opened both my wing windows (it's an old, old car) and rigged a way for him to get up there, I'm not that confident that he'll figure it out. Probably the worst thing about the whole car-situation is that his life was a lot better at the Rivoli. Me and my good intentions.

I'm sure that some of you are reading this, thinking: "It's only a mouse. Get over it." Yeah, true, but I'm a firm believer in that Lillian Gish quote from Night of the Hunter: "It's a hard world for little things." Life is not easy for mice. I know that no mouse will find a cure for cancer or rescue me from a burning building, but I can't help being sympathetic. D'Ontrell's little life is important to him, and I understand that. Here's the weird thing: I might even favor the plight of the simple mouse over needs of many of my fellow humans. I also feel a little bad about that.

I only hope that D'Ontrell is out there alive and lively right now. That would make me happy. So if you see D'Ontrell, say hello to him for me. He's a small dark gray mouse who doesn't like buckets.

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