I love nature and animals and have been known to carry on many a one-sided conversation with the creatures who visit our backyard. But if they try to come into the house, I freak out. And if they end up dead anywhere on the property, I freak out even harder. Which occasionally happens out here in the suburbs and which inspired me to write a piece called “Carcass”. I entered “Carcass” into the Pennwriters In Other Words contest, an annual contest with three different categories: non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Pieces must fit on one single sheet of paper and are posted on the wall for participants to vote on during the conference. My first year in attendance (2015), I took third place in both the fiction and poetry categories but haven’t had success since then.
Until this year. My friend/traveling companion and I both entered, and we wanted to stick around for the results but decided to leave early so that we could be back with our families by dinnertime. We asked the coordinator if we won. She looked at our name tags and shook her head. Disappointed but still full of positive energy from the weekend, we returned home.
Later that day, someone posted on Twitter that her friends had won. I sent a message of congratulations, and she said, “heard you won one yourself”. Say what? Turns out I earned second place in the non-fiction category, and my friend won second in fiction. We were thrilled, but a little sad we missed the excitement of receiving the award. Thankfully, the coordinator contacted us and sent us our certificates in the mail.
I’m pleased to have placed in all three categories, and will keep writing and aiming for that first place spot!
Without further ado, here is my piece:
There’s a dead mouse in the basement.
I walked down there to look in my high school memory box for my not-quite Rubix Cube because the youngest spent all afternoon trying to solve the actual Rubix Cube. I went down to the basement and there it was.
All sad and mouse-like on the freshly vacuumed carpet. Carpet, I might add, that until last week was covered in piles of boxes, tissue paper, unwanted toys, and tons of other crap. We spent the afternoon cleaning everything out and uncovered scattered mouse poop who knows how old. My 40th birthday cards were in that pile. I turned 41 three months ago.
Now the space is clean, the rug mouse-poop free. But not mouse free. Because as soon as I saw it my heart started to pound in the way it does when I come across dead things, and I did an immediate about face. Headed back upstairs and pretended I had never gone down there in the first place.
Hubby comes home late tonight. He’ll come across the mouse. Eventually. He’ll take care of it. The question is, do I wait for him to notice it or tell him I saw it and didn’t feel it was within my realm as chief house cleaner to do anything about it? When he sees it will he clean it up without saying anything?
I think back to the last mouse, the one that squirreled away cat food in a rolled-up rug and caused Mia to pee all over the house in anger. We put out poison but never found a body. The tiny green pellets housed in innocent looking cardboard triangles remained scattered throughout the basement. Leftover poison. We killed this mouse. And it took the liberty of dying right there in the newly cleaned room.
Sadness weighs on me, like steel.
Is it sadness I feel, or something else? And why do dead animals bring trauma to my soul? I remember the suicidal crow that landed in our back porch back in Corning. Hubby was away; I had to carry it into the woods by myself. Scooped up its body with a shovel and carried it back there on our rickety wheel barrow. When I think back to that day I can still feel my pounding heart.
And the bees I found when I unscrewed the switch plate in my parent’s living room. Oh Lord the bees. Vacuuming them out from across the room after a panic attack that lasted much longer than one should panic over a pile of dead, harmless bees.
I think there might be something wrong with me.