– An Allegory –
Mice were getting into our potato cellar again. In fact, there were so many mice that season, our old cat Bitesy couldn’t keep up with them. Our neighbor said, “Why don’t you get another cat”? But we knew that wouldn’t work, because Mr. Furcifur at the lawncare store- whom everyone regarded as an expert when it came to mouse infestations- assured us what we actually needed was some good Rat Fence. Mr. Furcifur said that until we installed Rat Fence, we could rest assured this mouse problem of ours would only get worse.
I must tell you at this point that Mr. Furcifur wasn’t just any old lawn care expert. He had spent half a lifetime raising and studying mice. He knew them like his own children.
So of course it didn’t take us long at all to follow his advice. In two days’ time, a shiny new Rat Fence was installed all around our yard. Our youngest son finished the last step- applying a special, sticky poison coating- right before supper. We breathed easier that night, and indeed for the next week.
Sure, Bitesy still managed to catch a mouse a few days later, but we figured the Rat Fence probably had slowed the tiny thing down enough to give old Bitesy plenty of time to nab it.
And of course, the week after that, we noticed some nibbles in our potatoes. But the nibbles didn’t look as bad as they’d been before we got the Rat Fence. So we knew we’d made the right decision installing it.
Still, our goal was no mice at all. So after two weeks, we went back to Mr. Furcifur to ask what else we should do.
“Hmmmm….” he pondered for a moment with a frown. “Ah, yes. I forgot to tell you last time you visited my shop: Double up for Maximum Protection! It’s been two weeks, you say? Perfect timing, then…one more Rat Fence ought to do it”!
Sure enough, as we carted our second Rat Fence to the checkout counter, we noticed in the bottom right corner of the package it clearly stated,
“DOUBLE UP FOR MAXIMUM PROTECTION”.
(Of course, there was also the usual statement which said “Known to the State of California to cause permanent death in certain populations”. Mr. Furcifur explained it was undoubtedly referring to mouse populations. Thank God for Mr. Furcifur!)
It was easier to install the second row of fencing. We had already cleared vegetation and loosened earth for the first Rat Fence, so this new one slid in just fine. Those fences looked amazing! We slept our best sleep that night just knowing they were out in the yard, keeping us safe.
By this time, some other people in town had installed their own Rat Fences, too. We tried to tell our next-door neighbor about it, but as usual, he was convinced his cats would handle the mice. He said he also had “special containers” to protect his potatoes….whatever that meant! We asked Mr. Furcifur about that, who told us, “Mice are clever. They always outsmart lazy, stupid cats….and infiltrate flimsy old containers of all kinds”. We laughingly agreed, seeing how old Bitesy had only been catching some of the mice. It definitely seemed senseless to depend on containers when you could just as soon have some good Rat Fence.
Strangely enough, on the news that evening, they showed videos of mice getting into containers of all kinds. Truly horrifying!
A couple more weeks passed, and Bitesy was looking lazier than ever. We knew the cat must have been getting quite bored without many mice to chase!
I must say, though, as amazing as those Rat Fences were, we still noticed some nibbles in our potatoes. Not to worry though….we had an expert in town.
“Your neighbors….have they got Rat Fence?”, asked Mr. Furcifur when we once more sought his guidance. “Well, yes”, we said….”Some of them, anyway”. But we explained about the man next door with his stupid cats and crazy boxes.
“Ah, yes, I remember you saying about him. Irresponsible brute”.
“You see,” he continued, as he circled the checkout counter holding a strange device that looked like a small vacuum cleaner. The thing made a soft, continuous wesshhhhh sound. “These Rat Fences protect your yard….but of course, mice can still come from your neighbor’s yard…if they haven’t got Rat Fence”.
We exchanged silent, horrified glances at the obvious truth of this statement. How could we have been so blind?
“Yes…” he said, waving the odd device in our direction, “Your mouse problem will persist…and likely only worsen, so long as your neighbors do not install Rat Fence in their yards, too”.
“What is that thing?” I asked him.
“Oh what, this?” he replied, hoisting the device upward quickly. We could tell it was indeed drawing air, as it tugged invisibly at a loose strand of his long, curly hair. “It’s a Rat Sniffer….to ensure you have not brought any mice here with you”.
At that, we immediately became very worried. How careless we’d been! What if we’d carried mice into the lawncare shop?
A few tense, dreadful moments passed as Mr. Furcifur swept the device back and forth in our vicinity. Then, suddenly…
“Good”, he said, “Very good…they haven’t discovered how to hitch a ride yet”. We exhaled together, then laughed, but I suspect Mr. Furcifur could still see the worry on our faces. This was clearly far more serious than we’d been treating it.
Over the next month, we talked with our ignorant neighbor about getting Rat Fence. We told him everything that Mr. Furcifur had told us. We even gave him a Rat Fence brochure, so he could get the right facts, straight from the manufacturer. But he was always antagonistic, stubborn and suspicious, asking stupid questions about the holes in the Rat Fence, and what kind of poison it used, and the most annoying question of all: “How has it been working for you“?
Ugh. Why couldn’t he see? THAT’S EXACTLY WHY WE NEEDED HIM ON BOARD!
“Rat Fence”, we would too-patiently explain, “only works when everyone has one, because if mice can get into your yard, they will eventually get from your yard into our yard”! Why was this so hard for him to understand? We had done our part. It wasn’t fair for him not to do his.
A week after old Bitesy died (from a mouse-borne illness, as we understand it) some executives from Rat Fence came to speak to our town council. Apparently, Mr. Furcifur had helped their company out in the past, so he pulled some strings to make the visit happen. They were quite knowledgeable, polite, and very patient, explaining the importance of everyone having Rat Fence. Finally, we were going to see the end of this mouse war! Our dumb neighbor would surely see the light. The solution was just so obvious.
Best yet, our town was going to get financial help to make it all possible.
Well, we vastly underestimated our neighbor’s stubbornness, selfishness, and stupidity. He said (in that know-it-all tone of his), “Well MY potatoes are fine”. Oh. My. God. He even had the audacity to explain how he had “stopped the mice” using cats and his dumb boxes. Whatever. We could see the truth: he was reaping the benefits of OUR Rat Fence, but didn’t want to do his part. Pathetic.
Not knowing what else to do, we petitioned the town council to fine people who didn’t have TWO Rat Fences in their yard. “There’s no more room for irresponsibility and baseless conspiracy theories”, we pleaded. Luckily, reason won the day. The council moved in our favor. They declared that anyone without Rat Fence would be required to wear a Rat Sniffer and never leave their house without a written one-hour permit from the fire chief.
Eventually, our neighbor violated the Mouse Control Ordinance, and was put to death by drowning, in accord with the new law. Good riddance.
The new neighbors? They are a dream come true! An answered prayer, really. They bake brownies, host cookouts, always wave hello, and they have two rows of Rat Fence in their yard.
And the mice? Ha! We don’t have mouse problems any more. Once in a while something (definitely not a mouse because that’s technically impossible according to the experts) seems to take a nibble at one of our potatoes….but we can rest easy now, knowing we’re all fully protected.
Scientist, Cancer Consultant / Educator
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