On Disposing of Mice

by Susannah Mandel

(Reprinted with permission from Practical Thaumaturgy, Winter 2005: special insert: "Pest Control Considered, or, Cleansing the Realm.")

Mouse-banishing calls for a simple spell.
They are a simple people, small of brain
and not known for their courage. Boys with flutes
and wooden men with swords have been employed
in certain celebrated precedents,
but there are cheaper methods.
             Every home
should have a book of simple "how-to" charms
about the library. There's nothing like
the quiet triumph of a banishing
prepared at home; what's more, it's budget-wise.
The Internet's another great resource
for classic formulas (but emptor
! Do vet your sources. We've all heard
some shocking tales.)
             For a straightforward start,
your friends at Thaumaturgy here present
the following old standby. First, you'll want
a broom to brandish, or a shoe (the experts
disagree, but either ought to work).
Inhale -- to maximum capacity --
and shout with all your might the following:

"Lynx, panther, puma, tiger! Come and feast
Upon the blood and bone of this small beast.
I summon you, voracious stalkers all,
By virtue of your hunger and my call.

To these I add broom-ends, dogs, stomping feet,
The blight that kills your wee ones at the teat,
Floods, famine, closet fires, poisoned cheese,
Mange, mousetraps, ticks, and whisker-gnawing fleas.

Be gone from here, grey people! Let no squeak
Be heard beyond the turning of next week
Within these walls!"

             This ought to do the trick.
If, after seven days, they haven't gone,
you may repeat the spell -- louder this time --
and, for extra support, bring in the cats
(whose presence amplifies magical fields,
as is well known).
             It's true that, now and then,
particularly stubborn rodent clans
have foiled the best of homespun remedies.
There comes a point when some victims concede
it's time to call in the professionals.
If this should be your case, don't blame yourself,
and don't feel bad. Despite their tiny size
and ludicrous chirruping, mice can be
pestiferous in the extreme, and have
been so since long before the modern age,
if one can trust the stories.

             One last word
of caution to homeowners thinking of
engaging the assistance of a pro:
Be sure about the terms before you start.
Get references, and assure yourself
that you're prepared to pay the fee in full.
Top specialists in rodent pest control
are known for their insistence on this point,
and, vexing as an infestation is,
it pales before the possibilities
should you annoy the hired help. Take care.
Keep close track of the work; and when it's time
to pay the piper, make sure you both
agree upon the price. Because, sometimes,
this sort of house-cleaning arrangement proves
to cost the buyer more then he had planned;
once in a while, more than he can afford.
And, sometimes, alas -- not often, but
the failure cases are conspicuous --
it costs him more than he had ever dreamed.

Susannah Mandel says: My poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Sybil's Garage, Peter Parasol, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, among others. My short fiction is forthcoming in Shimmer and in the Canadian anthology Escape Clause, and my speculative flash fiction appears regularly at DailyCabal.com. I am a graduate of the Clarion East workshop. I also write a regular column for Strange Horizons on the fantastic in pre-modern literature.

About myself: I hold degrees in English literature and in comparative media studies from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have lived in Boston, northern France, and, most recently, Philadelphia. I have worked in teaching, translation, editing, research and linguistics (as well as a brief stint in pastry retail).

I like, among others, Spenser, Yeats, Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder. I subsist largely on apples, to which I have written a trattato d'amore. Unfortunately, I cannot appreciate raspberries due to the way the tiny seeds get stuck in my teeth.

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