The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse – Part the Sixth

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Sixth

Which follows upon the Fifth Part, wherein was told the tale of a gruesome death – a murther most foul – and wherein the protagonist was seized by pitiful Terror and gripped by awful Cowardice.  Here resumes the Saga, wherein the reader is brought up to the present day and is discovered as to who really had the last laugh.


Weeks went by.  Weeks during which we saw hide nor hair of Chutzpah.  But nobody in this apartment felt like they had won.  Ok, so maybe we had killed The Mouse.  Or maybe it was yet another decoy.  Honestly, I was past caring.  I was numb to it now.  All I know is, after what we went through, I didn’t want to go through any more.  No more killing.

And then, one day, there he was.  Chutzpah.  We knew it was him.  We knew it from the smug arrogance that dared to show itself in our presence.  The other mice – the dead mice – never openly ventured out into the light when I or my roommate was around.  Those mice1 managed to get themselves killed whilst we were out of the house or firmly ensconced in our respective rooms.  They only dared to brave the mine-field of traps2 when their pathetic mouse-brains supposed themselves to be alone.  But not Chutzpah.

No, not Chutzpah.  Chutzpah, you see, would hang out in the corner near the couch.  He’d be chilling3 behind the butcher block or around the stove4 as his fancy took him.  And if we should chance to invade our own apartment to the disruption of his romps and frolics, he’d betake himself to his mouse-hole in plain sight, not giving a whit whether we saw him or not.  That was Chutzpah.

And he knew.  Oh, he knew.  He knew we were beaten.  He knew our horror, and more importantly our despondence, after the botched execution of his dear departed tovarisch.5

Gone now are the snap-traps.  Gone are the glue traps.  Gone even are the “safe” traps, little plastic boxes with air holes and one-way doors.  The sort of trap designed to hold the mouse only so long as until it can be safely released.  These last were a vain hope, a futile attempt at humane relocation.  But Chutzpah was too smart to ever get stuck therein, and so, at last, these too were mothballed.

“So you’re just going to give up?”  My boss was not impressed.  “You’re just going to let him walk all over you?”  I tried to explain that we were just not willing to go through with the brutal butcheries of the snap-traps again.  I tried to explain that Chutzpah was too smart for any of the other traps.  I tried to explain that we weren’t proud of this, but that we’d pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact he was here to stay.

“I’ll bring you some poison,” said my boss who lives in the country.  In the country, he would tell me, mice are everywhere.  In the woods, in the shed, in the garage, in the basement of the manor house.6  I protested.

“And what am I supposed to do with that?,” I asked protestily.  “I don’t need him taking the poison home and dying behind the wall.  He’ll rot and it will smell and we won’t have any way of getting at him.”

“So?”  My boss was not impressed.  “Do you want him dead, or don’t you?”  “I want him gone,” I answered.  “He doesn’t need to be dead.”  He looked at me, probably with disappointment, or else with a desire to get back to his real job.  “Think about it.”

I betook myself home, whereupon the matter was dwelled upon.  I was sitting in my room, when my roommate knocked upon the door.  I didn’t answer.  He knocked again.  I didn’t answer again.  He tried the door, which was open.  “Why’s it so dark in here?,” he asked.

I was sitting in my chair.  The lights were off.  My hands were tented under my chin, fingertips touching, my eyes closed.  “Umm, listen,” he said in a way that said you’re weird, but that’s not why I’m here so I’m going to ignore this.  “I saw Chutzpah again today.”  I sat motionless, offering no response.  “Did you hear what I said?  What do you want to do?”  When I finally answered, I didn’t look up.  I didn’t even open my eyes.

“I know a guy,” I said slowly.  “He can get us poison.”  My roommate nodded.  And then he was gone.

The next morning I strode confidently into my bosses office.  He swiveled his chair to face me.  “So,” he said icily.  “Have you considered my proposal?”  I nodded.  “And?”  “I’m in.”  “I thought you might be,” whereupon he opened his desk drawer and pulled out a small bag, placing it on his desk.  “Just sprinkle some pellets where –,” he began to instruct before I cut him off.  “I know what to do,” I said coldly as I reached for the bag.  As I was about to cross the threshold out of his office, he called after me.  I froze, without turning.  “Good luck.”  I walked out of the office.

That was over sixth months ago.  In that six months, the poison has rested atop the refrigerator in a little plastic bag.  There it sits, stockpiled like some weapon of mass destruction, perpetually “on the table” but with little threat of actually ever being used.  Oh, we talk about putting it out.  It’s just that, well, it’s a nasty business, isn’t it?  And anyway, we’re decent folk, more or less.  We have respect, a sense of community.  Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, live and let live, don’t leave the toilet seat up, that sort of thing.  As I say, decent folk.

Therefore it caught our attention one day, when one of our friends let it be known that he was having some measure of success in the capture and safe release of his own mouses.  The first time he pulled it off, I’d figured he’d merely gotten lucky.  But after the third time I allowed he might be onto something.  Whereupon my roommate set out to treat with our friend and so learn of his methods and of his implements.

From this reconnaissance mission, my roommate returned with brand new state-of-the-art “safe” traps, and perhaps more important, advanced knowledge on how to use them.  Needless to say, these “safe” traps have been in place for upwards of five weeks and have caught nothing.  Indeed, they are so superlatively safe that they pose no threat even of provoking the curiosity of our venerable Chutzpah.

Whilst on the other hand, our friend has by now, if I’m not mistaken, caught upwards of five mice, all of which he has released to safety in Prospect Park.  Whereupon have I come to believe one of two things.  Either the mouses in Brooklyn are not nearly so smart as those in Manhattan.  Or else, he’s got some breed of hipster mouse7 that is stopping by his apartment for a quick bite before getting intentionally caught so as to score himself a free lift to the park.8

And here we are.  Every day or two, my roommate will move the traps to a new location, hoping against hope that curiosity will have gotten the better of Chutzpah.  But of course it never does.  Chutzpah, as you know by now, is the master of his emotions.  He is bold, but he is cautious.  He is daring, but not reckless.  He is cunning, and his cunning is augmented by the sort of experience you can only get in the field.

