Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Of Mice, Misery and Mercy
Absolute misery. Okay.
I’m gonna need you to define that for me.
Plain misery, yes.
I have had the flu, and via
super sinusoidal congestion
have been made all too aware of the fact that
breathing is not always a subconscious endeavor.
You do have to think about it.
I’ve done that food poisoning thing.
Evoked the words, “Lord. Take me now,”
as everything on the inside of me
wanted to be on the outside, and
me with only a limited amount of exit portals for
said toxicity to escape.
Broken wrist.
Broken collar bone.
Broken vertebra.
Broken heart.
Odd how that last one hurt more than
the other three combined.
Pain yes.
Absolute misery? Naw.
But now
don’t push yourself away from that table just yet.
You’ll always have room on your plate for more.
What? And you thought someone was going to
clear all the plates away, didn’t you?

How about some history for perspective?
I grew up in an old house.
An old house with mice.
I’m sure my dad would like to have been more understanding,
but since none of those mice had their names listed on
our house occupancy roster and failed to
take note of my dad’s posted eviction notice,
he was forced to take action.
So yea,
I’d sometimes go rummaging through the garage to find
a mouse trap with something smooshed in it.
Course, they were almost always dead
(almost always).
One winter, I was in the garage,
preparing to head outside with my sled when
I heard a loud pop in the corner.
Moving a pair of old boots aside,
I found the mouse.
It wasn’t dead
but I’m sure it wished it was.
The trap had come slamming down on
one of its rear legs and it was a mess.
(And this is where we protect those
sensitive of you by whispering the words,
“compound fracture.”)

I remember looking down upon this
tiny mouse who returned my gaze, and
thought that that…
That was absolute misery.
At the moment it was only my little sister and I
who were there at home.
I sorta figured the misery of seeing misery
needed to be shared so I went inside,
brought her out to the garage,
and with a gesture said aloud,
“We’ve got to do something.”
This to which she replied,
“We should take it to the hospital.”
“No,” I retorted.
“No. It’s dying right now, but
it’s suffering.
It needs to die and
we’ve got to kill it.”
She looks down at the writhing mouse
and then over to me.
“You could step on it.”
“No,” I fire back. “You step on it.”
We both quickly come to the conclusion that
we’d neither the nerve to put our foot down,
and anyway, in my mind, I figure that,
as decisive as an end that stomp would be,
there’d still be an element of pain involved.
No. How to kill a mouse and yet
have there be no pain in the progress?
It was a philosophical slash biological quandary
placed upon a boy who was way too young, but…
I did come to a conclusion.

I gingerly removed the mouse from
beneath the heavy spring lever and strangely,
it did not struggle as I carried it outside to there
place it upon a pristine white snowdrift.
Again though still alive,
it made no effort to move.
While my little sister remained with the mouse,
I stepped back into the house and
shortly returned to stand next to her.

There we stood, staring down at some
small creature someone else had deemed
unworthy of sharing our house with.
No matter.
What was needed here was mercy.
Absolute mercy
for absolute misery.

Standing there some five feet away,
I figured the end of the barrel to be
all of two feet away from the mouse
when I
pulled the shotgun’s
trigger.

The twelve gauge bucked,
I flinched,
the mouse vanished.
Well, not completely vanished.
There in the snowdrift a large hole appeared
and around its edge,
the finest mist of pink.

Was this absolute mercy?
I don’t know, but here now,
so many years later,
it still has me thinking.
There may come a time when I’m eighty odd years old,
and trapped in a bed at the retirement home, with that
ever persistent smell of urine.

My legs? No. They won’t work.
It will be just me, looking up at a beige ceiling,
and there in my vacant eyes you’ll see
the reflection of a
huge white snow drift.
In my mind, I’ll be lying there face up as
each individual
and unique snow flake
comes to land upon skin
and there melt and meld with
the universal tears of
a pained life that lasted
a bit
too
long.

And if you listen carefully…
There upon my lips
you’ll hear me whisper,
“When…
When do I hear that quiet click?
When do I hear that thundering boom?”

©05 Jack Hubbell

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