I did not sign up for “Zookeeper,” on the form. But today, and by 8am, I had the job. I do not like certain animals. Reptiles, mainly, of all varieties. And certain mammals, the mean ones.

I woke up anticipating the morning’s extra chore: the feeding of the crickets. My 6th grader brought home a frog from last week’s Science Fair. It is my office mate. Skipper. He is in a plastic tank which sits in the same spot where the gerbils sat, but that is a long and traumatic story, best for another morning. At least Skip is quiet. The rodents used to interrupt telephone interviews. Anyway, Skipper is to eat six crickets every six days. Today is the day. We retrieved the container of insects only to discover that they had died. Maybe it was a better demise than being chomped by an amphibian. Maybe they were victims of suicide. Who knows. 

I suggested we just feed the six dead crickets to Skipper anyway. My daughter instructed me, though, that he wouldn’t eat dead ones. And, if he doesn’t get the live ones soon, he would expire himself. Okay, I will go to the pet store, because I have a lot of free time, and purchase living bugs for our new pet. And, I will do this every week, because I have a lot of free time every week. End of Skipper story.

So, I let Twyla out back for her morning hygiene…Twyla is our nearly 19 year old bijon-poodle mix, also an exceedingly long story, given the years on the calendar, meant for another time, too…and take the trash out to the alley along the way. I see something dark laying in the grass that has not been cut because I keep neglecting to call Senor Tamez. It has a long thing attached at the end. It is a mouse. I call these creatures mice, not the other more common term, because the word makes the thing so much worse.

This is a moment when I wish there were a boy in the house. Any age would do. There are not many instances when I wish for this, but this morning at 7:45, having handled dead crickets, hosed off my geriatric dog’s privates, for various understandable reasons, and discovered a flopped over rodent that isn’t a guinea pig in the yard…I really wished there was a boy in the house. I thought about borrowing the boy from the next house, but that wouldn’t have been neighborly.

Now, of course, I am left with a dilemma. A personal one, as well as a logistical one. The mouse is still laying in the grass. There is a cat who comes around, a Siamese, who could be helpful with this situation, but I cannot rely on her. There is a shovel in the shed, which the boy would use. I do not know if I can do the shovel. What if I can’t slip the metal under the body? What if it only gets half-way on? What if it falls off on the way to the trash can? An exterminator would pick up the thing in a bag, which, of course, I am not even considering. I could not touch the gerbils, even through a yellow rubber glove. I bet Senor Tamez would pick it up in a bag, if he didn’t mow it into smitherenes by accident.

The mouse thing is the worst part of single motherhood. 

For now, I will do nothing…let the cycle of life take care of itself, let Mommy Nature weave her web. Meanwhile, I better get the crickets.

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