Looking out of our bedroom window one recent morning onto the lawn that becomes greener every day, I remarked on the stone rabbit that sits on a stump and on the lamb from which paint has been flaking the last few years.
“I should probably spray it. . . .” I said. “It’s looking worn.”
But of more urgency to Mary were the mice in our oven, though what I, in my hearing aids’ absence, heard was, “How about mace?”
“You want me to spray the lamb with mace. . . ! ?”
“No, I asked, ‘What about the mice.’ ”
“Ah. I’ll go see.”
We’ve been putting the Havaheart traps in the warming drawer, though, of course, when she cooks Mary takes the traps out and, opening the oven door, inserts a brass Buddhist bowl and, rather than coax from it the harmonious Om sound of the universe by running the wooden pestle around the lip, clangs and clangs it as I, in my most authoritative tones, call out, “Attention, all mice. Attention, all mice. Premises must be vacated immediately. Premises must be vacated immediately. . . .”
We’ve caught three so far and I have taken them down to a nature preserve by the harbor where, despite the removal of their safety net, I trust they will be able to fend for themselves. I tell them as I set them free that this is America, that they must learn to stand on their own two feet, and that this is no commie nanny state where you can just lie back and get fat sucking at the teat of others slaving over hot stoves.
“Don’t expect any free lunch,” I tell them, as they look up at me with their big black eyes. “Cuteness won’t cut it. You should be happy you haven’t been disappeared the old-fashioned way.”
Were the mice to linger, and were they to act like men, they might say, “Well, what about Henry? He is cared for from cradle to grave, is he not?”
“Yes, but Henry doesn’t make nests out of the insulation in stovesor chew through wires in automobile engines, or spread hanta virus,” I’d say. “Contrariwise, he creates value. People — most people — light up when they see him walking along. I dare say he helps to make their day and contributes to their happiness and productivity, thus fueling the engine of our economy.”
“An enlightened capitalist he, fair-minded when it comes to the transactions that derive from the production and consumption of smiles and wagging tales. Not greedy, not exploitative (albeit a bit demanding when my mother-in-law, an easy touch, comes to dine, though he would counter that he’s exercising his inalienable rights).”
“America could learn a lot from him. And so could you mice who’ve been taxing our patience.”