It may be that one day we will abandon the safe traps, and with them, the last vestiges of hope vis-à-vis a peaceful resolution to this standoff.  But that day has not yet come, even if it yet draws ever closer.  We still have the poison, its siren call beckoning from atop the refrigerator.9  Yet still we stand frozen, lashed by hope to the mast of our little ship, wherein apparently I can do little more than make literary allusions to the Odyssey.

Whether one day we will succeed in trapping The Mouse, or finally relent and see to its ultimate demise, none can tell.  But today, the score stands thus.  Men: two dead mouses.  Mice: two broken souls of men.

Thus has the reader been brought up to the present day, and likewise thus has it been discovered unto the reader as to who has had the last laugh.  Yet the story ends not here.  The story can never end, so long as Chutzpah the Mouse walks the earth.  It may be that the Fates have long ago measured the string of his life.  They may stand poised, even now, blade in hand, ready to cut.  But they have not cut yet.  And until they do, the last chapter of this Saga can not be written…

  1. May they rest in peace. []
  2. Trap-fields? []
  3. À-la the proverbial villain. []
  4. He knew all the “hot” spots.  #zing []
  5. Was Chutzpah a communist?  Well, he ate our food in common as if it was his own.  He dwelled behind the baseboard radiator as if it were a sort of Iron Curtain.  And once, I even think I saw him curled up in the corner reading a little red book. []
  6. I have no idea how big his house is, but I know how small our apartment is.  And given that he lives in the country and makes “boss” money, I assume his house is practically a mansion.  Or a castle.  Or a feudal manor.  I should note, however, that I have very little idea of what goes on in the country. []
  7. In either case, things really have changed in that part of Brooklyn.  Time was, if you weren’t on your guard, you were likely to have a knife pulled on you by a rather nasty and drug-addled mouse.  Granted, it would have been a small knife.  But now they’ve all got kids, pushing their little strollers up Fourth Avenue, sipping their little lattes.  Gods, I hate hipsters.  Even the mouse hipsters.  Especially the mouse hipsters. []
  8. You might think that if they were in fact hipster mice, they’d not be looking to score a ride to the park, but would probably just ride their bikes.  However, it’s a well known fact among people who study these things, that in the rodent community, it’s the gerbils and hamsters what do the peddling.  Mice see themselves as above that sort of thing.  They’re much more keen to get mazes sorted out. []
  9. Or is that just the fridge’s motor running a cooling cycle?  To be fair, they kind of sound the same. []

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse – Part the Fifth

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Fifth

Which follows upon the Fourth Part, wherein was considered the fate of Chutzpah the Mouse and wherein the reader was privileged to experience the Saga from an altogether different point of view.  Here resumes the Saga, wherein is told the tale of a gruesome death – a murther most foul – and wherein the protagonist is seized by pitiful Terror and gripped by awful Cowardice.


Weeks went by.  Weeks during which we saw hide nor hair of Chutzpah.  Perhaps we really had won.  Perhaps he was dead.  Or perhaps not.  Part of me still believed Chutzpah was too smart, too good, to go out the way he seemed to have gone.  But if the mouse we had brought to ruin was not Chutzpah, perhaps he knew from this that our apartment was no longer safe for him.  Perhaps he was smart enough to know when it was time to fold and move on to cheesier pastures, pastures with pasteurized cheese instead of peanut-butter.  Or perhaps he was biding his time, lulling us from vigilance into complacency.

Weeks went by.  Weeks during which I was studying for my Greek translation exam.1  I have odd study habits.  Or at least, I have my own study habits.  If you care to imagine, I’m reading by candlelight, smoking my pipe, sipping whiskey and listening to some loud heavy metal.  Helps me focus.  Also helps block out distractions.  For example, it helps block out the sound of a mouse being tortured to death.  It’s a horrible sound.

There came a knocking.  A knocking at my chamber door.  I rose to answer the door, whereupon I discovered my roommate, looking quite distressed.  “We have a problem,” he was saying.  I opened my mouth to answer, when I heard a sound I’d not heard before.  It was a sort of clickety-clack.2  It stopped.  Then it started again.  Then it stopped again.  “What…,” I started to ask.  But I didn’t finish the question.  I didn’t need to.  “Oh.  No.”  “Dude…,” He started to answer.  But he didn’t finish the answer.  He didn’t need to.

Clickety-clack.  Clickety-clack.  We both turned to look.  And there it was.  Pitiful.  Wretched.  The poor bastard.  He was in no way equipped to deal with the awful fate that had befallen him.  Or, I should say, the fate that was even now befalling him.  A trap, you see, had closed upon his left hind leg.  It was a death sentence.  The leg was ruined.  He could never survive like this.  Did he know?  How could he?  The poor bastard.  Dead mouse walking.

Clickety-clack.  He was scampering for anything that looked like shelter.  He had betaken himself to a space between the garbage can and the wall.  And as he made his way, pulling himself on his front legs, pushing himself with his one working hind leg, the wooden trap clattered against the tile floor.  Clickety-clack.

“What are we going to do?,” my roommate asked.  There was a tremor in his voice.3  “Dude, he can’t survive this,” I responded.  I didn’t want to answer the question.  We looked at each other.  My roommate spoke first.  “We have to kill it.”  I nodded.  “But how?”

