Peanut walked into the kitchen with her hands cupped. "Hey Mama, look! A dead mouse!" She had found him curled up under a bookshelf, the latest victim of a concerted eradication campaign.
As I disposed of the distressingly cute, furry carcass and scrubbed Peanut's hands with thirty gallons of soap and hot water, I was reminded of another wee rodent I used to know...
There was a mouse plague on our base in Afghanistan. They scuttled under the shipping containers where we lived and worked. They nibbled the best bits of our food packages from home, they ran across our bunks while we slept, and they carried rabies. Scary, foaming rabies.
The boys had one particular little mate that lived in the server room and, despite orders to the contrary, they kept their mousey fat on biscuit crumbs and boiled eggs.
But with the confirmation of a rabies risk, I finally had to put my foot down. The mouse had to go. I ordered in some baits and we laid them out.
The mouse loved the baits. LOVED them. He nibbled the squared corners until they were too rounded for him to bite. We supplied him with more bait, and he ate that too. Like candy! Every morning we would check the baits and they would be eaten. Every night we would lay out more. He was indestructible. He was everywhere and nowhere. He earned the nickname Taliban Mouse.
Finally one evening I was on late duty. Kicking back, feet on the desk, googling something pointless and dreaming of home. I heard a telltale munching, and looked down. It was Mouse! He had come for his regular evening snack. I gracefully scrambled onto the floor and cornered the little blighter. I wanted to grab him, take him out the camp perimeter and send him on his way. I had grown fond of the little dude. (I'd like to think it was because of his tenacity, but it was probably his lovely little pink ears.) Thinking of the many tame, pet mice I had handled at home, I reached down and grabbed his tail, expecting him to arch back like a tiny skydiver....
...which he did for about three seconds. Then he promptly rolled into a ball and bit me. I dropped his tail, leaving him dangling by his sharp teeth from my finger. A quick hard shake, a bout of swearing and his tiny body hit the floor. And that was the end of Mouse.
Of course, the irony is that if I hadn't accidentally killed the mouse I'd been trying to eradicate for weeks, then save, we could have kept him alive under rabies surveillance, perhaps preventing me from needing the vaccine. As it was, the six injections I earned for my foolishness certainly stung, but not as much as the pain of telling my boys that I was the one who had terminated their mascot. It took one particularly sensitive lad two long days to forgive me. Oh, the challenges of war!