[I wrote this after our October trip to Bahia de Los Angeles. In
our huts we often find mice that come in to clean up for us.
They, in a sense, are part of our household. Late at night they
come out and we toss them fragments of crackers. They are not
pests, just trying to survive . . .]
A tiny mouse lay dying on the sand at our cabin on the beach.
I spotted him in the midst of a traffic pattern, foot treads
between myself, Mary Ann and dog Dito. Perhaps between our
coming and going we'd injured him somehow. I felt for him and
was attracted to the fur-covered beast he was, so small and
innocent, lying on his damaged side. I could see his heart
muscle periodically pumping blood, his head shudder with the
pressure. His body was no longer than an inch. Tail half of
that. Just a baby.
Mary Ann gently moved mouse's body to a more protected spot on
the sand. We watched him try to fix himself for two days,
knowing all the while he was dying. We checked on him
frequently, watched his slowing heart pump, wanted to comfort
him but knowing that was entirely impossible. It caused me to
consider sensitivity in our world. Where should it stop? Does
it make any sense for me to care for a tiny beast when I can
have no ability to help it? If I feel responsible for another
living thing I must be able, somehow, to assist it in its
efforts and yet I cannot. Am I then helpless? There is no
correct answer, you just have an opportunity to react in
whatever way rips at you.
Mouse's chest is crushed, by my foot, by the gnarly raw jaw of
my dog, by some incidental moment, whatever, his life is now
only torment and suffering until the end when the light fades
from his miniscule eyes and his awareness becomes jaded and he's
gone forever from his world. And mine.
My friend tells me to kill him quickly, to save him from his
misery. How do I know mouse's wish? How can I know what's best
If I lie dying would I treasure my last moments even through
extreme pain, to reflect back across the meaningful moments of
my life, to call up that grand slide show of the incidents I
held dearest? Or would I find those same moments in death? As
a tiny mouse, as I felt that final ringing moment of life, where
sacrificial boot terminated me, would I feel my small bones
crack and heart stop? Would I be given time to chase down all
those memories that formed the meaningful times of my life?
I could never answer those questions, know some would find them
ridiculous, laugh at me. Rightfully, if insensitive. At rest,
perhaps I care only for mouse because I fear my own aging fate.
Perhaps my concerns are internal and only for myself. How will
I deal with death? But I don't think so. My immediate or
extended thoughts were never consciously for me, only for the
injured animal in my path that I may have damaged. Maybe a
human evolutionary thing where we care for and protect those
that cannot harm us?
On the end of the second day, mouse died. We had taken no
action either way to influence the grand plan of things. I
won't forget the tiny innocent thing that influenced my world.
Guess I'm getting really old. We left his remains were left
where he caught his final breath and shudder. By the next
morning much of his fur was gone and small portions of his flesh
consumed by invisible beasts. While this was an ugly affair in
one regard, in another, the world, the universe, was busy
replenishing itself with mouse's resources.
I'm not certain how a man can care so deeply for a life he never
knew. But I do.