The Colonel’s Plan – Mousehunt

April 24, 2019

Dear Daddy —

The garage and shed. The mice were in the garage.

I suppose today will be mostly a day for outside work. I’ll be starting late. It was already 10:00 this morning before I was ready to head over to your house. I had read some articles forwarded by Beatrice and read a few pages of the book on Shakespeare that I’m finally about to finish. That was when my therapist texted to remind me I had a noon appointment with her, which I had in my head as 2:00. I had been thinking I’d have a good three hours to empty the truck (it’s full of the rest of my old deck, which I’m storing behind your garage, against the day the wood is needed for projects.) Then I’d spray some roundup around the garage, and get some general cleanup done out there. But there’s little point in driving 20 minutes to your house, just to turn around and leave for a noon appointment. So decided to wait until afternoon.

Backing up–therapist? Yes. Perhaps I’ve sugar-coated life since you left us. And I imagine I will continue to do so. But I’ll point the spray nozzle now and wash away at least some of the sticky coating to say that the work you’ve left me to do has saddled me with depression and made it necessary for me to have someone to talk to about coping strategies, and about whether or not I’m entering mentally dangerous territory.

When I say, “The work you left me,” I don’t just mean the house completion. That’s a mind-boggling job, when I stop and contemplate the volume of work there is to do, but it’s not depressing. Indeed, having that work to do through your illness and the aftermath of your death probably kept me sane. But there’s also the disposal of your property, real and personal. You had a fair piece of real property and a ridiculous amount of the other. Getting junk hauled away or sold, organizing 10,000 square feet of stuff, kept in your unique, geometry-based organizational style (meaning things were put where they fit, with no regard to finding them again), getting the last bits of your father’s estate settled, 30 years after his death… and dealing with our family… are all pretty daunting and emotionally exhausting tasks. So, yes, I meet with a therapist twice a month.

Backing up again, Beatrice and I use text messaging to send each other articles on a pretty regular basis. We do this because Facebook has become a community of people who revel in one-liners and think with their spleens, and there’s no point in having a substantive discussion about issues there. Education, Health Insurance, Nuclear Power, Climate Change–these are issues on which people want to see “somebody” take sweeping, decisive action, based entirely on a single anecdote, or the opinions of some vapid celebrity, coupled with a firm belief that good intentions are all that matter and will always result in the correct action being taken.

In other words, people are just as pig-ignorant and stupid as they were when you were still here, possibly moreso, and just as firm in their belief that they are more entitled to their uninformed opinion than the next guy is.

So we mostly keep our conversations private.

You had no use for Facebook at any rate, nor for the Internet in general. You certainly never would have adapted to reading your news on a screen the size of two business cards, and having most of your contact with others via shorthand that included the terms, “BRB,” “LOL,” “ROTFLMAO,” or “Where R U?”

But it works for the current generation of eccentric geniuses.

The inside cleanup is a literally shitty job. I went out to the garage the other night to find a place to store a sheet of plywood you had left leaned up in the hallway for 40 years. As soon as I opened the door, I smelled rodents. Having kept an assortment of gerbils, hamsters and pet mice over the years, I know what their living space smells like when it’s due for cleaning. And I smelled that strongly in the garage. Upon inspection, I found that the mice had gotten to two 50-pound bags of chicken feed which I thought were safe sitting 30 inches up on a metal cabinet. But no. They had eaten tiny holes in the tough, nylon-meshed plastic, spilled food all over the desk and floor, and obviously gorged themselves. Then they had relived themselves all over the spilled food. I mean all over. So I still have to vacuum up that mess. The chicken feed is already sealed away in bins. Won’t make that mistake again.

I’ve now killed ten mice, I think. Seven I threw in the trash personally. I can only suspect I killed three more, because all I found to mark their passing was an empty mousetrap, sprung shut and not where I left it. I can only assume that a mouse was caught and killed, and members of its community carried the trap into a secluded location to hold funeral services which involved consuming the body. Lending credence to this theory is that, in two of the seven cases mentioned above, all I had to throw in the trash was a head. The rest had been eaten.

I think two other mice were disposed of by another resident of the property, who I met last Wednesday evening. He’s a 30-inch blacksnake, the first I’ve seen this year. When I met him, he had two mouse-shaped bulges along his length, and he was moving–rather, not moving–as a snake does after he’s eaten well. He headed for the wreck of the Malibu. I assume he’s moved in. I’d be happy to sign the title over to him, if he’d promise to either restore it or park it on someone else’s property. Ridiculous thought, I suppose. Under the new Maryland law, snakes can no longer title a car, since they don’t have birth certificates.

And speaking of the cars, I really need to do more cleanup outside. The wreck of the Malibu, and Renee’s old Chevette need to go away. And then there are more islands of weeds to chop down, courtesy of your habit of placing large objects around the property which made it hard to mow, and of cutting down trees and leaving huge stumps, making it harder.

More Later.

Love, Steven.

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