Of Mice and Sam

One of my new neighbors is a neuroscientist. At the esteemed University of Iowa. Go Hawkeyes.

He studies migraine headaches. Runs a lab on campus. My Google searches have confirmed that, in fact, my neighbor is something of a big deal in neuroscience-y communities. I wouldn’t be welcomed in such spaces. My grasp on neuroscience is tenuous at best. Headache? Take a Tylenol. That’s all I’ve got.


My neighbor’s niece is staying with them for the summer. She’s a college student and is working in my neighbor’s neuroscience lab. Very kind. She’s babysat for our boys. They like her a whole bunch.

Part of her work in the neuroscience lab is operating on mice. You know, to study their brains. Learn about migraines. Yuck.

She told us how, early on in the summer, she accidentally killed a mouse. Squeezed it too hard or something. After I threw up, I told her how awful that was. Though my vomit probably conveyed that message.

Just kidding. I didn’t actually throw up. But come on. Squeezing a mouse to death? Gross.

Here’s the story I told her after she told me about killing a mouse. Because I usually tell stories in response to other stories. Narrative scholars call that a story chain. I’m a narrative scholar not a neuroscientist. So I don’t know what they’d call it. Probably not real science, that’s what they’d call it.

Anyway, my story:


Yara, my Norwegian Forest Cat, took care of any mice who dared show their faces in our old house in Northeast Minneapolis. Yara is mostly useless, but she knows her way around murdering mice.

One morning, many years ago, Yara found a mouse in our house. She cornered it. Where? In my shoe. How did I know this? Well, I was getting ready to leave for work. At the esteemed Roseville Area High School. It was very early, because I always left for work very early when I taught high school. I slipped on my shoe and felt something by my toes. What in the world was that, I thought, as I took the shoe off. A sock? No, not a sock. A mouse.

“Eeeeeeeek,” I screamed like a toddler. Or 1950’s housewife. Or a 2005 Sam. I threw the shoe across the house and climbed onto the couch and screamed and wept and hollered and vomited and yelped and yipped and cried and howled.

All of this would have been embarrassing had there been anybody else there to see it. Yara was there to see it. She watched from the corner. My other cat, Fluffalufagus, was past her prime. So she was sprawled out on the couch ignoring the commotion. But Yara still had some chutzpah. So she burst into action. Yara chased the mouse that had escaped from the shoe I flung across my living room.

It took her a moment, but Yara got the mouse in her mouth. And she wouldn’t let it go. Jaws of steel. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I grabbed Yara, brought her to the front door, and started shaking her until she let go of the creature. The mouse dropped lifelessly onto my front steps. Yara, like my neighbor’s niece, had taken a life.

I grabbed a broom and, like Wayne Gretsky or Mike Modano, flung the mouse into the street, where it’s bodied decayed over the next few months. Problem solved.

And that is how I deal with mice.


I think I’ve written this story out before. In one of my best-selling memoirs, maybe? And by best-selling, I mean worst-selling. Maybe in a previous blog? I don’t know. I do like the story, though. Makes me laugh. It’s so ridiculous.

That’s all I’ve got this week. A simple story of mice and Sam. Inspired by my neighbor the neuroscientists scientific niece. God bless them and their work to cure migraines. That’s important. My work to tell and study stories? I think that’s important too. Because the stories we tell ourselves about how things work come to inform what we are and how we live. Seems like we should study that. But, you know, I’m biased.

There’s worse things to be than biased. Like dead. Like the mice in these stories I’m telling you. RIP.

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