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1 August 2007

Yelp

I am a hunter-journalist. Why should I feel ashamed for killing a mouse?

By Simon Munnery

Less than an hour ago for the first time I killed a mouse with my bare hands. Well, not bare hands: I did it with my wife’s shoe.

Hadn’t seen one for ages; thought we’d got rid of them. Heard a noise in the kitchen; investigated and saw it. I stood still. So did the mouse. For ages. I thought “Can I get it?”. I noticed the shoe. (I’d noticed it earlier and had been pondering whether to reprimand or merely upbraid her the next morning for her slovenliness. They do become unacceptably forgetful when heavily pregnant.)

But in noticing it, the flick of my eyes was enough: the mouse ran into an alcove; I went for the shoe. We were both still again. For ages. I couldn’t see him but I knew he was there; and vice versa I imagined.

Could he escape through a hole in the alcove? I doubted it; I’d plugged every gap I could find months ago; and if he could there was nothing I could do to stop him so it wasn’t worth thinking about. I presumed he’d be coming out.

There were only two exits; back the way he’d come towards the cooker, or along the edge of the wall towards the open door and the fridge beyond. I knew which I’d choose. I moved slightly, the mouse fell for it and started his run to the door, a run he was never to complete.

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I didn’t hit him hard on the first blow; I was concentrating on accuracy; a trick I’ve learned from playing pool: don’t let over-excitement spoil your aim. The mouse lay twitching. I hit him harder; there was blood on the floor. I cleared up the mess, threw the remains in the bin outside and washed my hands.

You’re probably wondering how I felt, or rather how you’d feel if you’d been in my shoes, standing there, holding my wife’s shoe – or your wife’s shoe as it would be in that case. Triumphant? Racked by guilt? Not at the time, those feelings would come later. At the time a shy smile graced my lips, as if I was not alone but surrounded by a gallery of spirits, nodding in approval and clapping, impressed.

I felt in the zone. It’s a pool term; it’s when you can’t put a foot wrong. Neither happy nor sad but utterly engaged; functional. I felt like I’d just potted the black. I felt like what I am, what I truly am, I now realise: a hunter.

But I am more than that of course. I am not just a hunter. I am also a writer. Is that wrong? Worse; a writer for money; a journalist. I am a hunter-journalist;

The Gods of Hunting are not best pleased by typing, says a spirit.
Sod the Gods!; say I, I’ve killed a mouse!; and the spirits laugh.
A million thoughts race through my brain: Does this qualify me to be a friend of Elvis?
No it’s got to be a rabbit says a spirit
Four thoughts then, not a million. No, more…
I’m the mouse killer, twisted mouse killer
Should I be ashamed of what I’ve done? Or at least not quite so proud?
Should I put myself on trial?
Your honour let the following to be taken into account:
He’s killed mice before, exact number unknown – he hasn’t been keeping count – but up till now only with traps and perhaps poison. Not with a shoe; the shoe was new.

Dead mouse.

A mouse is dead. Tis no laughing matter sire. A mouse family lacks a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunty, uncle, nephew, niece, friend. Yes?
Yes. Did he give a shit about my family? Other than on their food?. It’s dog eat dog out there, or rather man kill mouse. I’ve never seen a dog eat a dog or even heard of it. Wouldn’t they hunt in packs?

Writing is at best inaccurate and at worst porn. Maths is better. And that’s why the machines will win.

Once I witnessed the aftermath of what looked like a mouse suicide: Mice had been running round the room oblivious to our traps, and our presence. We went to bed hoping darkness might prove their downfall. The next morning we found a dead mouse; he’d evidently climbed up a poker leaning by the fire, stuck his head through the little loop at the top that you use to hang it up with, and pushed off from the wall. Accident? Suicide? Sheer bloody bravado? Who can say. Not the mouse certainly, being dead and anyway unable to speak.

become a mouse

people love nature don’t they
except when it’s growing out of cups
belching from volcanoes
or gouging out their guts

people love nature don’t they
but you ain’t one of them nuts
so change your clothes
wipe your nose
and son, get your hair cut
If a cat killed a mouse it’d get credit; a pat on the head, a saucer of milk? Am I less than a cat?

I had the pleasure of performing at Port Eliot litfest recently – previously I remember it being a literary festival.