In the Headlights

realenough   It was a cold, windy night, sometime in December, sometime around midnight, and the snow had begun to come down hard. On the otherwise undisturbed, frozen-muddied shoulder of the road, a car was parked with its motor still running and its headlights on. A shadow stretching the near length of the road, unveiled in the headlights’ glare, displayed a hunched figure. Its hands shook and shook as if it was trying to rid itself of a wet wad of chewing gum … and then … it stopped.


Holding whatever it was, relatively still, it raised what appeared to be a bottle, and poured a stuttering flow of its content onto the wad, coating it as the run-off cleared a blemished spot in the newly fallen snow. A car going by in the distance startled the figure. It was late and not expected. It shook the wad again … and poured some more … and then … whatever that wad might have been … moved.

“Watch it. Watch it. I’m trying to help you.” I stared down at the matted-haired, grey mouse squirming amid its own defecation. It was stuck in a mousetrap, not a snap-break-its-neck one, but a rectangular tray of plastic, filled and eighth of an inch high with goo, goo-like chemical-formulated quicksand but without enough depth to pull it under. A slight variation from the roach motel, where roaches check in but they don’t check out, besides not being a trap for roaches, was the thought that after you caught your little intruder you were expected to drop it and the trap into a bucket of water and watch it drown, watch it tussle about helplessly till its little lungs either collapsed or exploded. Right … and I heard France is bringing back the guillotine and they’re looking for someone to pull the cord. I’ll need to find the maker of these traps and give him a heads-up. No way! I can’t do it. And because I can’t do it, I’m out here, on the side of the road, in the dead of night, praying a state trooper doesn’t pull over and investigate what he thinks is someone cleaning up the loose ends of a mafia hit.

I’m wet. I’m cold. I can’t honestly sympathize with the tiny, beady-eyed rodent stuck fast to the gummy glue. I just don’t want to go to hell because I killed it!!!

No … no, let me just compose myself. That’s just the cold talking, the frostbiting cold talking. Truthfully, I don’t want to hurt the creature just because I don’t want to hurt it … either that or I’ve been lying to myself to get me out here for some masochistic reason I don’t know of … or perhaps those two little black eyes have hypnotized me, but I’d hate to think myself so weak-minded.

I’ve done this before I have, maybe a different road, by the park, towards the cemetery, but it’s all the same exercise: pick up the plastic tray, try not to touch the mouse (dear God, don’t touch the mouse), and pour olive oil over it to dissolve the glue and release it. What? Yes, I know, olive oil, a bit expensive for this. The instructions on the box don’t ask for it, any oil will do, but it’s all I’ve got … though you’d think by now I’d have cheaply invested in some common vegetable oil. But … no, I haven’t.

So instead I’m drizzling over this mouse a well-measured bit of olive oil, hoping to set it free and still have some left to make eggplant with tomorrow. You know, at times as I pour I swear I see a look on that mouse’s face that says, “Heaven forbid, why don’t you just stick me in the bucket of water already and get it over with. Don’t you have a good boot? That would kill me fast and unlike this, mercifully, and oh yes, you do realize it’s not any easier to breathe under oil?”corelmouse2

But do I falter? No I do not. I only pour and pour some more, realizing as clear as a cataract that it is only the late hour and the harsh weather playing tricks with my mind, and if words could be put to how the mouse felt they would be, “Gentle and noble sir, thank you for your kindness.” … Oh come on. It could be. … He didn’t see me put the trap out in the first place. Well, anyway, by this time there is a good puddle below (Anyone with a lit match would do right to avoid it) and the mouse is now hanging by a lone stuck foot, looking like an anemic and malformed apple still attached by its stem to the glue pad. I prod at it with a stick, trying to undo its foot without leaving a few toes behind … and finally the mouse … Halleluiah … drops to the ground. Praise the Lord, the mouse is free … even if its back leg is permanently stuck to its ear (Oh come on … there are various aspects of freedom) … and as the mouse hobbles away on its other two good legs, and I no longer have to worry about my face winding up in the newspaper’s police blotter for animal cruelty (they just wouldn’t understand), having not seen a squad car, I think, “Job well done.”

Well, here I am now, finally, getting out of my car back in my driveway, and I’m feeling simply splendid with the job I’ve accomplished, but not willing to ambush this good mood … which I believe I deserve … I just can’t bring myself to check the car tires.

Real: Not something this absurd … uh … no … it um, really did happen … over … and over … and … over … again.

Not Real: France bringing back the guillotine, Running over any number of them … I think.

Roger McManus

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3 Responses to In the Headlights

  1. Thomas says:

    Uhhhhh, interesting…

  2. Mandy says:

    Oh this made me smile, in part because I could totally relate. Well done!

  3. Kathy Devlin McManus says:

    Ha Ha! Cracks me up…you captured beautifully, the many thoughts a mind has in these kinds of situations! I did not know that olive oil, or any oil would release them. I also did not know that you do such things! 🙂

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