His name is "Half Tail." He couldn't be more than three inches long even when he stretches his body. He has the finest brown fur, a white belly, a pair of paper-thin, miniature pasta-shaped ears and two black beady eyes in the middle of his triangular face. When he is curled up, he is the smallest breathing fluff ball you can imagine. Half Tail is a mouse. A somewhat wild mouse.
When I first met him one early morning, he was inside one of the two humane traps on our kitchen countertop that we had set up the night before. Part of his long tail unfortunately got caught in the door, preventing him from reaching the peanut butter bait he so wanted to get to. I gently pushed the door in to release it and he headed straight for the food, eagerly tackling it, and not showing any physical distress. Seeing part of his tail drooping like a broken twig, I felt bad. Maybe it would heal, I comforted myself. When he finished his food, I let him out in a lily patch in our front yard.
We were catching an alarming number of mice that week, quite an infestation if our count was correct. But, we began to suspect that some were repeat "customers" returning for more food. Truthfully, how could anyone tell if they were not the same mice from the night before and the night before that? After all, the same two mice could be occupying our traps every day! We began to wish we could mark them like "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" in the Dr. Seuss story to find out the truth.
We finally made a decision to release our new catches further away from our house ... in a park, perhaps. After all, they were wild creatures and should stay that way. The next day, we caught two and took them back to nature. We did the same the day after. The traps stayed empty for two days. Maybe our theory was correct. Maybe we had fewer of these cute critters than we had feared.
Just as I thought of retiring the empty traps for good, one snapped again. Another mouse. The way he dashed toward the food seemed familiar to me. He acknowledged me with one quick glance and kept on eating, as if greeting an old friend. He was very hungry. “Do I know you?” I wondered. I grew curious and picked up the transparent little box: This mouse had only half a tail! Now I knew who he was.
I had thought those traps were roomy, airy and safe devices to get rid of my unwanted houseguests. I didn't mean to harm any. Sympathy rose within me. I felt responsible for his mishap. That day, I fed Half Tail until he couldn't eat anymore: nuts, rice, and shreds of cheese. My guilt also made me release him in his familiar lily patch.
Since then, Half Tail seems to be having fun with us, treating my trap as his nightly lodgings. We often find him in the morning curled up, waiting to be freed. Sometimes, he doesn't even bother to eat his peanut butter, which puzzles me and makes me wonder about his intentions in being caught over and over.
We are now mouse-free, discounting, of course, the presence of Half Tail. He is now practically a family member, faithfully returning at bedtime every night.
Reflections From The East Column:
By Qin Sun Stubis