The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Third
Which follows upon the Second Part, wherein The Mouse executed a marvelous deed of derring-do and thusly earned himself a name. Here resumes the tale, wherein the dead and broken body of a mouse is discovered and a worthy foe is mourned.
Perhaps it was fate. Or perhaps I’ve re-remembered events a bit more poetically than they really occurred. Then again, maybe it was just coincidence. On the other hand, it could have had to do with some astrological alignment. Or would that fall under fate? I suppose it depends on what you think of fate. That is, if you think of fate at all. Personally, I tend not to think of fate. Until things like this happen, and then it seems I do. So when I say that I tend not to think of fate, I suppose what I really mean is, I tend to think of fate when fate-y things seem to happen, but otherwise not much at all. Which is how most lay-people think of fate, I rather expect. And I say lay-people only because I rather expect people in the clergies3 spend a great deal of time thinking about fate. But then, people in the clergies are probably more prone to seeing fate-y things where lay-people are more prone to seeing coincidences. Or, alternatively, where lay-people tend to see nothing at all, which is to say most places, as we lay-people are often a mindless and vulgar sort. As Obi-Wan Kenobi4 once sagaciously-cum-fictively said,5 “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”6
Perhaps it was fate. On this particular night, as we sat there sipping our second or third whiskeys, which we were almost certainly not going to be asked to pay for,7 we shared with Kate the First and Second Parts of the Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, albeit in colloquial, conversational English and entirely devoid of footnotes. In the course of this, Kate shared, in responsion,8 her own story of once having had a mouse. In particular, I remember her saying how once the mouse had run right over her very own feet, an image which greatly disturbed my roommate. Whereupon I thought that if she had been somebody else, somebody who did not regularly provide me with free whiskey, I would have been a bit cross with her for this. But you can’t stay made at Kate. It just isn’t done. Because apart from the free whiskey, she also let me have as many limes as I wished out of the little garnish box.9
So perhaps it was fate that on this night of swapping mouse
tails10 tales we came home to find what we did. As I remember it, we opened the door to the apartment and knew immediately that something was amiss. There was a cold draft, for one.11 For another, all the lights had died. These first two points may be exaggerations, but of one thing I am quite certain. Nothing was stirring. Not even a mouse.
So we ventured into the kitchen. Slowly. Carefully. Using our iPhones as flashlights.12 And then we saw it. There, spread across two snap traps lay the broken body of a mouse. One trap had closed upon it’s left hind leg, rendering it disjointed and useless. The other, mercifully, had closed upon its neck. I’ve often heard it said that people can look quite peaceful in death. And so it was with this poor little mouse. All its earthly cares had been lifted. No more hiding in the shadows. No more scurrying down dark alleyways. No more scrounging for scraps in other people’s garbage. Perhaps, when the awful moment came, he believed he was going to the great cheese mill/plant/manufactory/farm13 in the sky and gracefully gave up the ghost.
This romantic philosophizing was soon overtaken, however, by the more science-y part of my brain, which may be the left side, but wouldn’t it be ironic if it was the right? In any case, I bewondered myself just as to how he came to his αἰπὺϲ ὄλεθροϲ.14 Was his leg broken first? Did he suffer for long? We’d been gone for hours. How long ago did this happen? However it happened, there was little glory in this victory.
In fact, I was a bit disappointed. I’d fancied Chutzpah was better than this. How many times had he dared to take a bit of peanut-butter off the trap? How many times had he carried it back to his little hovel, or more brazen still, sat right beside the trap and devoured his booty? And now, it seemed, he’d gone to the well one time too many. And it was not well for him, poor bastard. In any case, we quickly disposed of his remains, the details of which modesty prevents me from recounting.
The deed being done, we looked at each other, my roommate and I, and silently made sure we were on the same page about all of this. To be clear, we were on the page where you feel relieved to have solved a problem, but you don’t feel particularly proud of the way in which you’ve pulled it off.15 Whereupon we either retired to our respective chambers for the night or else had more whiskey.16
As I lay in bed, I bethought myself of Zeus, the patron god of ξενία.17 There are ways to behave towards a stranger who comes to your home seeking shelter and sustenance, and these ways do not typically involve murder. I wondered if Zeus would be offended. After all, if there’s one god you don’t want to offend, Zeus.18 But then, this depended on what kind of guest Chutzpah really was. Was he a stranger in good faith, a stranger in need of food and shelter? Or was he like the suitors of Penelope, a haughty and insolent “guest” who was eating us out of house and home? In the end, if there is any uncertainty, any at all, one must err on the side of not offending Zeus.
