25 April 2009

the Mouse and the Burrito

I babysat for Janice, a co-worker of my mother while I was a teenager and too young to procure the required work permit that would have allowed me to secure a real job.

Instead I watched her children.

I was warned that Janice had, and I do quote for your edification, “not the cleanest house in the world”.
In the world of understatements there are your tiny hyperbole and your whoppers. This was in the category of unmitigated ‘whopper’. As I entered the house my equilibrium was immediately called into question as not only was the floor sloping at dangerously funhouse angles, but every open area (and I use the word “open” loosely in this context) was crammed full of crap. Not just crap, but also junk and ‘stuff’ as well.

As she let me in Janice stated, rather apologetically, ‘sorry about the mess’. As I spent the two hours in Janice’s filthy home with her equally filthy children I made a mental not to never require the use of a bathroom while there. As was my habit in those days I would stop by 7-11 on my way to Janice’s house, fresh from my volunteer job of teaching little kids to swim at the Y (which, of course, left me freshly chlorinated and, I hoped, immune to any ick present in the home), pick up a beef and bean burrito, put it in my backpack and cook it upon my arrival at The Home That Had Not Seen Soap. I liked to think that the act of cooking it at her house would heat up and kill any bacteria that had attached themselves to the burrito wrapper upon entering the home.

One could hope.

So, on that particular day, the day that could also arguably be called Cyndi’s Last Day in Janice’s Employ, I entered the home, burrito in hand, and heated it in the microwave oven. I sat on the couch, the only place left in the entire residence upon which one could rest buttocks, (safely or otherwise) and attempted to take a bite. As soon as the first bite was fully inside the confines of my mouth, I saw it.

Because it was looking at me.


On the floor, not even two feet in front of me was either a large mouse or a small rat who had, it seems, met with an untimely demise. Not only was said rodent crushed at or about the area just above his or her torso and just below what would have been the location of an Adam’s apple had the victim been a human male, but the ocular areas were protruding. Yeah, his or her eyes were bugging out in a perpetual look of surprise. I mused as to whether the rodent had been startled to death by the state of ruin in the home or if something heavy had fallen upon it. My shriek brought the filthy children running from their respective polluted rooms. Upon their arrival they said,”oh yeah, the mouse is dead. We are waiting for the cat to take it out.”

Waiting for the cat, indeed.

I looked around for something with which to remove the body, but could find no container suitable for the transportation of a dead rodent. And, honestly, I thought that if the cat was too lazy to pick it up, perhaps so was I. I would like to report to you that I didn’t leave those poor children with a dead rodent on their living room floor and that I am the sort of person who goes above and beyond both the call of duty, but also any moral or ethical obligations.

I would like to.

However, any potential guilt was assuaged by the knowledge that I was leaving the children in the incapable hands of their father, a person with conceivably more upper body strength with which to transport animals, dead or alive and with even MORE obligation, moral, ethical and legal than myself. That is what I told myself. Now that it has been 23 years since this incident I can’t help but wonder if that rodent has been worn into the carpet like indoor roadkill.

Upon the arrival of Janice I informed her that, sadly, this would be my last day. I barely made it out of the house without gagging. I hopped on my bike and pedaled just as fast as my puny little 15-year-old legs could carry me. My decision that my gastronomical health trumped my desire for spending money was one I have never regretted.