We talk about one louse and two lice. Yes.
But do we say, one slouse and two slice? No, of course not.
How inconsistent our English language is.
So, what's all this about? Well, the past twenty four hours have found me in a moral/ethical dilemma over a mouse. One's been living in my house, and last night it become apparent that if I didn't 'deal' with it, I could well end up with a tribe of them and then what good would turning a blind eye do? This rather endearing-looking creature took up residency a week or so ago; it liked the studio (warm floors, cold outdoors) and to begin with, I only caught glimpses of it in there, but then I started detecting evidence of sojourns into my kitchen, and - well, no, I wasn't too happy about that. The thing is, I'm one of those people who's never been able to squash an ant or a snail or a worm... not because I'm squeamish, mind, (I can deal with stubbed toes and pulled nails, etc... ) but because little creatures matter. And what if - as so many of our world religions suggest - the spirit of our ancestors resides in one of them? (I'm not entirely joking here.)
Deciding what to do about the mouse in my house has been a real wrestle.
Some years ago, during a particularly cold winter, a mouse came inside looking for warmth - and found it - so I went out and bought two black plastic, 'humane' mouse traps - the kind that have a little tunnel that mice are lured down into (you put a smear of peanut butter onto the back wall) and a door that closes after them once they're in there. I would then walk the mouse-in-its-trap several blocks down the road to an empty piece of land, and there release it.
Well, that was then and this is now - I no longer have those traps and do you think I can find them again in any of our local shops? Nope. I even tried a pet shop, but they're nowhere to be seen. SO, off I went to The Warehouse where I asked two uni-student shelf-packers if they could recommend a humane way to trap a mouse. They fell about laughing and pointed me to The Real Deal.
'This is what you need!' they said.
"Were you brought up on a farm?" I ventured, "How come you're so comfortable at the idea of killing this poor creature? I actually don't want to kill this mouse; I would just like it to round up any friends and relations it may have and go and live outside.'
Hah. Easier wished for than achieved. I reluctantly allowed myself to be convinced into buying a pair of traps for $2.79 then headed home to contemplate how I was going to take the next necessary step.
First up, I rang P & R to ask whether instead of the kind, humane person I thought I was, I was in fact a brutal, heartless monster? They reassured me that setting a trap was the right thing to do. I should grit my teeth, do what I must and cut myself some slack. 'But', I protested, 'this is not who I am. A person doesn't just wake up one morning and find herself equipped to kill an animal.'
What to do? What to do? Kind R offered to come and 'tidy' things up if I'd like him to once they'd been to the Farmer's Market. Would that make it any easier?
Anyway, I'm at risk of sounding ridiculous, boring or mellow-dramatic about all this, so I'll cut to the chase.
Suffice to say it was a smart wee mouse, wily in the way of traps. Not so me. The metal bar came down on me three times while I was baiting it - once on each thumb and once on my right forefinger (none of which seemed unreasonable). The mouse, on the other hand, managed to beat the trap a matching three times before finally setting it off at around midnight last night. There was a sharp 'clack', followed - mercifully - by silence. I couldn't bear to go and check it out, so stayed in my bedroom, apologized out loud and sent blessings to it down the passage. There was no avoiding it this morning, though.
Before my middle son boarded his plane in Madrid last evening, I was talking with him on Skype. He's a patient fellow. Wise, too. When I mentioned my mouse dilemma, he said 'Mum, you do have to do this, you know. We're not supposed to share our domestic spaces with free-roaming mice. Do what you must, and once it's over, give the animal a respectful burial and bless it into the ground. It'll be okay.'