please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Restless Ghosts

The worst of it, quite honestly, approximated war. I still have weird perceptual twitches that come from a couple months worth of starting at every shift of the light in my periphery. Weird brownish greyish ghosts; and fast enough that you can't tell whether or not they were really there. A furry gust of wind.
And the sounds. Those tiny, skittering claws, and things being disturbed by Someone in the next room. It'll drive ya' crazy. That, and never wanting to reach for anything in the dark, or open a cupboard.
Right about the time they started renovating the bar downstairs, the mice were set free from a long rest in the walls, and came up here. Sa'kcul and I don't keep the cleanest kitchen, it's true, but we try, and at first I was just sorta hoping they'd go away.
I also tend toward Preparedness as a strategy: all my grains are stored in jars, mothafuckah, not boxes or bags. Keeps out the weevils in any case, and if Gawd forbid you get the rodentia...

Well, so I notice the unmistakable mass of rat shit accompanied by a formerly full cereal box on the other man's shelf (but let's be clear buddy: I don't blame you. This was probably coming, no matter what), and I begin scheming.
(Awright. Glue traps are for suckers. Snap traps doubly so. They don't kill enough of them, and they're a damn mess. Poison though...I know what that does: it literally turns their insides to liquid, and though they don't die out in plain sight as a general rule...There's still the Smell.)
In any case, I chose poison. I had already figured out the places where they were most likely coming from, and most likely to hang out. I also assessed the likelihood of human contact with the damn poison: worse than contact with the shit, actually, and far more likely than actually getting bit by one of the damn things.
In the meanwhile, a deep cleaning. This apartment has been passed between friends and acquaintances for many years now, and most of us have been inveterate slobs. The people who lived here right before I moved in (including two girls, mind you) kept a kitchen that was both the only common area in the joint and well nigh unusable. There are cabinets in here that scare me to this day. I don't use 'em, and they don't use me, y'know? That's the deal.
So I cleaned as best as I could, only to see most of my work undone the next day: the shit was everywhere, leading me to not want to cook, certainly, and quickly sliding into a sort of bunker mentality. I withdrew my cooking implements into a pantry that I'd previously been using as a library/bar.

The poison packs I was using were small bags that wisely kept human fingers from touching whatever the hell they make the deadly shit out of, and also allowed one to toss them, like satchel charges, into holes in the wall.
And man do I have holes. This building is from, I believe, 1902, and has been the property of a real estate concern that I don't ask many questions about since the Eighties at least.
The directions advised me not to bother opening the packets, as "the mice will take care of that". It also said that noticeable effects would be...Noticed in three to four days.
A month later, there was less trouble, but...I knew that the ugliest part was still on its way.

Besides, if anything, it seemed that the nightmare we'd darkly suspected (thanks a lot, comic books and movies) might come true: The Poison Was Making Them Stronger and Smarter.
Not actually true, but it did become evident that as the major part of the population died horrible deaths in darkness, the smarter and stronger ones amongst them were heading out for the territories. My bedroom. Sa'kcul's, too.
It was around then that my shell shock was starting to kick in. No where in the house was safe, and as I tried to be unshocked by the sudden movement of tiny interlopers, I became instead that sort of person that sees nothing but threats around every corner. I knew damn well that even those smarter mice who managed to make it a certain way from the food supply still were dying inside, and I didn't care. If I was going to potentially be awakened by some little plague bringer in the night, I...Might be even more of a wreck than I am now.

And again: nowhere in the house was safe, like I said. In the kitchen, both mice and pigeons coming in. The pigeons were roosting in a hole in the eave above my window. Downstairs, junkies living on the front stoop and back by the loading dock. One day, the police came and told all the junkies something that took less than five minutes to tell. They left quickly, walking fast, and they haven't come back.
I wonder what it was that the cops said to them. I imagine it might be something along the lines of We are going to kill you, dispose of your corpses in a way that you will never be found, and the worst part of all is that no one will give a shit what happened to you. Something like that, maybe, I suppose.
Then some guys from the army of drunks that my landlady employs fixed the broken eave, finally. No more listening to that strangely poignant strangled cry of the Columbidae and wondering what sort of diseases they might be dragging in.

All that was left, finally, was the final generation of the doomed mice. Their parents, bigger, faster and more clever, were all dead or elsewhere. Now I found myself dealing with the slower, smaller and dumber ones. As they died, they became less shy.
One evening in the dark, we're watching some teevee, and I feel a muscle spasm in my right armpit. It goes on for a little too long, and I realize that it's a mouse, looking around for something in the way of a place to hide, or food that doesn't produce plague. I jump up and start ransacking the living room.
This is to say nothing, of course, of those weird, squirming, blackish things that may well have been mouse fetuses on my kitchen floor. I stomped them like bugs, since that's what size they were. I still don't know, and I don't care, but it's the kind of thing that makes a person who really enjoys cooking have nightmares for the rest of his life.

I kept on seeing the same mouse on Sunday. He was moving slow, tottering. He had a giant wound on his side, and his guts spilled as he walked. He went back to the place where they lived that I couldn't get to (the stove), and tried his damnedest to pull himself inside. I could have killed him right then, but just couldn't do it. I waited for him to get inside, and turned on the broiler to five hundred degrees, and all the burners to 'high'.
For about a week, I'd been smelling the putrefaction in the stove every time I'd cook, and hadn't found any way to get into the guts of the thing without ruining the mechanism. Still haven't. There will be skulls and spines greeting whoever figures it out.
The same one who seemed so poignant in the afternoon was the same one who tried to find food in my armpit, later. Shortly thereafter, I went into the kitchen, and there he was again, stumbling around, drunk on poison.
I turned to the Cult Baby. "Leave the room. I'm about to do something horrible."
The baseball bat in the hall has been there, right by the front door, ever since I moved in, maybe before. I seized it and cornered that poor fucker in the corner, first immobilizing him by crushing his spine, and then his head. The whole time doing that Joe Pesci "WHY! WON'T! YOU! STAY! DEAD!" number.
Then he was dead, and I dragged him off the counter with a broom, into the garbage. It left a long blood trail. I left it, for a few days, as a warning to further mice, who never appeared. I haven't seen another, or evidence of its having been there, since.

Only idiots declare wars to be over before they have all the facts. I'm not exactly ready to let my guard down anyway. I think at very least that when the bar opens below, in the next couple of weeks, what mice there are will be happier there. All the same, the damage has been done, and now this place is filled with angry ghosts.

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2 Comments:

Blogger speakingwordsofwisdom said...

So, the sound of little feets is a scary thing....especially little mouse feet! Hope you have the situation cared for....not a fun thing for sure.
Good story....and true. Well written....have you considered submittine this to the New Yorker or Smithsonian for publishing? This is the sort of thing they love!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Sheila said...

Rich,
First of all. Cute little Novella! I laughed.
Second, thanks for the welcome back and good to see you too.

5:51 PM  

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