The other day, I noticed something odd looking as I was cleaning up from some painting in the garage. It hadn't been there a moment ago, but now it was: a little gray fuzz ball on the ground. For a moment, I couldn't tell if the baby mouse was alive or dead, so I didn't acknowledge its presence. Lucy was near, and I knew she would freak if she saw a dead baby mouse.
We have this thing about cute stuff in our household. It's kind of a problem.
As soon as I saw that it was breathing, though, I said "Lucy, I found a baby mouse." She squealed with delight, we got her sister, and we spent the next ten minutes ooing
over the little fellow. He was old enough to have all of his fur, but still small enough that you could see his body move every time his heart beat. Where had they come from, and why were they out and about? Almost a week ago, we had finally killed a particularly annoying mouse who had been pooping on counters and stealing the bait right out of traps for days. It was probably their mother. With her gone, hunger and thirst had probably driven them out of their nest.
Looking at the little guy, I said "He's a real Junior McSnorgleson," and thus the baby mice were named. Yes, it turned out that there were more than one (duh!). For the rest of the evening, the girls (and me, I must admit) would step outside to see which ones were where, and what they were doing. The mice seemed to be rather spry, occasionally running around and, hilariously, into each other.
mom!Joy got them some half and half (über milk for you non-coffee losers) in a little lid, and the McSnorglesons would sip at it, getting their whiskers and front paws all creamy. I grabbed a little bit of grass seed, which they love, and scattered it around them.
You may be saying to yourself right now "Isn't this the guy who talked about killing mice and shooting groundhogs in the past?" Indeed, I am the same. Here's the thing, though. I won't hurt baby animals. Well, that doesn't technically apply to all species
of animals. For example, ants, no problem, although I'll shoo moths out of the house rather than crush them. However, once you've reached the part of the species tree where they're handing out spines, you get a pass from me if you're not fully grown. Yes, I knew with one hundred percent certainty that if the McSnorglesons reached adulthood in my garage, I would be killing them without remorse as soon as I found mouse poop in the house. I also knew that offing them at this early stage would save me a lot of trouble later, and be much easier as it can sometimes take several days and attempts to kill a clever adult mouse.
Maybe that makes me a sentimental sucker in the grand scheme and mass of humanity, but that's just the way it is.
That night, Joy and the little ladies were scheduled to head out of town for several days. I would be meeting up with them on the weekend.
"Dad," said Lucy, "take care of the McSnorglesons."
"I'll keep an eye on them," I said.
"Make sure they don't die," said Maddie.
"Ah," I said. "There's not a whole lot I can do about that. They'll either make it or they won't."
They gave me their exaggerated, cute/sad faces.
"Guys, look. Their chances are really low, but you never know. I'll keep an eye on them. That's all I can promise." Top Ten Parenting Tip to new parents reading this: Don't write checks to your kids that your ass can't cash.
And then they were on to other things.
The next day, I came home from work and two were dead. Just lying on the ground, stiff. Crap. I got rid of them. Then, bringing the garbage cans up from the road, I noticed number three, dead where the trash can had been the night before. He actually had a tread mark across his middle like a cartoon character who'd just been plowed on the street. He had probably been huddled underneath the trash bin last night, and when I rolled it down to the road, he had been crushed. I hoped it had killed him instantly, because the thought of the little guy slowing dying all night with a broken back really made me sad. I hate it when stuff like that happens, and this was only a freaking mouse.
One McSnorgleson was still running around, though, and I thought that maybe he'd make it. Maybe he was the tough one of the litter. He might just survive long enough to have me snap his neck in a trap this Fall.
The next day, I found him dead, too.
On Saturday, we were all back together, watching some home video at my parents' house, and a clip of the McSnorglesons that auteur!Joy had shot just days before came on.
"Dad, how are they?" asked Maddie.
I wasn't sure what I had planned to say. I had contemplated lying and telling them that I had moved the mice to the edge of the woods and hadn't seen them since. But, you know, I can't do that. They deserved to know the truth at an appropriately low level of detail. I glanced up at wise!Joy and flashed her the "What do you think?" look. She returned a fraction of a frown and semi-nod.
"They didn't make it," I said.
"None of them?"
"No," I said, and if I'd been an actor, I would have let my face fall a little and try to get a little misty to let my kids know that feeling bad about something like this wasn't just for children. But I'm not, and I didn't have to pretend, because I really felt that way.
UPDATE: World:5, McSnorglesons: 0. CSI:Joy found another one yesterday.