Silence.  Not even a clickety-clack.  Perhaps The Mouse, an interested party in the issue of our decision, was listening.  Did he have his own wishes?  Did he want to be put out of his misery?  Did he think if he could just escape the horrors of our kitchen that he’d pull through?  When a horse breaks a leg, we don’t much care about the horse’s wishes, do we?  No.  We just feel bad for it as we reach for the shotgun.4

“Fuck, I don’t know!,” my roommate cried out.  “Smash its head with a frying pan!  Just end it!”  I looked at my friend, a friend I’d known since I was fifteen.  I looked at a man who’d taken clients to the hospital and sat by their bedsides as they expired with all the grace and professional dignity in the world, but who now was entirely unbenerved at the thought of euthanizing5 this poor mouse.  I looked at my friend and posed a question.  “Let me ask you something.  After we smash its head in with a frying pan, are you going to want to cook with that frying pan?”6

“Fine,” he conceded.  “Then drop one of your weights on its head.”7  I thought about it.  That would do the trick, no question.  There was no logical counter to this proposal.  But I damn well didn’t have it in me to do such a deed.  In the Odyssey, the Kyklops Polyphemos was said to dash men’s heads against the ground the way people would apparently dash the heads of unwanted puppies against the ground, which, it seems, is what one did to get rid of puppies one didn’t want.8  But I was no Kyklops.  For one, I had two eyes.  For two, if I was a Kyklops, I probably would have eaten the mouse for breakfast long ago.9  Still, I had to think quickly if I was going to get out of this one.

“F that,” I blurted out.  “It’s your idea.  You do it!”  There.  Logic had been satisfied.  “Absolutely not!,” came the reply.  “They’re your weights.  You do it!”  Stalemate.  I raised my hand in the universal sign of ‘Hang on a second and let me think.’  Clickety-clack.  Clickety-clack.  I couldn’t think.  I mean, what the hell does one do in a situation like this?  “Maybe we can lure it onto another trap.”  That was my roommate.  Good thinking mate!  “Great!,” I jumped.  “Set the trap!”  “Me?”  I think he thought I would do it.  “Your idea,” I offered nonchalantly.  “I hate you,” he said coldly.  Good, I thought.  He’s going to do it.

Now, you must picture what our kitchen looks like.  It’s a railroad kitchen, maybe three feet wide, but at least four times as long.  The garbage can by which The Mouse was hiding is on the right hand wall.  The peanut-butter bait-jar was in an under-counter cabinet on the left hand wall, maybe six feet beyond the garbage can.  So my roommate, upon fetching another trap from his room, shimmied along the left hand wall much the same way a man in the movies shimmies along the ledge of a building.  That is to say, pressed flat, arms on the counter tops, feet always in contact with the wall.10  Upon reaching the cabinet, he looked at me.  I gave him two thumbs up.  Whereupon was he greatly reassured.11  He crouched down, back still against the counter, feeling blindly for the cupboard door.  I held my breath as he swung the door open and reached his hand in.  He pulled out a jar of tomato sauce.  I shook my head.  He replaced the jar of tomato sauce.

Clickety-clack.  We froze.  “He’s suffering,” I implored.  “Hurry up!”  He reached in again and pulled out a box of matzah.  “That’s not even a jar!,” I shouted as I closed my eyes.  “Right!”  He put it back.  Finally he pulled out a jar of peanut-butter and held it aloft.  Angels (of death) started singing O Fortuna as I gave him two thumbs up.  Whereupon did he slam shut the cupboard door and leap back to where I was standing in three great strides.  They were the sort of strides where only your tippy-toes touch the ground because you’re afraid of anything that might be on the ground.  The thing is, you have to remember that all this was before the Bin-Laden raid.  So from where I was standing, it all seemed pretty heroic.12

“Set the trap,” I said as calmly as I could.13  He looked at me with eyes that said, Do you have any idea what I just went through to secure this peanut-butter?  You set the godsdamned trap!  “Ok,” I said.  “Set the trap, and I’ll take care of everything when he’s dead.”  I was hoping he didn’t have the stomach to deal with a dead mouse.

He shook his head in disapproval, as if to say, I thought you were better than this, but which, as a practical matter said, Fine, I’ll set the trap, but I don’t want any part of cleaning up dead-mouse.  So he set the trap.  And he laid the trap.  He laid it right near to where The Mouse was cowering in agony.  And I took one step backward, as if Fear herself had shoved me in the shoulder.14

SNAP!  Oh, no.  Gods, no.  Not this.  Please, not this.

Have you ever heard a mouse scream?  I expect you haven’t.  Look, I’ve never been to war.  If you’re reading this, and you’ve served overseas, you have every right to seek me out and punch me right in my glass jaw.  But me personally, I’ve never been to war.  So this was pretty much the most horrific thing I’ve ever heard in my life.  It was a pitiful wail.  A screech.  A cry of pain.  Unmeasured horror.  If there’s a level of pain where one is inclined to shout, ‘How could you do this to me?!,’ then this was well beyond that.  This was a pain that doesn’t ask why.  It doesn’t even ask for an end.  It just screams.

And we had done this.  We could have ended things before it ever came to this.  A swift frying pan to the head would have done it.  Or a 25lb. weight falling accelerating at 9.8m/s2.15  But no.  We didn’t have the sang-froid.  So it had come to this.  A botched execution.  The criminal was writhing on the bed, strapped down, far beyond caring why the lethal injection hadn’t worked as advertised.  The trap, you see, had closed upon its front right leg.

I proceed now, with all due haste, to the dénouement.  In so doing, I shall skip several particulars, in part to spare the reader any further indignity of reading of my humiliation at the broken hands of a dying mouse, and in part because this tale has grown over-long.

This poor mouse’s final demise was achieved by pushing him with a broom handle onto still another trap.  I’m fairly certain that my roommate was wearing a black executioner’s hood as he did this.  I have no idea where he got such a hood, but it was all very dramatic.  In any case, this final trap closed mercifully upon the poor mouse’s neck.

Only, even this was not entirely merciful enough.  The trap flipped itself, and the now thrice-betrapped mouse, onto its side by the force of its own recoil.  The mouse let out one last pitiful wail.  Then its free arm twitched.  Its tail straightened and twitched.  And it was dead.  Finally.

My roommate walked out of the kitchen, defeated in victory.  I stood motionless for a long time.  It must have been several hours, maybe even days.  The sun rose and set again, and all the while I stood there unmoving, staring at the scene of the crime.  I stood there so long that I grew a beard.16  At last, at long last, I came to grips with had happened.  And I disposed of the dead mouse.  Dammit, Chutzpah, I thought.  Why did you make us do this?  Then I did the only thing that was left to do.  I sought out my roommate and we opened a bottle of scotch.

