Friday, October 3, 2008

The Death of Mortimer

When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader and I loved Walt Disney films. One of the earliest books I can recall was a small Disney volume named "Ben and Me," a preposterous tale about a church mouse named Amos, who was Benjamin Franklin's apprentice, replete with three-cornered hat and overcoat. In the 1953 film of the same title, the late Sterling Holloway played both the role of narrator and Amos. (Many will recall that Holloway's sweet voice was most notably used by Disney for the "Winnie the Pooh" movies.) As a young reader, I was very taken with the character of Amos, who, according to the tale, came up with the concepts of bifocals and the Franklin stove and proved that lightning and electricity were one and the same.  Amos did the work, but allowed Dr. Franklin to take credit for them. This was a very endearing mouse, who investigated corruption and reported it in the Pennsylvania Gazette for his master. Yes, mice were helpful, friendly creatures I reasoned as a lad. Years later, though, I read the true story about mice and their larger cousins. I learned about the Bubonic Plague and how these rodents and the fleas they bore killed off nearly half of the populace of Europe. I learned first hand about the numbers of mice and rats that frequented the finest eating establishments around the world, including many of them here in New Orleans. One of the lingering problems that Hurricane Katrina left in its wake was and still is abandoned properties. When humans no longer frequent an abode, mice or rats can move right in. That's apparently what happened in my nearly two-year absence following Katrina when I lived and worked in Cleveland. About a year ago I noticed that my front door had little shavings that seemed to be the work of a small creature and my suspicions were confirmed when I saw a small mouse run across my living room floor and into the front anteroom only to disappear under a floorboard. I was able to trap two of the little ones with sticky trays that hold them in place. I couldn't find it in me to kill them once I trapped them, so after I captured them, I placed them outside in the refuse bin. I'm sure they eventually died, but I couldn't deal with dispatching these cute little creatures. Then there was Mortimer. Mortimer was the name I had given to the bold rat that had been hanging out in my kitchen the last month or so, staring at me in the middle of the day or foraging for crumbs at night, scampering away through a hole underneath my dishwasher when the lights would go on. He seemed unfazed no matter how many epithets or brooms I hurled in his direction. He was bound and determined to stay and I was just as unswerving in my zeal to rid my home of him. I tried rat traps with peanut butter. Mortimer enjoyed the treat after unsetting the trap. Trays of poison would disappear, but Mortimer remained. I think he thrived on everything I could throw at him. All the while, I kept thinking of Amos and how smart he was and, of course, all those other friendly cartoon mice like Mickey, Minnie and Mighty. I didn't want to hurt Mortimer, but I sure didn't want him living in my house. Yesterday, as I was ready to leave the house, I noticed something on the sidewalk. My heart skipped a beat as i realized it was Mortimer! As near as I can figure it, he must have fallen off a wire that leads to the attic of my house from the street. Was it a misstep? Or was it an attack by my other uninvited house guests -- the pigeons? In any event I find I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I'm glad he is gone and that my house is now rodent-free. Yet, on the other hand, I am somewhat sad that he has gone. Then again, Mortimer was no Amos.  Take a look for yourself: 

No comments: