by Michelle Dove
I wanted to rid myself of the mouse, but more than I wanted to rid myself of him, I wanted to outsmart him, assuming the mouse was even a “him” after all, how could I really be certain, only that the mouse felt like a him, given his predictable and seemingly rational behavior that led him daily to the food scraps in my trash. I did not know whether the mouse was either truly something to hold great concern about—for he was the tiniest creature of the wild I had ever seen so close up and, for all intents and purposes, he didn’t look so terrible a beast. But even if we could’ve lived with the current arrangement—that of me wanting to rid myself of the mouse and the mouse wanting to in no way be rid of me—even still I knew that more than anything I wanted to assure the largeness of my being was in no ways unjustly dominant. For what else had size ever done but exploit its power? I refrained from putting out the typical traps for the mouse, for these somehow seemed a more aggressive approach than I was capable of. I wanted instead to spin gradual pressure upon the mouse, confuse his world, disorient him and cause him to question the rationale behind his behavior. I wanted him to think about the consequences of his actions. But when I repackaged the dry goods in my cabinets, the mouse only readjusted his attack, and when I sealed off the oven vent and covered the hole flush with the dishwasher, the mouse only rerouted through the sink drain. It was as if his awareness of me was less reason to hide and more reason to mount his attack in a different vein. For as much as I was determined to outsmart him more than I was determined to rid myself of him, the mouse was determined to make a small adjustment here and small adjustment there, until all that was left for me to do was use my largeness as it was God-given me and bait the glue trap under the sink and wait for the moment when he would do his tiny self in.
The real story is that I didn’t feel up to asking my landlord at the time. So I asked the internet. Peppermint oil is a commonly cited natural repellent. I had no peppermint oil. But I did have peppermint bath salts. So onto a shallow dish these bath salts went. I think my visitor returned one last time (the delicate patterns in the salts gave him away). After that I never saw him, let alone any traces of him, again. Determined is thus parts truth and parts fiction. And why didn’t I tell the real version from the start? I’d like to know that myself. Sometimes we tell the best version we know at the time, even given certain undeniable facts. Other times we stop inventing. We fess up.
Michelle Dove is the author of Radio Cacophony, forthcoming from Big Lucks Books. Recent writing appears or will appear in Chicago Review, DIAGRAM, ILK, and Sixth Finch. She lives in Washington, DC.