Tune in next week for the Conclusion of The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein the reader is brought up to the present day and is discovered as to who really had the last laugh.

  1. A period I sometimes refer to as The Lost Summer of Aught-Eleven.  My days were thus: Work 9-5; nap; shower; dinner; read Greek from around nine ‘til two or three ante-meridian; facilitate the foregoing by consuming stupid amounts of whiskey, tobacco and caffeine.  I didn’t see my friends.  I passed up free tickets to ballgames, including the one where Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit.  I missed plenty of parties and any other kind of fun you could think of.  Well, except the fun of reading some awesome Greek (I’m looking at you, Sophokles).  But I also read some incredibly boring Greek (I’m looking at you Theokritos).  In any event, it was a Lost Summer.  But, if you’re curious, I killed the exam.  And at the end of it all, one of my friends baked me a cake. []
  2. And not of the Tappet Brothers variety.  #CarTalk []
  3. Or perhaps it was in mine own ears. []
  4. I say “we,” but let the record show I’ve never actually shot dead a horse. []
  5. A wicked and perverted Greek word, which the Greeks themselves never used.  A combination of εὖ/eu  – ‘well,’ or ‘kind’ and θάνατοϲ/thanatos – ‘death.’  The sort of euphemism meant to make one feel better about doing something that one ought not really feel good about doing. []
  6. It’s been said that I don’t have a heart.  #FullDisclosure []
  7. I have pairs of 20 and 25 pound dumbbells, because once upon a time, I used to work out.  In those days, I had the strength of ten men.  I would routinely hurl boulders the size of small Volkswagens while simultaneously choking alligators with my legs.  Construction companies used to tell me that they’d hire me to be a crane – not a crane operator, mind you, but the actual crane – if I was only a little bit taller.  Well, thirty stories taller.  But that was years ago.  By this time, my dumbbells were holding down the base of a coat rack that didn’t quite stand up straight. []
  8. ἀλλ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἀναΐξαϲ ἑτάροιϲ ἐπὶ χεῖραϲ ἴαλλε, / ϲὺν δὲ δύω μάρψαϲ ὥϲ τε ϲκύλακαϲ ποτὶ γαίῃ / κόπτ᾽: ἐκ δ᾽ ἐγκέφαλοϲ χαμάδιϲ ῥέε, δεῦε δὲ γαῖαν – “But he jumped up and reached out his hands to my companions, and grabbing two of them as if they were puppies, smashed them upon the ground; and their brains spilled upon the ground, drenching the earth.”  Od.9.288-90. []
  9. I say probably, but I don’t think there’s any attested occasion of a Kyklops eating a mouse.  Still, it seems like the sort of thing they’d do.  Or, at the very least, the sort of thing they’d not not do.  #litotes []
  10. At least, that’s how I remember it. []
  11. Probably. []
  12. I wonder if there were mice in Bin-Laden’s compound.  If so, I have an even greater respect for our Navy SEALS. []
  13. Which was not very. []
  14. I’d have taken two steps backward, but Pride was standing behind me, blocking my retreat, saying, Where do you think you’re going, Nancy?  (And that was Pride speaking.  The author happens to think there’s nothing wrong with the name Nancy, or with people called Nancy for that matter). []
  15. And thus reaching whatever velocity it would have attained starting from zero and a height of ca.4′. []
  16. At least, I thought I had.  Photographic evidence has since indicated that I had the beard before I ever had a mouse.  In hindsight, it’s possible this period of several days was actually a matter of minutes. []

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse – Part the Fourth

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Fourth

Which follows upon the Third Part, wherein the dead and broken body of a mouse was discovered and a worthy foe was mourned.  Here resumes the Saga, wherein is considered the fate of Chutzpah the Mouse and wherein the reader is privileged to experience the Saga from an altogether different point of view…


“Shall we go see Kate?,”1 I asked my roommate as he walked through the door.  It was around 10:30 PM and he was just getting home from work.  “Well,” he sighed, “it is Monday.”2  And so we popped off to the bar, leaving behind us an apartment at long last devoid of any rodentine presence.

It’s dark.  No, I mean, out there.  It’s always dark back here.  It’s a bleeding mouse hole, of course it’s dark back here.  But out there, it’s finally dark.  They must be gone.  Gone or sleeping.  Six of one, really.  And I’m hungry, so that works out well.  They usually leave when I’m hungry.  They must know I like to be left alone when I eat.  I hate when people watch me eat.  Makes me self-conscious. 

“Hello boys,” Kate was saying.  “Johnny Black for you, and Jamey for you,” she said as she poured a drink for each of us in turn.  “So?,” she inquired.  “How are things with The Mouse?”

Right, out we go then.  Just past this narrow bit.  Should be safe now.  Sometimes this metal box I have to squeeze past, it gets so hot.  I mean, it’s like an oven.  Hang on.  Like a what?  No idea what an ‘oven’ is, come to think of it.  But I hear the Biggies say it sometimes.  It’s like an oven in  here!, they say, typically to emphasize excessive heat.  Must have picked it up.  Anyway.  I’ll just squeeze through this little space between the wall and that massive metal box they cook their food in by means of applying excessive heat.

“It’s dead, Kate.  We killed it.”  I tipped my glass back.  “Umm, actually…,” my roommate cut in.  “Actually…what?”  “Well,” he hesitated.  “I think I saw another one.”  “Another mouse?  Are you sure?”  I was stunned.  “I think so, man.”  “No, dude, I bet you saw Chutzpah!  We must have killed some other mouse.  I knew Chutzpah was too smart to fall for the traps!”

Left?  Clear.  Right?  Clear.  Excellent.  Ok, get ready to run across to the far wall.  Always the far wall.  The near wall is where Charlie bought it.  Mustn’t go there anymore.  No, no matter how much peanut-butter they put, mustn’t go there. 

