I saw it in its trap when P. brought it down from the attic in a cardboard box. A small grey thing, shaking, injured. It was very much alive, but too hurt to recover. Its stomach was stuck in the trap. An old spring and wire thing, like in old Tom & Jerry cartoons.
We heard it in the ceiling, just before six am. P. and I woke up when the trap went off. A bang, and then the initial scuffle of terror echoing inside the walls. H. was in the bed with us, she often comes into our bed in the night, but she just snuffled and buried her face in my neck.
“You set a snap trap?” I whispered to P.
No. But the people who had the house before us did.
Birds squawked and took off at the sound, probably the ones nesting just above our front door. I heard their wings beat. The mouse banged around wildly at first, then the adrenaline left it, and we heard it scrape and scuffle only every few seconds.
P. got up. He went downstairs. He came back up with a cup of coffee, and set it by my bedside. He put on a t-shirt. Found work gloves.
Before we had a child, I was often the less squeamish one. I killed a lot of the bugs. There was a famous episode with a jerusalem cricket crawling in the bathroom at night where P. screamed like a banshee. Horrible swollen flesh-colored things, jerusalem crickets.
But when our old landlord in the apartment by the reservoir needed to tell us about the traps he was setting in the crawl space, he called my husband. Glue traps. P. spared me that horror.
Since I got pregnant, the division of work along gender lines has become even more clear. There was no question, when the banging started, who would stay in the bed holding H., smelling her clean-shampoo hair, and who would climb up into the attic in the dark.
When H. opened her eyes, I told her her father was up in the ceiling, taking care of us, and that I had to go to work. I said that I had had a nice snuggle with her. She asked me, “Nicer than work?”
In the car on the way to the train station, I turned on the news. The world was exploding in far away places. Rebels stopped Gaddafi loyalists from fleeing the city of Sirte. They killed a man as he tried to leave with his family. They were civilians, but the rebels see them as part of the old regime. The rebels were shooting at those they felt had “benefitted from Gaddafi’s largesse,” the reporter said.
That family probably did benefit. That man probably knew that his family was benefitting, at the expense of others, under a morally bankrupt regime. And now they have to turn back without him, to empty streets filled with gunfire.
And I had to turn off the radio and take my coffee to the train.
I thought of our mouse, and of the smell of H.’s hair, and of our hypocrisy about animals, especially with our children. I thought of the bird nests that we have to move. All the terrible little deals we strike, every day, just to get by.