Of Mice and Men – and Pets

Leonard has something in his mouth after his trip around the edges of the garden. I don’t notice until he’s in the dining room, his nails clicking on the floor as he walks in circles – clearly unsure of what he’s supposed to do/wants to do.

I press the sides of his mouth gently, just in front of where his jaws hinge, “Slipp“. (My youngest son has always been annoyed with my code-switching, but my dog doesn’t mind.)

It’s a rat. A very dead rat. I wish I could write mouse because that seems less disgusting. But it’s a rat.

I think about living in Kentucky as a teenager. In a little house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by farmland. An anachronous 4 years of shovelling coal into a furnace every morning before a quick shower in the corner of the unfinished, unheated basement. A quick shower because the cistern was low in the winter. I’d try to remember to look in the mirror before leaving for school every morning: to check my nostrils for coal dust.

Every spring those four years my mother’s cat would wake me in the middle of the night. She’d bring a mouse into my bed, then let it go – chasing it into the hallway and living room, before bringing back and repeating the game until the mouse died of exhaustion. Then I’d get up and dig an empty can from the trash to scoop up the furry corpse and put it in the trash. And go back to bed. It was “just” a mouse.

Maybe Leonard wouldn’t be overweight if I let him chase mice around the house. Or rats.

What is it about rats?

Last spring a cat raised her litter under our deck. So the whole thing could be much more macabre than it is.

A few months ago I ranted a little about someone claiming in their TED talk that a poet would choose “hare” over “rabbit” for the associative value of hare/hair. I pointed out that a poet might well know the difference between a hare and a rabbit. I wrote that I expect hare here, but if I were to see a rabbit, I would know a pet got loose.

When I walk Leonard through the fields around here, I know to be aware he could catch the scent of a hare and his hunting training kick in. But yesterday, rounding the corner near the house, he suddenly shot into a hedge and then nearly dragged me off my feet – a rabbit ran across the street back to its hutch no doubt.

Apparently, Leonard isn’t concerned with the hare/rabbit distinction at all.

when I write about
coal dust, it is coal dust and
not the wet topsoil
of the kitchen garden, not
the dry shit-dirt of the coop

Sign up for heads-up for poetry and art news... Mini-reviews, writing prompts, writing tips, and "Well, will you look at that!"s.

Receive inspiring updates in your inbox a couple times a month. (And a bit of self-promotion that I hope will be interesting - if not inspiring - too!)

Newsletter Subscribers get 10% discount on Mad Orphan Lit. hand-bound books and broadsides.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

  1. I loved this. It resonated with me and found it very evocative of more than a few things, not all comfortable feelings but feelings none-the-less.

    Well done, Ren!

Leave a Reply to Patrick Riley Cancel reply