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"The Sneaker" by John McCally



“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

My daughter Rogan was standing in our kitchen carrying a Size 8 sneaker full of Rachael Ray Chicken and Veggie kibble for small dogs. She’d found it in her bedroom closet. Her understandable reaction was provoked by my bombshell revelation: “Sorry to break it to you, but this was the work of a rodent. A mouse probably stole the kibble piece by piece from Winnie's bowl in the middle of the night, and stashed it in your sneaker.”

“While I was sleeping in my bed four feet away,” she demanded.?

“I’m afraid so, kiddo.”

 Our home is a suburban architectural mutt on a few acres of rocky, treed property. It was built in 1927 on a long-gone dairy farm, and has been added onto in every possible direction by weekend carpenters ever since. I figure that 4 generations of people and 600 generations of mice have called it home. 

“Well, it’s gross!” said Rogan.

“It’s nowhere near the grossest mouse offense that’s happened in this place,” I point out. “Did I ever tell you about the time I discovered poop pellets and a shredded oven mitt in that drawer beside the stove?” 

Rogan glanced suspiciously at the drawer. 

I continued: “Another time, I put my hand into a humongous box of Costco microwave popcorn in the basement and pulled out a nasty clump of shredded foil, pulverized kernels, and more poop.”

“Stop!” begged Rogan. 

My position on mice has always been PCWR (Peaceful Coexistence Within Reason).  I believe that complete control is unattainable.  But when the mouse community crosses the threshold and becomes complete assholes, action is justified and necessary, and the sneaker/kibble incident fits squarely into that category. 

During the kitchen drawer and popcorn episodes, I was commuting by car to work, so I used enlightened, hippy dippy, “humane” traps - the ones that catch the mice unharmed. Then I’d drive the captives a few miles away and release them in a wooded park. 

But these days I’m working from home, and daily trips to the rodent penal colony in the woods are unrealistic. So I opted for some old-fashioned snap traps - the kind that break their necks with one merciful thwack. This decision marked the beginning of a week-long journey through a tangled web of decency, civility, and the moral gray area that is modern pest control.


A journal of the highlights:

Sunday. I set eight traps using peanut butter as bait. Two are near the scene of the incident (Rogan’s closet), two are in the kitchen, two in the hall bathroom, and two in the basement.

Monday. No action.

Tuesday. One trap in the kitchen has snapped. No mouse. 

Wednesday. No action.

Thursday. No action. 

Friday. Significant action! One basement trap has snapped. It’s empty, but a mouse is lying about six inches from the trap in the shadows next to the water tank. Grabbing a flashlight, I study the mouse from above. There are no noticeable signs of life. Then comes the shocker. The tiny critter erupts in a single shuddering spasm. He/she is alive. I sprint upstairs and turn out the basement lights. I consider the options. I could kill the mouse. A fast boot-stomp would be fast and painless, but I’m emotionally incapable of administering that kind of justice. Plus, what if he/she is just in shock or a mouse coma? I decide to let nature take its course. Besides, I don’t even know if the mouse downstairs is the actual kibble culprit.

Friday Night. At first, I sense closure. The mouse is gone.  A moment later, I’m back to square one. He/she is lying motionless about a foot from where it was this morning, but further behind the water tank. It’s covered in little dust bunnies from its arduous crawl. I tiptoe back upstairs, telling nobody. I’m starting to feel like Hannibal Lechter, with a potentially dying creature in the basement of my family's home. 

Saturday Morning.  Before the coffee’s even done dripping, I’m down in the basement hovering over the mouse. It’s in the exact same spot. At least twenty seconds go by. Just as I’m about to declare him/her dead, it takes a single breath. I retreat.

Saturday Afternoon. I slowly descend the stairs and gaze at the tiny and motionless being on the floor. I take a small stick and give him/her a little poke. No response. I turn the little body over. No visible injuries from head to toe. (And for the life of me, I still can’t settle the he/she question.) Confident that the end has come, I transfer the corpse to a piece of cardboard with the stick. Outside, I dig a little grave one shovel deep, and bury the mouse. I pause. I ask forgiveness. I hope you were unaware of what was happening and not in pain. I hope you weren’t pregnant or nursing babies. I stop myself, go inside, and wash my hands


I’m not a religious guy, but I do know that in the Book of Genesis, God grants humanity dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” And so started the hunting, killing, cooking, eating, and enslaving of every animal within our sacred grasp. I don’t even want that kind of power, and if the Almighty is out there listening, I hope You consider rescinding it.  At best, we’re poor stewards. At worst, we’re perpetual and hypocritical fuckups. I’m not at peace with what happened in my basement, but in the end, I was just trying to keep my family safe and healthy. On the other hand, that’s all the little gray kibble thief was trying to do that fateful night in Rogan’s closet. 




John McCally is an Emmy and Grammy nominated TV Producer and Director living in Connecticut.  He’s always wanted to explore writing in more depth, and this is one of his first accepted submissions. He really hopes you enjoy it!

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