THE KING & THE QUIRKY EXCERPT
I used to feel bad about killing the mice. Ten years ago, I would cup spiders, even mosquitoes, and free them outside. Once, I saw a squirrel get clipped by a car—his little gray body hurtled from street to sidewalk. I swerved to the side of the road and rigged a stretcher from an old Gap t-shirt and manila folder containing tax documents. I scooped up the terrified animal, slid him into the bushes, and covered him from the neck down with my t-shirt.
“Sorry, Little Guy. I’m just so sorry,” I blinked back the tears, trying not to ruin my edgy black liner; they came anyway, and I cried for his pain as well as the injustice of mankind’s selfish need for more roads. After finishing my errands, I returned to check on him. He was gone. Had I saved his life?
I liked to think so.
“Either that or you gift-wrapped a meal for a hawk,” my husband said when I told him the story ten years later. We were setting down mouse traps in our kitchen. My cats, who had kept the mice at bay for years, had died of old age by then, and we were now reliant on Ace Hardware to ward off little black droppings from our stainless stovetop.
I hadn’t gone straight for the snap-and-kill devices my husband had left under the sink. “For when you’re ready to get real,” he’d said. Instead, I’d held my ground and tried the sonic plug-ins and the spearmint pouches that looked like oversized tea bags. But eventually those droppings sprinkled the floor around the stove, peppered the insides of cabinets and drawers, and littered the bottom pantry shelf.
I didn’t want to get real, and I sure as hell didn’t want to concede. But vaguely aware that the droppings were a metaphor for all I could no longer control in my life, and possibly even for the gazillion resentments I clung to, I reached under the sink, smeared peanut butter onto the yellow, plastic faux cheese bits, and hoped for a small victory.
Still, it was shocking that first time I found the innocent creature served up on that little wooden board, eyes bulging, head hooked in place. I felt terrible. Did he really deserve this cruel death?
The second time, I felt a little more pragmatic about it. Mice did carry disease, and I had a child to worry about now. By the third mouse, I’d developed a utilitarian stoicism. I mean, what had to be done, had to be done. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, every now and then, I felt a touch of sadistic satisfaction as I dropped the trap into the garbage pail.
“I warned, you, Motherfucker,” I actually whispered aloud one morning. And that’s when it hit me.
Marriage can really change a person. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself. Unless, of course, you realize you don’t actually like the person you’ve become and want to get back to your old self but don’t know how.
Well, first, you recognize you’re not alone, understanding this metamorphosis can happen to the best of us, to women who once lit pathways for themselves, who commanded their careers and listened to their dreams, or, at the least, those women who once operated as independent beings in the world before they entrapped themselves in marital bliss (or as I like to call it on a bad day, the identity-sucking vortex of domestic life).
Second, I suppose you do what you do when you’ve lost anything—say, your keys. You retrace your steps to where you last saw them.