In high school I took a job stocking shelves at a supermarket in my hometown. I worked that job for two or three years before attending college. There were a lot of interesting memories from that time, but one of them particularly sticks with me. The produce section was on the west side of the store. At the back, on the floor, there was a bin with numerous sacks of potatoes. We had a serious problem with mice and the mice loved the potatoes. We could not keep the mice out of the potatoes. When you passed the potatoes to enter the back room, it was not unusual to see a mouse scurry away. I don’t know how long it took the store manager to notice, but by the time he took action, it had become a serious problem. Customers complained and something had to be done.
The manager assigned the task to me. One by one, I picked up the sacks of potatoes and put them on a flat trolley, inspecting the bags to see if they had holes from the mice. Sacks with holes chewed in them, I put off to the side. As I got deeper into the pile, I would see more mice scurry even deeper into the pile. I would also see more damaged sacks. As I progressed, fewer sacks made their way to the trolley and more sacks were placed to the side. The damaged sacks began to pile up and the store manager had me take those sacks to the back room where I tore into the paper sacks and sorted the potatoes. I threw out the damaged ones and then placed the good ones in a new sack and weighed them – ten pounds per sack. I continued that process until I got to the last four or five sacks in the corner of the bin. This was where all of the mice fled, when I picked up the first sacks. What to do now?
In the back room there was a separate room where we threw the large empty cardboard shipping boxes after we stocked the shelves. That room also had a large steel furnace that we used to burn the boxes. . . . Most of you can guess how this story ends, so if you want to cut out at this point, you may be excused . . .
For those of you who are still following: I picked out a large box. It was a container for the boxes of Life cereal. I brought it to the potato bin along with a large flat iron shovel from the furnace room. I shoveled the remaining bags into the container box and took it to the furnace. I stoked the fire and then pushed the cereal box deep into the fire with the shovel. I left the steel furnace door open and watched the box as it was consumed by the fire. I could hear the mice squealing and when the box burned through, small fireballs started running toward me. There were other boxes and papers in the room and I didn’t want to set fire to the room, so I stood there smacking the fireballs with the shovel before they reached the floor.
I felt badly about the whole thing. I had never killed anything. I’d swatted bugs, but this was different. To this day, I have never gone hunting. Probably never will.
Does this make me a mice murderer or a cereal killer?
Kyrie Eleison – Lord, have mercy.
In short order, the mice returned to the potatoes. What can you do? Life persists.