The kink in the food chain.

The writers’ retreat is going well. In a remarkably short time, the seven of us have fallen into an easy routine — coffee gets made, dishes get done, garbage gets taken out. Dinner on the second night, last night, was amazing and made use of a grill that we collectively had to learn how to use. These are smart creative types, not afraid of challenges or learning new things. Everyone is very cool. Very cool but for the critters of the natural world. 

We are in a big house in the woods so there will be spiders. I have a super power which enables me to handle spiders. My insect phobia is a different other-bug, one whose name I shall not speak, lest I think them into existence. And since my other-bug phobia is so strong, I have over-compensated by forcing myself to be less afraid of regular bugs. The logic being that if I’m nice to spiders, karmically, they will keep the other-bug away from me. I hope the universe sees it that way. Anyway, on this trip, I’m on spider detail which fires up my protect-my-clan DNA and makes me feel useful. 

Last night, after dinner, we were sitting around having wine, and I was being the drunken attention whore that I assume is very charming. People eventually started to peel off and go to bed. Suddenly, there was a hubbub from downstairs. Word of a mouse traveled upstairs. I went down to investigate and see if I could make myself useful and protect my clan. 

The mouse was brown and no bigger than a clementine. He was so cute. But he wasn’t acting very mouse-like, as he was sitting in the middle of the floor while several humans stood around screaming at and about him. 

“I got it. I was a psych major,” I said. I will explain this statement now: One of my favorite classes in college was experimental psychology. For the class final, we created a Skinner box, or taught a mouse to press a lever to get food. It was mad sciency. And the moment the mouse “learned” to press the lever thus proving the theory, we cheered and high-fived each other. I think it was 3am. It’s a really dorky reason to high-five someone but it was exciting, I tells ya. Over that semester, I learned to handle our smarty-pants science mice with great ease. 

As my professor put it at the time: “They come with built in handles.” It might seem cruel, but the safest way to pick up a mouse is by the base of the tail. They are so fragile that if you pick it up any other way, you can break his little ribs and ruin the experiment. 

And so it was that I ran downstairs to handle the mouse while reminding everyone that I went to college. There was mouse poison around the house that we can only assumed fucked up his little mouse brain into thinking that sitting in the middle of a well-lit room with screaming humans was a good idea. Poor little guy.

I yelled for the back door to be open. Someone obliged. Make sure the screen is open too. That would be hilarious but tragic for this thing to bounce back into the room, so make sure the screen door is open too. Yes, the screen is open. I picked up the mouse by the base of his tail and unceremoniously flung him outside. Everyone was very impressed and I tried to act nonchalant. I chuck stunned mice out back doors all the time, you guys. No biggie. 

And then the guilt hit me. He was already unable to defend himself in a house. Outside, in the wild, a friendly owl would see an easy meal and swoop down to eat him — circle of life and whatnot. But the mouse is poisonous so the owl would get sick and die too. Then a passing family of raccoons would eat the owl and get sick and die. Then a nice bobcat couple out on a second date would see some dead raccoons and eat until they got sick and died. And a wolf out on a late night nature walk would see a delicious bobcat meal and get sick and die. 

There would be a straight food-chain line to the top when the human hobo rejoices because wolf meat is a delicacy of hobo cuisine. But then he gets sick and dies. And the vultures and bugs that eat the hobo meat all die. And the spiders who eat the bugs would die. And on and on until the entire ecosystem is jacked all because I wanted to show off. Sorry global ecosystem. My ego needs to eat.