Kate cut in.  “Sorry, let me get this straight.  You killed a mouse.  Now you have a new mouse.  And now – ”  I cut in.  “No, Kate, don’t you see?  Chutzpah must have sent that mouse out as a decoy.  The one we killed, I mean.  I’m telling you, Chutzpah is just too smart.”  Kate was surprised.  “You actually like Chutzpah, don’t you.”  It wasn’t a question.

And we’re off!  Right, I think I’ve made it.  Nobody saw me.  God, I’m good.  I mean, really good.  Much better than Charlie, the poor bastard.  But it’s a cat-eat-mouse world out here.  Never forget – what’s this?  Oh, no, it’s just a bit of dirt.  Don’t these people ever clean back here?  No, of course not.  Hang on, what’s that further down? *sniff sniff.*  Food.  Definitely food.  Welp, food doesn’t grow on trees.  I mean, it does grow on trees.  But I can’t climb trees, so it may as well not.  Although Uncle once said you could find good stuff at the bottom of trees after it’s fallen.  Which would be helpful, Uncle, if I lived in the bloody country-side.

“You know, I bet you’re right,” my roommate said.  “I bet that sonofabitch tricked a buddy into getting caught.  He probably figured we’d take the traps away if we thought we’d killed him.”  “Yes!,” I exclaimed.  “Exactly!  God, he’s good.”

Oh, it’s just a bit of carrot peel.  I hate carrots.  Still though, good for the eyes.  All the best scientists agree.  Rats of NIMH published a paper on that, years ago.  Eat your carrots, they wrote. Good for the eyes.  Maybe if Charlie had eaten more carrots.  Welp, you can’t wear the black armband forever.

“You guys are odd,” Kate was saying.  “First you have a mouse and you try to kill it.  Then you finally do kill it, and you’re sad about it.  And now you think he’s back, and it’s almost like you’re proud of him.  You guys are odd.”

Not so bad, I suppose, this carrot peel.  I’ve had worse, anyway.  Ok then, on we go.  Down the usual route, to the end of the wall.  Run and squeeze, squeeze and run.  And…jump!  Nailed it.  Sticked the landing!  Down on all fours, and off we go.

“You don’t understand, Kate,” I said.  “This mouse is smarter than most people I know.  How can you not root for him?”  “In fairness,” my roommate cut it in, “this guy doesn’t like anybody.”  “He likes me,” Kate said as she topped off my Jameson.  “Factum verum,”3 quoth I.  “Cheers to that,” quoth my roommate as glasses clinked.

Hmm, end of the wall.  And nothing.  Bupkis.  They never leave me any food down this way.  It’s like they only ever eat in the Great Food Room anymore.  And those other rooms, the Sleep Rooms, they’re always shut.  Even I – I of super-mousal litheness and dexterity – even I can’t squeeze under those doors.  I bet that’s where they keep the cheese, the bastards.

“And yet,” said Kate, “ you’re going to try and kill him again, aren’t you.”  “He doesn’t leave us much choice, I’m afraid,” said my roommate.  “It’s a contest of wits, Kate,” I said.  “Yes,” she agreed.  “Against a mouse.”

Right then, back we go.  Maybe there’s something in the Food Box-Cabinet-Thing.  I’ve mostly cleaned it out, but you never know, they have might put something new in there.  These days it’s mostly metal cans.  I’ve got sharp teeth, don’t think for a second I haven’t got sharp teeth.  Like razors, they are.  I’m like the Tyrannosaurus Rex of mouses.  Haven’t seen one of those in ages, T-Rex’s.4  Well, I haven’t seen one ever.  But the stories have been passed down around the campfires.  And I have a cousin who lives in the Museum.  He says they’ve got one there.  Not a live one.  Just the bones.  Not even any meat on the bones.  Not so tough now, are you, without your skin on.  Oooh, look at me, I’m so big and strong.  I’m the king of the dinosaurs.  “Rex” means king, and that’s me.5  Tiny little arms, but teeth the size of two whole mouses.  Oh, but what’s that in the sky?  It’s coming right for me.  Worst.  Extinction.  Ever.  Bet you wished you could adapt to environmental changes like a mouse, don’t you, Mister T-Rex?  Hehe.  Being a mammal is the tits, no pun intended.  Oh, who’m I kidding.  I totally meant that pun.  Nailed it!  Still, I bet a T-Rex could crack into these metal cans.

“Yeah, fine, but not just any mouse,” I countered.  “Chutzpah the Mouse.”

Hang on, what’s this?  A box.  A paper box!  I can work with this, you bet.  *nom, nom nom.*  Aww, come on!  Seriously?  Matzah!?  Blech!  Well, what was I expecting, oatmeal?  Yeah…I was expecting oatmeal.  Oh, but wait.  I smell lemon now.  I do like a good lemon.  Squeeze some lemon into a puddle of spilled Corona, that’s what I like.  So where is this lemon.  Where? 

“And I’m telling you right now,” I continued.  “Chutzpah the Mouse is no ordinary mouse.  He’s got a mind like a steal trap.  He’s got an iron will.  He’s cold and cunning and calculating.  Only a fool would underestimate this mouse.”

Oh.  Oh, I get it.  It’s not real lemon.  They’ve mopped the floor is all.  Mustn’t lick that.  Charlie did that once and he was sick for days.  Ooh, but do I dare?  No, not licking the lemon flavor, of course not that.  It’s just…the linoleum is super slippery after they’ve mopped.  I bet I could…I mean, nobody’s home, right?  Do I dare?  Aah, what the hell.  Running start…jump!…half-turn mid air…belly-flop…and the slide!…weeeeeeee!…spinning down the floor, haaaaaa!

“Sorry,” Kate answered.  “Do you have a mouse, or Machiavelli?”  “He’s like the mouse version of Machiavelli,” I volleyed.  “He’s like…” “Please don’t say Mouseiavelli,” my roommate moaned.  “Mouseiavelli!,” I triumphed.  They both moaned.6

And stop.  How far this time?  Six-and-a-half tiles.  Not bad.  Charlie could never do better than five.  Yeah, that was fun.  The trick is, keep your tail up.  Let your tail drag and it will slow you right the hell down.  Aaand, now I smell like lemon.  Well, it was worth it.  Still, better get back to my hole now.  I’ve found all the food that’s to be had here for now, and the People might come back at any time. 

