THE DESERT DIARIES

by R. Gurley

 

ABOUT

R. Gurley, MA, MFA, is a writer and English teacher with over 20 years of experience with words, whose works have appeared in Coping Magazine, Lehigh Valley Woman’ s Journal, and Budget Press. 

She is the co-founder of rgurleyrevolution.com, a bi-weekly bilingual  blog/podcast sharing stories of women around the world navigating women’s new frontier, the #MeToo millennium.

Mostly, she is a desert rat....

 
 
 
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The Horror and the Lessons

I have developed an acute case of musophobia in my late adult life. Spiders, snakes, not even bees rattle my cage much, but throw a mouse or the idea of a mouse in there? Well, I am half way down the street in search for a therapist. Their little claws, little teeth and little eyes huge in my mind chewing everything I own, leaving behind their dirty little mice epidemics. Some people have guffawed at the intensity of terror I have towards these dreaded things, but my phobia of mice is no laughing matter.





Taking this into account, imagine my delight when one of those bastards ran into my cabin a few weeks ago while I was pulling an old shelf from the front of my house. Spring cleaning turned into a PTSD reaction. My first reaction was denial. My second one was to freeze. This couldn’t be happening, I told myself as I watched its fleshy little primordial tail slip in the grate of an empty refrigerator that sits in my kitchen. Tears swelled in my eyes. I looked to the sky. I tried to bargain. Please God, replace that thing with a rattle snake, please, I asked. But God was not listening. My house had become hell in one-sixteenth of a second.


I went to the kitchen and looked around. This was not my first rodeo with this kind a beast. Its existence had driven me to read such works as The Art of War and I had listened. Know thy enemy, wise men said. I knew mine; mine liked snacks. My eyes scanned my cluttered counters. The evidence spoke; I liked snacks too. However, I wasn’t about to share. I put on my gloves, ran a bucket of water into which I threw bleach. I was going to antiseptic this little &^%$#%. I stuffed every snack into places no mouse could ever go…Or could they? The voices of my phobia asked. I imagined the beast chewing itself into the cabinets, rolling itself in my flour while stuffing itself with raisins. Goose pimples raised onto my skin. I bleached harder. My kitchen now cleaner than an operating room.


The battle ground was sterile with no signs of the enemy in sight. My plan was to starve him out. I put the dog food outside. I shut, locked and bolted the door to the kitchen. I turned off the lights. I listened. It stirred. I heard it. I was throwing things off my counter. I worried for my life. I didn’t sleep.




I unbolted the door to the kitchen the next day when the stirring had stopped. What I saw convinced me I was not dealing with no ordinary beast. The salt and peppers shakers had been his focus. They strewn on the counter tops I had bleached and surrounded by little poops which probably contained hepatitis. I considered calling haz mat, but I suspected haz mat would be like God and not listen to me.


I knew it was up to me to organize Plan #2. Traps. I hopped in my car with my dog, Mick, in tow. I asked him why he would go after a pit bull but wouldn’t hunt a mouse. He looked at me like Would you? He, like usual, was right. I drove down our dirt road to the store. I found mouse/rat traps on the same shelf as the Raid. There were two kinds. One involved glue and seemed humane. The other trap was the traditional kind which snapped a rodent’s spine in two. I had made a vow of non-violence, ahimsa, they call it. I shuddered at the thought of having to resort to trap #2. Yet, I could sense this creature had plans for me, maybe he’d try to make a nest in my hair. The thought of this brought haste. I bought two of each. This was desperation. The mouse had to go by any means necessary.


That night I followed the same steps as the night before. I bleached the counters again, but this time, I put the salt and pepper shakers away. Bastard, I whispered as I opened the box of the glue traps. I took them from their wrappers and placed carefully a dog treat in the middle of each one. These cleverly crafted traps were placed where I suspected my enemy’s path would be based on the night before. A trap now stood where the salt shaker should. Mick and I were prepared.


I closed, locked and bolted the door to the contamination area and turned off the light for the night. Mick and I clung to each other and listened. The sound of scurrying let me know it had risen. I waited to here the sound of it getting stuck or some sound of glump or glump. But nothing of the sort. Instead the sounds were similar to the night before. I found the dog snack in the middle of the glue trap eaten the next morning. Plan #2 had failed.


I looked at Plan #3 sitting on the kitchen table. Death. It had come to this. My thoughts again turned to ahimsa. I had been trying to remove violence in my life. I had made a vow and was going to break it over a creature the size of my hand. This didn’t matter in the moment. I tore the plastic wrap that contained the wooden traps every one associates with getting rid of mice. I examined it for a moment, put it down and decided to take a moment outside. I had never consciously killed anything and now I was faced with a decision of the mouse goes or I lose my mind?


I decided to take a moment outside on the porch to sit with Mick who was resting by his food bowl. I saw a small thing scurry towards the door which was open. The mouse! I chased it. It ran outside. I grabbed the door and slammed it. Score!!! The mouse lured outside by the smell of Mick’s food. I grabbed Mick’s bowl and placed it inside along with Mick. I gave him a snack for his deed, which he did not understand but he ate it anyway. We were safe after a week of living this terror, which I equate to a mini-Vietnam.





I survey the battle ground where this went down and realize the mouse left more than his poops. He also left lessons. A mouse makes his home in places unclean much like a violent thought does. His presence made me clean, which is how I like my thoughts to be recently. The beast also made me mindful. My door was agape before he came. I left it open to let in any old thing, not any more. My attention now focuses in the moment to make sure the door is closed and only opened to those welcome within. This is much like how I like to keep my thoughts, monitoring what is welcome and what is not. These lessons may be what let me off the hook this time in facing my three-inch, 2 ounce monster, but whatever the case, I am glad nobody had to die as a result of this, but I must stay true to this lessons to keep my enemy at bay.

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