The next Saturday, I met my roommate at the bar, where he was enjoying a drink with some people whom he said were his friends, but whom I mostly thought were not entirely interesting, irrespective of the aesthetic value of several of the females, which was in fairness, noticeable, if not considerable.19 And there, in the (actual) dark of the bar, (actually) lit only by candles, we recounted the demise of Chutzpah the Mouse. As epilogue, I shared with them my concerns about Zeus and ξενία. I suggested that we offer a small prayer and pour a libation, as a show of good faith. My roommate, at least, agreed
We raised our glasses, to Zeus, but also to Chutzpah. Then I prepared to recite an invocation to Zeus which I had only just recently read and so knew well in my mind. Perhaps it was Zeus himself who had arranged my reading of it, knowing that I would soon need it in order to seek his favor.
With glasses high, I began to speak in a solemn voice:
“Ζεῦ κύδιϲτε μέγιϲτε, κελαινεφέϲ, αἰθέρι ναίων”20 – O Zeus, great and glorious, gatherer of clouds, who dwells on high. And then I had to improvise, because the next bit was about asking him to help me cast down Priam and sack the mighty citadel of Troy. “We honor xenia and revere your laws. We have killed the mouse that lived in our apartment. Forgive us this transgression.” Whereupon we poured some of our precious whiskey upon the floor. We did this believing that hereafter we would see Chutzpah the Mouse no more forever.
Tune in next week for the next exciting installment in the Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein is made a startling discovery and wherein also is the Saga seen from an entirely different point of view.
- In order to protect Aly’s privacy, I shall, for the purposes of this story, refer to her as Kate. [↩]
- We always went to the bar on Mondays. That was the night of Kate’s shift, and she always took great care of us. Bright girl, and very interesting to talk to. Easy on the eyes, as well. [↩]
- As opposed to a single unified Clergy vis-à-vis the single unified Lay-People. But of course there is no unified Clergy. Thus I think the various clergies of the world’s various faiths and religions deserve their own plural to share. Perhaps if they start with something small, like sharing a plural, they can find common ground on other more important matters as well. Ooh, I think I just discovered World Peace. #yourwelcome [↩]
- Would you believe “Obi-Wan Kenobi” is in the MS Word dictionary? To paraphrase Luke Skywalker, I’m finding it to be full of surprises. #StarWarsQuotes [↩]
- And we would do well to remember that the Jedi too are a sort of clergy. [↩]
- Lucas, G., Kasden, L. Return of the Jedi, Lucasfilm, 1983. [↩]
- Bless you, Kate, wherever you are. [↩]
- “Responsion” failed the spell-check. Apparently MS Word has seen Star Wars, but has never taken a class on metrical analysis. Always count on Microsoft to bring things down to the lowest common denominator. [↩]
- When I was a young child living in Brooklyn, there was an old woman who lived next door that would have me over and give me slices of lime. Her name was Rita, and this is the only thing I remember about her. (No, I don’t suppose it’s terribly relevant.) [↩]
- Eww. [↩]
- Which was odd, as we get about as much circulation as, let’s see…as a bear’s circulatory system during hibernation? As a meat locker during a power outage? As The New Yorker in Crenshaw, Mississippi. #nailedit [↩]
- Or possibly in 60 watts of fluorescence. But this way is more dramatic I think. [↩]
- I honestly have no idea how cheese is made, a failing in which I am thankfully not alone. This despite the fact that I’ve actually read a little bit about cheese making. The Kyklops talks about in Theokritos 11. For example, a ταρϲόϲ (tarsos, line 37) is apparently a wicker basket used for drying cheeses, according to the dictionary (LSJ). Cheese is dried? In baskets? Will nobody tell me what the hell is going on? [↩]
- Aipus olethros is a phrase used by Homer to mean “sheer destruction.” Quite a lovely and poetic way of referring to death. [↩]
- That would page 281, for you fact-checkers out there. [↩]
- Or both. [↩]
- Xenia, hospitality. [↩]
- There are those would say the god you really don’t want to offend is the Judeo-Christian god. But from where I stand, he’s so easily offended, you can basically write that off as the cost of doing business. Whereas with Zeus, if you’re not already on his bad side, he’s fairly easy to propitiate. All you have to do is sacrifice a nice ox or let him have at your wife/daughter. But as I don’t have an ox or a wife/daughter, I realized I really must tread quite carefully here. [↩]
- Though in at least one case negated by a boyfriend. [↩]
- “Zeu, kudiste megiste, kelainephes, aitheri naion.” [↩]