“Right, well I’d best be going,” as said as I finished off the last my of my I-don’t-know-how-many Jamesons.  “Work in the morning, and all that.”  “Goodnight boys,” waved Kate as I grabbed a lime slice for the road.

Bedtime for this tired mouse.  Maybe if the weather is nice tomorrow, I’ll go outside and warm myself in the glow of the Big Cheese-Wheel in the Sky.

As we stumbled home on-drunk-wise, my roommate put to me the question.  “Do you really think Chutzpah is still alive?”  I paused for dramatic effect.7  “Do you really think he’s not?”

Tune in next week for the next exciting installment of The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein is told the wicked tale of a most gruesome death.  Could this really be the end of Chutzpah the Mouse?

  1. Cf. Starr, D., “Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, Part 3rd,”, ed. Starr, D. 2013. []
  2. Ibid, n.2. []
  3. Factum Verum: Latin, “true fact.” []
  4. The correct plural is, of course, T-Reges, but then how much Latin can you reasonably expect a mouse to know? []
  5. Ok, so apparently some Latin. []
  6. #nailedit []
  7. Wait for it. []

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse – Part the Second

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the Second

Which follows upon the First Part, wherein we met our protagonist and, for the very first time, encountered The Mouse.  Here resumes the tale, wherein The Mouse executes a marvelous deed of derring-do and thusly earns himself a name.


The next day, I discovered my findings to my roommate.  The inquiétude of the previous night had passed.  All that remained was the lingering image of this cute little creature perched upon my chair, lost in what must have been a rare moment of mousal self-reflection.  “You know, they’re really quite cute,” I said.  “Let me show you something,” he said.

Seven steps later, we were in the East Wing of our palatial abode.1  My roommate opened a floor-level cabinet and extracted a bag of cookies.  It was not just any bag of cookies, but rather a bag of cookies with a hole in it.  A mouse-mouth-shaped hole, to be precise.  I folded my arms across my chest and tilted my head down, cocked a bit to one side.  “Right,” I said.  “Let’s kill the bastard.”  “Ok.  I’ll pick up some traps on my way home from work tonight.”

My roommate works in something called the “Social Services.”  I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what he does.  I know he helps people, which is the main thing.  But over the years,2 it’s become apparent to me that he’s picked up some unique and perhaps even super-human skills in The Service.  For one, he’s very good at emergencies.3  For another, he knows about vermin.4  So he picked up some snap traps and set about converting our apartment from a tenement to a mouse abattoir.

The traps had peanut butter set upon them as bait.  “Why do the traps have peanut butter set upon them as bait,” I asked.  “Oh, mice love peanut butter,” he informed me.  Do they, I wondered?  Or do you love peanut butter.5  But, I reasoned, it’s the 21st century.  If a man can marry a man, surely a mouse can fancy peanut-butter.6

How does one name a mouse?  Ought one to name a mouse?  Isn’t it funny how names often match personality?  In Greek history, this is so often true.7  Or consider Charlemagne, if you prefer.8  Or better yet, President George W. Bush, “The Unready.”9  In any case, the smallest of the three beings living in our apartment would soon acquire a name of his very own.

“Come here and look at this!,” my roommate called out.  I poked my head out of my room to find him pointing down at one of the peanut-butter laden traps.  “Can you believe this?,” he cried.  I came out of my room and stood beside him, looking at the trap.  “Can I believe…what, exactly?”  “The sonofabitch only took some of the peanut-butter!”  “Bloody hell, you’re right!”  I was impressed.  It was immediately clear that The Mouse was so brazen as to walk right up to the trap, take as much peanut-butter as he pleased, and leave the rest for later.  As if to say, thanks, that’s plenty for now.  I’ll come back for the rest around seven.  He’d done everything but ask for a to-go bag.

“Looks like the little bastard walked right up to the trap, took as much peanut-butter as he pleased and decided to save the rest for later,” I observed, out loud this time.  “It’s almost as if he he’s said, ‘thanks, but that’s plenty for now.  I’ll come back to for the rest around seven,’” my roommate followed.  “He’s done everything but ask for a to-go bag!”10

“This mouse has some f*cking chutzpah,” I muttered.  “Chutzaph!,” I shouted.  “That’s his name!”  “Chutzpah,” echoed my roommate.  And it was at that moment that I started to root for the little guy.  Well, how could you not?  He’d outsmarted two comparatively intelligent humans,11 and now displayed the audacity to act as if we were leaving the peanut-butter around for no other reason than his well being, nevermind that it lay ensconced upon a device expressly devised for his ruination.  But of course he didn’t know that.

Except that I fancied he knew exactly that.  In my mind, he was playing games with us.  And he was winning.  And if there’s anything I know, coming from Brooklyn and having blood tinged with Dodger blue, it’s that you root for the loveable loser.  Thus was I fairly and squarely rooting for Dis Bum.

Over the course of the next several days, my roommate would approach me with exasperation in his eyes and desperation in his voice.12  He’d advise me on the latest (mis)deeds of our rodentine roommate, hurling imprecations in a space far too small to hurl anything else.  I’m not saying, mind you, that his anger wasn’t righteous.  Apart from the general indignity of being outsmarted by a mouse, Chutzpah had taken to leaving his, shall we say, “calling card.”  Little pellets of post-digested peanut-butter and typhoid fever or plague or the clap, or whatever it is mice are known to spread.  And to be sure, this was his least charming attribute.  But even in this, I was forced to tip my hat.  Sort of like the detective who finds a personalized note at the scene of every murder-rape-disembowelment, and thinks to himself, I’ll put this bastard away if it’s the last thing I do, but, by god, is this contest invigourating.13 

And so, the game was afoot.  And by god, we would put him away, if it was the last thing we did.  You might be good, Chutzpah, I thought.  But you’ve made this personal.  And this place isn’t big enough for the both of us.14

Tune in next week for the next exciting installment of  The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein Chutzaph’s luck runs out.  Or does it?


