In my hands I hold a small grey box, rectangular but with a strange half curve over the front. Inside is a tiny frantic heartbeat. A dollop of peanut butter. Scrabbling feet looking for escape. The rhythm of my steps soothes it a little, but as its warm body lies against the bottom of the box, its fluttering heartbeat is a panicked tattoo. For weeks on end I had been kept awake by the small scrambling of miniature feet in the attic above and the occasional rustle as it journeyed across my room. Rare would the poor beastie make its way into the kitchen and the only thing found nibbled in the pantry was a packet of yellow sponges, gnawed like a cartoon cheese.
This morning I was awakened by the revelation that at last I had caught my diminutive nemesis and with victorious joy set out to remove it from my threshold. The instructions as printed on the top of the box tell me to ’walk a mile from your or any other property’, so I plod my way across the field to find an acceptable place to release the poor creature.
Triumphant victory gives way to something less solid, the uncertainty of my position as negotiator on where something can or cannot live wanes. Walking has always been a form of therapy for me, and so as I crunch my way through the drying hayfield out the back of my house, I can’t help but recollect that misunderstanding that man cannot live side by side other creatures. So prominent was my understanding as a child of the shame in mans dominance over other creatures, it is shameful that only now as I trek through the hardening autumn land with a mouse in hand that I become aware once more.
At the age of five, I had, like so many others in my class, contracted every parents nightmare: the dreaded lice. With my hair being waist length and thick enough to inspire horror in every poor hairdresser assigned to cut it, I resembled in many ways a small russet animal. Undoubtedly, the first pioneer lice to make that journey from one head to mine, decided that like the new land, he was to make it his own and set out to cling on for dear life.
However, with no pets except for a vicious cat ironically named Casper, the idea of having my very own creatures that I could carry around everywhere I went was thrilling. In retrospect of course, the very idea of having a small colony of bloodsucking critters laying eggs in my scalp is a stomach churning prospect. However, at the age of five I could not be deterred in my affections and had to be wrestled and pinned down so that my parents could douse my hair and beloved pets in vile scented poison and comb every last one out.
Empty box in hand I wander back, strangely comforted in the knowledge that after humans are no longer part of the world we live in, nature will steadily encroach into our defiantly defined areas and make them once more, unified.