An Alternative For Mynah Imposter

Marilyn the mouse offers an endearing pose that appeals for sympathy from the sometimes meddlesome human around the corner to feast species | Jayna E. McClaran photo

Marilyn the mouse offers an endearing pose that appeals for sympathy from the sometimes meddlesome human around the corner to feast species | Jayna E. McClaran photo

I live where there are lots of trees, so birds are abundant. But where my feathered friends exist, there are a host of unsavory creatures ready to intimidate us. Unless we are tuned in, which I wasn’t.

One morning, after I just got up with my eyes still glazed over, I looked out the window to watch the sun splashing its golden tint on the leaves of the wild guava trees outside. A branch gently rustled and I quickly spotted a sleek, shiny black bird, like a mynah, treading lightly on it.

As my eyes focused, the mynah looked a bit too black, with no yellow beak or spindly legs. And it looked to be crawling. Then the subject picked off a golf ball-sized yellow guava, carried it in its mouth and scurried out of sight into the bushes.

“Oh no, it’s a rat,” I gasped out loud, as if there was anyone to announce it to in the empty room.

I always have had an aversion to rats. I know hate is a strong word, but for me, that’s what usually accompanied the word rat. I realize some people have rats or mice as pets, like my daughter’s friend. She even gave the creature a pretty name, Marilyn.

But for me, when it came to rodents, I was better off not thinking of, seeing, hearing or smelling them, dead or alive.

The mynah impostor brought to mind the one who visited me recently when it crawled through a cracked dryer vent and overstayed its welcome. At night, when the house quieted, the prowler gnawed on a roll of paper under the bed and then scurried around the corner to feast on dog food near the refrigerator.

Each night, I hoped he magically would find his way out. No such luck. I finally went to the helpful hardware man to ask what kind of rat trap I should get. He showed me the usual plantation-mentality remedy — the wooden trap with the snapping metal lever — and I thought of this selection task as just another unemotional exercise in finding the right tool for the right job.

In the process, however, the clerk asked me a question for which I was ill-prepared, “What size is the rat: small, medium or large?”

That precipitated unpleasant thoughts: During the day, the rat was as quiet as a mouse on Christmas Eve, but at night, its presence thundered like King Kong’s footsteps in the Big Apple. At that moment, I envisioned the beady-eyed varmint laughing at me.

I chose the largest trap.

Sparing a block of chocolate from my emergency bar, I baited the trap and laid it on the rat’s beaten path. Sure enough, at midnight, the snap from the death trap echoed throughout the house, and now more than ever, not a creature was stirring.

After a few seconds of audible silence, like after a hanging in the public square, I was frozen — it was official, I was a murderer. I refused to look at my dastardly deed. Later, a friend volunteered to check out the tragedy. Not wanting to know the details, I cowardly pleaded, “Please don’t show it to me or tell me its size.”

With playful malice, he somehow managed to get in a word edgewise. Mischievously, he muttered, “I’m glad you got the large trap.” For the longest time, I felt the dead rat got the last laugh on me — perhaps because I perceived rats as enemies to hate, fear and destroy. If I chose to tune in to a different song, to love them as my daughter loved Marilyn, then maybe they would become endearing and I wouldn’t resort to the strong arm of a rat trap. Instead, I would opt for the more humane trap-and-release method. And since they are better suited to living outside, I wouldn’t present conditions to lure them into my home in the first place. I would proactively repair the dryer vent and store away uneaten food at night.

Like my feathered friends and me, all living things deserve to be appreciated and allowed to live symbiotically. In this case, they in the guava trees and me in my abode.