Last Monday I sat in a basement checking mice penises. More specifically, checking if mice still had penises. I lifted them up by the tail, peeked at their plumbing and determined whether or not they had been castrated. It turns out male mice go for the goods when they fight.
The Monday before, I was taking baby mouse heads — just the heads — out of cages. I checked for other body parts, too. It turns out mommy mice sometimes eat their yummy babies. Even when there’s food in the cage. And they only have three babies. This is kind of like human mommies in Berkeley eating their babies’ placentas, but a little bit worse.
I’m a mouse expert because I spent a whole three weeks this year working in a lab with mice. The mice are “sacked,” which is short for “sacrificed.” This is so PETA doesn’t really know that mice are used in the research, but instead thinks we’re a blessed shrine to animals, just outfitted with a bunch of microscopes.
As the leaves turn amber and the air sharpens around us and the cracks in our dorms bear fruit, I have a message: I want this year’s mouse season to be different. I will no longer be plagued with mouse guilt. Because they’re gross.
My mouse guilt all started one crisp fall morning at the start of my bright college years when I recycled a mouse. And I was shamed.
A suitemate’s parents had come to embellish our little dectet by laying glue traps like scented candles, as was necessary for squeamish very-adult students who can’t even with mice but also eat cups of Annie’s #healthy mac and cheese.
It all started after my mom visited. I had gotten up to have literal breakfast with her, and after she left, I couldn’t fall back asleep. Then as I was sitting in my groutfit on the common room couch pretending to read, I heard a squeak. At first it was definitely the radiator, because I don’t know how radiators work and maybe they squeak like a mouse. Definitely.
And then I looked and saw a furry rodent stuck on its side to a pad. Obviously I texted my mom to see if she had really left campus.
She responded as a strong independent woman: “Oh my god oh my god I can’t even I hate mice and in a trap just oh god too horrible because I also hate suffering.”
Moving on from this insight, I decided it was probably also futile to wait for a suitemate to wake up, so I covered my hands with bags like a pro. Only I didn’t pick anything up. I Googled “mouse in glue trap” to torture myself.
The thing is, I’m really not squeamish. Once as an EMT, I had a man poop while my hand was underneath him and then vomit on me as I was leaning over. But mice are unpredictable and squirmy, and with patients in an ambulance I always know that they will vomit. (Open bag, open heart.)
I even used to think that mice were great. You see, there are two kinds of parents: those who give their kids a puppy for Christmas, and those who tell their begging, dog-loving children, “How about a mouse? You can have a mouse.” Because really they are the same. And so we received Sylvester and Olivia, who had many, many babies together. Like all the time. In my sister’s bedroom.
I remembered my dad picking up the baby mice by their tails, so he could put them in bags and sneak them off to the pet store to be fed to snakes. Sometimes one would escape while he was emptying the cage, and he’d never really be sure if he’d found Olvester Junior.
But here I was, with no daddy, and a pleading, but also yucky, mouse. I finally took in a breath and tried to lift the mouse by the tail, but it wouldn’t come off the glue trap. Which was a little bit good, because I wasn’t really sure what I would do with it if it did come off.
Finally, I just decided to pick up the trap/mouse, and stuffed it in one of my sturdy, impermeable CVS bags. Then I washed my hands with Burt’s Bees poison ivy soap, ‘cause that shit protects you.
Nearing the end of my heroic hour, I walked across Old Campus, subtly holding the bag two feet from myself, and frantically searching for a trash can. I was going to put the mouse on the ground, close my eyes, quickly crush it with my foot, and throw it in. But I couldn’t do it. So I put it in the recycling bin because Yale Recycles! I got a text from my mom: “maybe an inopportune time to say it, but thanks for breakfast.”
Feeling sheepish but a little valiant, I walked back to my suite. My roommate was up, so I gave her the juicy deets but swore her to secrecy, mostly to make me feel like we were getting really close.
A week later, walking upstairs to my suite, I encountered a familiar face. The staircase was dark, or at least it is in my memory. The passerby was a girl who lived upstairs. I introduced myself, because we’d never actually met since she wasn’t one of my two friends. Instead of her name, she kindly responded by holding out a candle, still burning, on a cardboard square. The candle glowing in her face, she accused, “This is for Alfie, the mouse you murdered.”
Daisy Massey | firstname.lastname@example.org .