Forever Inside Bryant Park's Green Bosom: An Episode from The Heroic History of Peter Tatara's War against The Wild
Peter Tatara - October 14, 2007
I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat chicken or fish. I don't wear leather. I annoy my family and girlfriend by reading every label and waving off 90% of the food products offered to me because of some obscure, minute byproduct derived from an animal. I'm a lot of fun at parties. However, despite believing in the rights and wellbeing of everything that slithers, swims, flies, or crawls -- I have my limits. Recently, my aforementioned girlfriend decided it was time to move in, and I -- assuming this meant tossing away all our clothes except for one shirt and a pair of pants for work and never, ever leaving the bed -- agreed.
But not long after my girlfriend arrived, another roommate would knock on my door. Or, rather, creep under it. One day, coming home from work, I found my girlfriend shivering atop the bed, her body bound up into a tiny ball beneath her own arms. While I was exceedingly pleased she was waiting for me in the bedroom, the chattering teeth and cold sweat weren't exactly turn-ons.
"You have a mouse," she told me. She said she saw the thing darting along the wall and had been incapacitated ever since. I hushed her, hugged her, and told her she was just imagining things -- while I knew, in reality, my apartment had a history of rodents. I've been living at my current place for three years now. The neighborhood is quiet. The restaurants are good. There's a $4 movie theatre around the corner. And Manhattan is only three subway stops away. The only problem? Bugs and the occasional mouse.
My previous roommate, who cannot possibly fathom why he hasn't been able to get a girl, didn't really get the whole washing your dishes, taking out the trash, and doing your laundry more frequently than on a monthly basis. As such, despite my routine scrubbing, waxing, and bleaching of all my apartment's surfaces, the place perpetually gave off the vibe of a Third World hovel -- and a not particularly well taken care of one at that.
We had bugs and annually a mouse. I didn't know about the first rodent until I detected the perfume of rotting, ruinous decay. At first, I thought the toilet had clogged up or my roommate's dirty laundry had putrefied, but after inspecting both, neither had the specific, unsettling scent that was flowing through the apartment. Thus, on my hands and knees, I started sniffing, letting my nose guide me closer and closer to the aroma -- a bouquet that was increasingly taking on the punctuation of death. And, then, bloated and in a slick of its own fluids, I found the mouse. It had stumbled upon some boric acid, intended to dissolve insects, and I can only imagine filled its lungs and belly with the toxic powder.
The second mouse arrived twelve months later. He was bold. While I didn't know about the first until I found its corpse, this mouse scurried openly across the floor and even -- and this would prove to be his undoing -- hopped up on a coffee table in front of me. After locking eyes with the tiny beastie, I chased the mouse down a hall and into a closet, slamming the door once the animal was inside. I turned the mouse's hideaway into his prison. And eventually into his coffin. I didn't open the door again until Thanatos's aroma acutely painted the air. Inside, the mouse's minute body worn down until it broke.
Of course, this was all in the past. Once my old roommate was gone and my girlfriend arrived, the roach population swiftly declined, and thoughts of another mouse were in the realm of the imaginary. But, then, I found my girlfriend, curled upon herself, shivering after having encountered this fantasy. As I've said, I tried to console her and joked about the incident, but the ebony grains of rice that soon dotted my apartment's corners told me I had to take this seriously. More than that, though, my girlfriend's nerves, permanently frazzled from the moment she first saw the creature, meant I wasn't getting any until the mouse was eliminated.
I read up on controlling pests and found that stuffing steel wool into any gaps, openings, or other holes can stop mice from ever invading in the first place -- and I remembered to back when I first moved in and yanked out all the steel wool that had been oddly balled up into all the apartment's cracks or crevices. In hindsight, not a good idea. I replaced the steel wool and shoved several more boxes of the stuff into even the slightest space between floorboards. I felt good about myself and told my girlfriend that "Mr. Mousey" wasn't coming back. "Mr. Mousey" was the name I had given the rodent as it softened the creation's image and made him into something friendly and familiar. I thought it might make my girlfriend relax a bit. It didn't.
