Intramural Murine Mortality

Pardon my alliterative exuberance. This phrase is simply a fancy way of describing what we’ve just seen here at our house. Or I should most certainly say SMELLED.

We live in a place with miles and miles of forests around us. The wildlife was here first and our shelter is their shelter. I can’t blame them for wanting to get in out of the rain and cold. I’m just happy that only certain of our faunal co-inhabitants are small enough to live–and die–in our walls.

Small comfort to learn that not a few of our friends and neighbors have had much larger animals to get where they don’t belong–and from whence they cannot extricate themselves–only to die and rot in place.

So we are accustomed to the drill where the day after listening to the track meet in the space between our bedroom ceiling and the floor of the room above–the incessant scurrying wind-sprints in the dark of tiny cleated feet just overhead–we feed the little dears a meal in the walled-off storage space that is their food court.

In theory–and this has always been the case until now–they eat the “bar bait” (we hear the telltale chiseling away in the wee hours) and in addition to that last supper playing havoc with their coagulation chemistry, it makes them thirsty. They have the good manners to leave the house to find water, and expire al fresco.

The uncooperative guest three weeks ago saved itself the travel outdoors and gave up the mousy ghost in the wall behind the head of the bed. Stuff happens.

“Do something!” she repeatedly demanded, breathing through her mouth.

“What would you have me do, dear? Take a chain saw and just start anywhere?”

We slept upstairs for a week and a half, keeping the door to our bedroom closed and the windows open to the frigid air of a petulant and balky spring.

What probably cut this expulsion from paradise a bit shorter than it would have been was that the dermestid beetles and other carrion-feeders found the putrifying protoplasm and reduced it to a tiny fleshless skeleton.

Still, this gives me sympathy for all those who have told me dead-possum or groundhot or black snake horror stories.

We have our sad tales from within these walls, but they could always be worse.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Yup. To tell he truth, I’m surprised that such a tiny bit of rotting flesh could stink that much and that long! My only encounter with a mouse was when camping in college I woke with one on my sleeping bag, right on my chest. I was so glad it was so tiny.