  1. We call it “The Kitchen.”  Pretension doesn’t suit us. []
  2. We’ve been roommates for nigh on seven or eight years by this point in the story.  We have a good arrangement, but it owes as much to M. “Little Caesar” Bloomberg as to our own peculiar camaraderie that the arrangement persists. []
  3. We once saw a girl get hit by a taxi.  We both had enough sense to run over and help, but he knew all about dialing 911 and not moving her neck or not trying to steal her iPhone.  He also knew how to talk to her and keep her steady until the medics got there.  I was quite impressed, but obviously he can never know that. []
  4. I don’t mean the kind of vermin you find working in state agencies, although he has experience with those as well. []
  5. He’s actually quite fond of peanut-butter.  But then, who isn’t?  And the answer is, people who are allergic to peanuts, presumably.  And wankers.  And toss-pots.  Which is not to imply that only unsavoury Britons don’t like peanut-butter.  And yet, they’re not at all keen on peanut-butter & jelly over there.  And they wonder how they lost an empire. []
  6. Sadly, there are still many states where mice have not yet won the right to eat peanut-butter. []
  7. Every student of the ancient Graecian tongue will at some point read Lysias’ oration On the Murder of Eratosthenes, in which he defends a man who killed the fellow who was having an affair with that man’s wife, a scoundrel going by the name of Eratosthenes.  Eratosthenes, of course, means “mighty lover” (ἔραϲθαι/erasthai – ‘to lust after’; ϲθένοϲ/sthenos – ‘strength’).  And this mighty lover becomes known for his adultery.  I mean, he could have been a garbage man or something (sorry, “sanitation worker”).  But no, he has to be an adulterer. []
  8. I once mentioned Charlemagne to a German friend, who proceeded to tell me he’d never heard of him.  “Never heard of Charlemagne,” I asked incredulously.  He insisted he had no idea.  “Umm, Carolus Magnus,” I offered, knowing he’d studied Latin.  Still no idea.  So I googled it.  “Karl der Große,” I tried.  Oh, of course!  He’s a great German hero!  Never heard of Charlemagne.  My ass. []
  9. A sobriquet kept warm by some Anglo-Saxon king named Æthelred.  Feel free to draw your own conclusions. []
  10. And I realized that seven or eight years is a very long time to be living with somebody. []
  11. We’ve both been to college, at least. []
  12. And whiskey on his breath.  But you know what they say about people who live in glass houses?  That’s right.  They’ve no business being skeptical about global warming.  #WheresMyScotch []
  13. Based on the spelling of his thoughts, we can deduce that this particular detective probably works for Scotland Yard. []
  14. When, in fact, the place was quite big enough for the three of us.  But such rational calculations have a way of evading the provoked protagonist. []

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse – Part the First

The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse
In Several Parts
This being the First

 Wherein we meet our protagonist and, for the very first time, encounter The Mouse…


I’ve never had a mouse before.  Never even seen one.  Well, not a proper one.  Mickey Mouse, of course.  Mighty Mouse.  The little mouse in the Bugs Bunny cartoons that the elephant is petrified of and hikes up her elephant-skin dress-legs and tiptoes about in horror.  So cartoon mouses, yes.  But not real, live, proper mouses.1  I mean, they don’t even keep those in zoos or natural history museums, do they?  Or do they?  Because, perhaps they are in the natural history museums, but I always miss them on my way to the dinosaurs.  Perhaps they’re in there, peaking their little noses out from behind the underbrush that early man is stomping through on his way to the watering-hole.2  But if they are there, I’ve never seen them.  And they’re certainly not in the planetarium, I can promise you that much.  Well, not as exhibits anyway.  Residents, perhaps.

I’ve never had a mouse before.  And then one day, I did.  That is, we did.3  I don’t remember exactly how we first discovered this.  Odd scratching sounds against the wall, maybe.  Or a scurrying shadow seen out the corner of an eye.  Tiny little holes in food packagings, which to go by the spell-checker is not actually a plural.  We may have been a bit slow on the uptake.  Just because one watches BBC’s Sherlock, doesn’t make one Holmes and Watson, or rather Holmes or Watson, since we’re speaking of the proverbial “one.”  But in the event, there are two of us, and so Holmes and Watson works just fine.  Though this whole incident with The Mouse may have begun before we started watching that show, and so we can’t really be held entirely at fault on that account.

I’ve never even seen a mouse before.  I didn’t even know anything about them.  I suppose I assumed that mouses were basically very small rats that grew up to be proper sized rats; much in the same way that I assumed ponies were very small horses that grew up to be proper sized horses.4  The result of this ignorance was that I spent a bit of time wondering how long it would be until our little mouse would grow up and become a rat.  And I definitely did not want a rat.  However, I kept this to myself as I didn’t want to worry my roommate.

That is, I kept the rat business to myself.  We discussed, broadly, what we ought to do about this mouse.  Initially, we considered actively precipitating its demise.  But somehow this didn’t seem at all nice.  To be sure, it sheltered under our roof and feasted upon our dry-goods.  And to be sure, it did not ever offer to contribute to the rent.  It didn’t even offer to bring back any food of its own, let alone buy toilet paper once in a while or do the dishes.  But considering that it could drown in the sink much more easily than either of us, I was willing to overlook this last bit.5   The point is, we left it alone for a bit.

Back in those innocent days, I didn’t bother to close the door to my room when I went to work in the morning.  “I’ve no food in my room,” thought I.  “So why would The Mouse ever think to venture thence?”  But venture he did.  Perhaps he was exploring.  I suspect he’s quite a curious little creature, when he expects nobody’s watching.6  The only thing is, he’s got a very small brain.  A mouse-sized brain, in fact.  So although he may expect nobody’s watching, somebody may actually be watching.  And that’s just what happened one night.

