The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

ME TARZAN, YOU MOUSE: The trouble with Tarzan is that the guy is never around when you really need him. He’s off swinging from a vine somewhere or taking French lessons from Jane or discussing the finer points of currency arbitrage with Cheetah the chimp. The man never takes his cell phone with him anywhere so he’s next to impossible to find when there’s an emergency; there’s no room on his loincloth for a phone, he says; well, there’s barely enough room on that loincloth for his knife and he manages to hang on to that, doesn't he? I think that knife is what's holding the loincloth up; he's got the edges of the cloth wound around the knife. So I should suffer because he can't afford suspenders? Phooey, that's what I say. In any case, it’s damn near impossible to get a hold of the man. You’d think that Jane or Boy or someone would buy him a utility belt like the one Batman has for Christmas but it’s obvious the idea hasn’t occurred to anyone wandering around the jungle lately. This sort of obliviousness to the creature comforts offered by modern industry is what happens when the Post Office can’t deliver catalogs and other junk mail to the denizens of deepest darkest Africa; the mighty wheels of American commerce come grinding to a halt.

A few days ago I needed Tarzan and, as usual, jungle man was missing in action. As is usual at this time of year, beasts from the lower orders of the animal kingdom are doing their level best to infiltrate my home like so many little Viet Cong trying to come in under the wire. Constant readers will remember my brother’s epic struggle with the Elusive Beast, a woodchuck of Brobdingnagian proportions, who raids my mother’s garden for cantaloupes whenever my brother is not waiting with bb gun in hand. Whatever else one can say about the Elusive Beast, and me and mine have said plenty about him that is not repeatable here, he didn’t try to take up residence in the family home; his burrow next door is good enough for him and his and he is welcome to it. Other beasts, though, are not as thoughtful. In short, I have mice and I want to get rid of them.

This is not as easy as it sounds. For the past eighty or so years, animators the length and breadth of Hollywood, California, have done their absolute level best to convince the great American viewing public that mice are cute, cuddly, and altogether misunderstood creatures, not at all similar to their mangy, flea-bitten, disease carrying cousin, the rat. The late Walt Disney was a leader in this Mice Are Nice campaign, as he spent millions of dollars to make the world safe for Mickey and Minnie and a host of other mousy characters so cute that prolonged viewing of their collected oeuvre can cause the sugar levels of your average American diabetic to shoot through the roof and let the rain in. After decades of pro-rodent propaganda, it is now very difficult for the average American who is not afflicted with mice to believe that mice are neither cute nor cuddly: they are vermin.

This statement will not go down well with animal rights activists, who will, no doubt, accuse me of the worst sort of speciesism, a peculiar and especially virulent form of racism that holds that human beings have no right to make the sort of value judgments about other species that I just made about mice and that there is nothing special about human beings, that we and all of Creation are one, with no one species being any better or worse than any others. On the purely philosophical level, there may be something to this belief, but I do not live on the purely philosophical level, I live in my house and I want the goddamn mice out of it. As for being on the same level with the mice, I hesitate to point out that there is no rodent equivalent of the Taj Mahal, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, polio vaccine, or Sicilian pizza with extra cheese and Italian sausage. When they come up with something as good as the aforementioned then I’ll throw my arms around them and call them brother; until then they’re just mice. I wouldn’t mind it so much if they were paying rent, but there’s no way I’m providing food and shelter to a bunch of deadbeat rodents. This isn’t New York City; there’s no rent control here in our happy little burg.

But I am a reasonable man; I didn’t want to use deadly force unless absolutely necessary. Hence, the unheeded call for Tarzan. I needed that yell of his big time. Remember how Tarzan always got himself out of a jam? He’d spend the entire movie proving that he was smarter than the bad guys even if he’d never been to school and spoke English worse than President Bush, and then somehow or other they’d get the drop on him or Jane halfway through the final reel and he’d let out that big Tarzan yell. At the clarion call of Hollywood every animal of the forest primeval would drop whatever or whoever they were eating and come running, flying, swimming, hopping, or by subway to find Tarzan and do battle with the bad guys and look good in their close ups, thereby saving Tarzan, Jane, and the collective necks of the latest mob of clueless great white hunters lost on the back lot at MGM as they searched for the jungle lair of that semi-mythical creature, the blonde so dumb that she actually screwed a scriptwriter.

I needed the Tarzan yell; I wanted the Tarzan yell; I did not get the Tarzan yell or anything even vaguely like it, although I suppose my yelling, Jesus Christ!, at the top of my lungs can be intimidating if you’re a mouse. It didn’t intimidate these mice, though. Mice scurried hither and thither, which is the first time in twenty years that I have actually used the phrase hither and thither in a sentence, across my bedroom floor. Counting mice, unlike counting sheep, will not put you to sleep; in fact, the reverse is true. Counting mice will raise your blood pressure to dangerously high levels and, according to the American Heart Association, which spent something on the order of five or six dollars on this study, constitutes a risk that cardiac patients should avoid at all times. I kicked one mouse into the corner of my closet, where he gave me a nasty look, as if to say that I could expect the imminent arrival of Mighty Mouse, followed by the eminently well-deserved kicking of my fat human ass. That mouse looked like he’d pay good money to see that happen.

Once I’d gotten this herd of mice corralled in my closet, where they happily ate an old pair of sneakers and then disappeared down the hole in the corner, laughing as they went, I decided that I’d done every the law allows and more in regards to these mice. I summarily sentenced all mice in my house to death for the heinous crime of being a mouse in my house and nonpayment of rent. Thus it was, with a heavy heart and a sad countenance, I set trap after trap in my closet for the high spirited young rodents, said traps being full of tasty grain liberally laced with some type of poison. I then lay in bed and waited for the inevitable.

I heard them a little later, ripping into the grain, gulping it down with the gusto of a kid turned loose in an unsuspecting candy store. I could hear the trays moving here and there as they fought each other for every grain of the tasty, poisoned bait. The sounds did not last very long; I heard them again this morning, but the sound was slower now, more tentative. I realized that the horror must have begun for them. The rest, as they say, is silence. I must fill in their hole later.



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