For the next week, whenever we were watching TV or in our last moments before bed, I'd see a grey flash along the wall, a brief blur that was gone before my brain could identify the shape, leaving me to wonder if I had just seen the mouse or if I was only hallucinating. Whenever I thought I saw Mr. Mousey, I'd spring into action, trying to repeat my masterful tactic of trapping the previous rodent into a confined space until it croaked, but I could never spook this mouse, or, more accurately, find the mouse to spook him. The moment I made any movement, Mr. Mousey would disappear. I'd know that I had just seen him and knew generally where he had to be, but no amount of stomping, shaking, or poking my Official Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver -- with blinking lights and buzzing sounds -- into dark spaces caused the mouse to give up his position.
I decided to escalate the battle and, after consulting with several brands and styles of rat poison, selected a dastardly agent concealed inside delicious, deadly cubes. I placed the poison bricks in any and every spot I'd seen mouse turds and waited for the inevitable. From then on, each night, I'd see the mouse flash by the corner of my vision, and each morning, I'd find the poisons gnawed down a bit more. According to the description on the poison's packaging, my mouse should have long since been dead, but Mr. Mousey seemed happy to feed on his tainted food without the slightly detriment. Crap.
This called for more hostile tactics, moving on from starvation and poisoning -- humane ways of dealing death -- to high-tech devices delivering massive electric shocks "painlessly" killing their prey. I did my research and, one Sunday night, told my girlfriend I'd be buying a trap from the leading name in mouse termination tomorrow. She gave me a tepid hug and then returned to monitoring the shadows for tiny, fuzzy movement. I sighed and returned to watching TV. I don't recall what, but it was something on Sci-Fi and crappy. Maybe Highlander: The Source. Yes, it was Highlander: The Source. And, yes, it was crappy. Not long into the movie, I started Wikipedia-ing the original series, trying to sort out the messy, messy mess that's the Highlander mythos and the rules governing the series's Immortals' immortality. My girlfriend, you see, is a Highlander fan, and I was looking all this bullshit up rather than laughing at the movie (my initial response) because I love her. Ultimately, nothing I found answered my questions and I started asking my girlfriend directly what happens if you cut an Immortal in half across the stomach, chest, or just below the neck. My girlfriend couldn't offer even hypotheses back at me. I rolled my eyes and surmised that The Doctor could kick The Highlander's ass.
At this moment, a grey phantom passed through my eyes. An instantaneous bolt, it was almost unperceivable, but I had gotten used to seeing ghosts. I pursued Mr. Mousey. The phantasm raced along a wall and beneath a bookcase in a corner where it disappeared. I'll repeat that. The phantasm raced along a wall and beneath a bookcase in a corner where it disappeared. Mr. Mousey was trapped. I knew it. There was only one way in or out. He was mine.
I quickly told my girlfriend to watch the bookcase for any movement as I steeled myself for the coming battle. I cleared a path to the closet, hoping to repeat my terminal encounter with the previous mouse, and -- because I'm a fucking genius -- also set a glue trap along the floor. (While I used a number of stratagem to reduce my apartment's roach population, I chiefly credit the tactical deployment of glue traps to their rapid downfall.) With the closet open and my gluey comrade ready to be called back into action, I started to dismantle the bookcase. Book by book, I took her apart. Mr. Mousey was adept at hiding, but what would he do when his safe haven evaporated? A moment would go by. A minute. Ten minutes. My bookcase was becoming bare, and there was still no sign of the enemy. I poked my Sonic Screwdriver into the dark spaces that remained, but still, no Mr. Mousey. Did I imagine him? Did he somehow escape? I forced any hesitation from my mind and continued to inch closer to Mr. Mousey's hideout.
Then, with less than one full shelf remaining, I saw a flash. I imagine, no longer feeling safe with a set of giant hands patiently and methodically approaching, Mr. Mousey ran. With incredible speed, the mouse flung himself across the floor. Sprinting the fastest I had ever seen him move, the blur broke free of the bookcase and then -- all at once -- came to a harsh stop. Mr. Mousey's path ran straight and true into the center of the glue trap.
I cannot forget the thud, the shrill scream, or abject fear that gripped Mr. Mousey's tiny body as I bent down over him. He struggled. He cried out. I hugged my girlfriend. I cheered. I taunted the mouse. I explained to the animal the majesty and intelligence of Man. When the euphoria lifted and I realized exactly what I had done and what I had to do, for a long time, I shut my eyes.