I was lying in bed, watching Twilight Zone reruns,7 when I heard a knocking.  A knocking at my chamber door.  No, it was more like the pitter-patter of little feet.  Or was it more of a scratching?  And not at my chamber door, but at my baseboard.  But near the chamber door, at least.  So, to sum up: I heard the scratching of little feet, scratching near, on or about, my chamber door, which was open.  At which commotion, my ears pricked up.  Possibly like little mouse-ears, if they do that.  If they don’t, then more like those of a dog.  If I’d had a tail, I expect I might have wagged it.  But not having a tail, I sat quite still.  And listened.  Listened in the general direction of my chamber door.

Nothing happened.  The noise stopped.  Perhaps his mouse-brain was keener than I’d given it credit for.  Perhaps he was in the process of expecting that somebody was watching and so he was doing what I was doing.  Namely, still-sitting and ear up-pricking.  I paused the Netflix and looked about, a bit unbenerved.  This, I think, lulled The Mouse into a false sense of security.  Because after a few moments, the scratching of little feet scampered past my open chamber door and behind my desk and then a bit around the corner of the room.  And I was not prepared for what happened next.

Did you know, a mouse is a very cute creature?  I had no idea.  It made sense later, of course, when I philosophized over this on-after-wise.  After all, had not Mr. Disney inspired the soul of a friendly child-hood companion into the body of a mouse?  Surely this owed to the body of a mouse being possessed of at least some measure of cuteitutde.  But at this moment in time, I’d no idea a mouse was cute.  And then, at that very moment, The Mouse presented himself in the most adorable way he could think of, and thereupon belearned me of his cuteness.

For at that very moment, he sprang himself upon my desk chair, and perched himself upon its crown.  And then he sat there, in the blue glow of the computer screen, striking the “mouse pose.”  You’ve seen it, at least in imitation.  Up on the hind legs, little arms folded in across its chest, head bent down, cocked a bit to one side, tail curled around its feet.  Imagine a cartoon mouse, eating a piece of cheese, and you’ve got the idea, though he didn’t have any cheese.  He looked so peaceful then, in thoughtful mouse-repose.  What was he thinking?  Was he dreaming of open pastures, with cheese blooming in the underbrush, not an owl in sight?  Was he thinking of the next freighter he’d stow away on, a chance to see the world in all its glorious cheesiness?  Perhaps he was thinking of a particularly nice sharp cheddar he’d had when he was young, or the runny camembert that had got away.8  Or maybe he was looking at me and thinking, “you know, humans are actually kind of cute when they’re not trying to kill you or lock their food away in cupboards you can’t get into.”

And then he was gone.  Whereupon was I sore displeaséd.  Because it’s one thing when you can see the little bastard and quite another when he’s hidden himself and yet you know, oh you know, he’s back there somewhere.  So off he went, and with him, all my musings on my intrepid, romantic, philosophic tenant.  In fact, I couldn’t sleep until I was satisfied he was no longer in my room.9  The door has been barred ever since.  And while that was the last time The Mouse has ever dared to cross the threshold to my chamber, it was by no means the last we saw of him.  

Tune in next week for the next exciting installment of  The Saga of Chutzpah the Mouse, wherein The Mouse executes a marvelous deed of derring-do and thusly earns himself a name.

  1.  Yes, yes, the plural of mouse is mice, my pedantic friends.  But you see – and not a lot of people know this – mice refers to a collection of the creatures.  Whereas mouses, naturally, refers to various individual creatures taken together in a collective statement.  Thus we might speak of our mouses: the one in my house and the one in yours.  Or we might speak of a fleet of mice if, say, 25 of them were running down the street.  Or had joined the navy, presumably. []
  2. Watering-holes were the “club scene” of early man.  In fact, this is why modern clubs are so-called.  You see, Watering-holes are where the men-cavemen would go to meet women-cavemen.  And when they did meet them, or at least one they fancied, they’d club her over the head and drag her home.  So Watering-holes soon became known as the scene of clubbings, whence “club-scene.”  And this is the term we still use today, though obviously we don’t club the women over the head anymore.  Not mostly, anyway. []
  3. We: my roommate and I.  You see, I live in New York County, New York City.  Most people call it Manhattan, about which if you’re curious I highly recommend A History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker, which is not actually by Diedrich Knickerbocker, but by Washington Irving.  (Meta-footnote: “Knickerbocker” didn’t pass the spell-check, and I’m slightly indignant about that).  The thing about Manhattan is, it’s virtually impossible to have your own place unless you happen to be phenomenally wealthy, or have had your own place since before Michael “Little Caesar” Bloomberg got his Midas-Real-Estate hands on the place.  He’s the one that’s taken out all the trans-fats, cigarettes & poor people; The first two by fiat, the latter by presiding over astronomical rent-increases (about which if you’re curious I recommend Jimmy McMillan’s 2009 mayoral campaign and his Rent is Too Damn High platform).  So when I say “we,” I am referring to myself and my roommate. []
  4. I do dead languages, not biology. []
  5. Also, the sponge was much too big for it.  I’d have gotten it a little mouse-sized sponge, if I wasn’t worried about the drowning, but I was so I didn’t.  And of course by mouse-sized, I mean sized to fit its mouse-hands.  Not a sponge the size of an actual mouse.  That would be daft. []
  6. I even suspect now that mankind has inherited its spirit of curiosity and desire for exploration from our furry forebears.  Indeed I’m now quite sure that there were mice stowed away on all three of Columbus’ barks.  Mission: the same as old Cristobal himself.  “To India!,” spake the intrepid Spanish-employed Italian.  “To the Land of Spices!”  And, “To India!,” spake the mice.  “To the Land of Cheeses!”  It’s all right there in the now-lost pages of Columbus’ famous journals.  I’m quite sure. []
  7. Here’s a question.  When WPIX airs a marathon of TZ episodes, one may be said to be watching reruns.  But, when one actively calls up an episode on the Netflix, is that a “rerun”?  File under Φ for “φilosophy.” []
  8. Presumably by running. []
  9. At least 3 Twilight Zone episodes later. []