"What if he escapes?" my girlfriend asked. While Mr. Mousey was bound to the floor, my girlfriend wanted extra assurance he'd stay put. I placed a clear, plastic bowl atop the glue trap and searched Google for next steps. It turned out that glue traps were the least humane method to dispose of mice -- that their deaths were slow and painful. It could take weeks for a mouse to die, and during this time, it would become covered in its own urine and feces, tear off its own skin and even limbs, and because of its brain structure, the internet assured me, Mr. Mousey would feel absolute terror. Google offered me advise on how to kill a trapped rat and also how to step one free.
I looked at Mr. Mousey and pondered my next steps. Was I going to work baby oil in Mr. Mousey's fur to free him from his prison? Was I going to drop the glue trap and Mr. Mousey into a bucket to drown? Was I going to drop a 20 pound weight atop the glue trap to crush Mr. Mousey's vertebrae.
I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat chicken or fish. I don't wear leather. I annoy my family and girlfriend by reading every label and waving off 90% of the food products offered to me because of some obscure, minute byproduct derived from an animal. I didn't want to execute Mr. Mousey, and as I sat with my girlfriend, trying to plot out how to release him into the wild, my girlfriend read from a webpage that mice should be let go at least a mile from where they're caught to assure that they don't return. I had planned to pack the glue trap with Mr. Mousey along for the ride inside a plastic bag and toss it all into a garbage can a block away from my building. My girlfriend told me this wasn't far enough, and my animal-loving brain was having reservations as well, envisioning the horror Mr. Mousey would experience before his end.
Then, there was another thud. I looked to the glue trap to see that Mr. Mousey was free. As it turned out, my glue trap was only designed to hold roaches, and Mr. Mousey was able to break loose -- with all his limbs and fur intact -- in only a handful of minutes. Still, though, he was imprisoned beneath the plastic bowl, and he hopped, and hopped, and hopped, trying to smash free.
With the glue trap no longer something I had to contend with, a plan quickly came together. I looked over a map of New York City and just how faraway I'd need to go to make sure Mr. Mousey was released with least a mile between himself and my apartment building. With some shimmying, the help of a pizza box top, and the sacrifice of one of my girlfriend's shoeboxes, Mr. Mousey was transplanted into a vessel capable of making a voyage. Once deposited inside the shoebox, Mr. Mousey froze. On longer scampering, no longer jumping, no longer clawing. I was afraid Mr. Mousey had somehow escaped, but shaking the box, something slid back and forth the size of a small stone. Mr. Mousey.
We taped the lid down and placed the box inside a plastic bag. Then, close to midnight, my girlfriend and I left our Queens apartment, boarded the 7 Train, and took it over the East River into Manhattan. We walked to Bryant Park and decided that this should be Mr. Mousey's new home. We could have thrown the shoebox into any street corner, alley, or even dropped it from the Queensboro Bridge, but I'm a vegetarian. We found a quiet spot beneath a statue of Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva on Bryant Park's Western edge. (Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva, if you don't know -- as I didn't -- was a Brazilian statesman who played a key role in the country's independence from Portugal. He is known to Brazilians as "The Patriarch of Independence." For some reason, there's a giant statue of him in Bryant Park facing out to the Avenue of Americas.) In the shadow Jose's giant bronze boot, we let Mr. Mousey free.
Stunned for a moment by the light as I lifted the lid, Mr. Mousey just sat inside the box, but then, an instant later, the night wind the high-overhead stars touching the creation, he leapt out, disappearing forever inside Bryant Park's green bosom. My girlfriend stood several feet back during the actual release, partly because she was afraid of being attacked by the animal and partly because I wanted her to lookout for any passersby who might presume we were a couple chucking an unwanted fetus.
Once Mr. Mousey was deeply within the park, his form replaced entirely by grass, leaves, and shadow, I waved goodbye. Turning to my girlfriend, the spell over her had been broken. While she shivered still, it was no longer because of her nerves -- now because only of the night's cold. We kissed, and I took my girlfriend's hand in mine. We talked together to Times Square and shared the largest and most gluttonous of sundaes from Cold Stone Creamery.