Arriving at work, the musty smell was noticeable. We’d been noticing the signs of a potential mouse issue for a few days…droppings here and there… We’d put out traps, but no luck. Obviously, the next best approach was a thorough cleaning. Clean all the surfaces, remove any comfy mouse hiding or bedding areas, and just make the place as inhospitable as we could. I swept, shuffled boxes around, and tidied.

One of the last tasks was taking the garbage out. I reached down to pull the garbage bag out of the small garbage pail, but noticed the plastic looked…chewed. And the garbage smelled pretty strong. Obviously mousies had discovered yesterday’s stash of snack leftovers and rampaged through the garbage. I decided I didn’t want to pull the bag up only to have it burst and spray garbage around the floor, so I got a second bag and started to carefully pick the pail up and shake out the liner bag into the garbage bag.

Something moved. Something big, black, and hairy. Like the warrior I am, I freaked out at the thought of a giant spider about to attack me, and dropped the whole mess while trying not to shriek. The squirming thing popped and and landed on the ground, and my leg swung around to stomp the evil giant spider…which I noticed was a mouse, just a little to late. Not wanting to stomp on a poor mousie, but not being able to stop the momentum of my foot going down, I managed to somehow scoop it away from me. At least, I thought I had.

What I really did was punt the poor thing across the room and into some shelving. It bounced hard, and landed, and I could see it lying on the ground…twitching.

My co-worker and I walked over, and stared down at the trembling and shaking creature. It’s arms and legs were shaking, straightening and bending, like it was trying to run. It was breathing raggedly. I felt like I should put it out of it’s misery, but I lacked to courage to do so. We looked down on it, and lamely argued that it was probably going to be okay…trying not to think about what a horrible death it was dying. I scooped it up in a little box, and carried it outside. It was still twitching, and looking up at me frantically. I put the box down beside a dumpster, and turned it on it’s side. I didn’t want the pigeons coming at the mouse while it was in that state… And I went back into work, troubled. The mouse was dying my death.

I’ve watched friends, family, loved ones…die that death. Shaking, in pain, unable to communicate…while we stood around in mute horror and desperate helplessness. Sometimes it lingered, sometimes it did not. Someday that will be me. Heart attack, cancer, some nameless or boringly common disease, a sudden horrific accident…whatever the cause, I know I will be in that moment of shaking unbelief, while people look on, unable to even say anything, never mind help. It’s how we all die. We have that last moment, if we are conscious, of feeling things just be wrong…wrong in a way that can’t be mended or fixed. In that moment we are, forever, alone.

Irregardless of whether I believe in God or not, I don’t believe in souls. I believe that last shaking moment will be the last thing I experience, and after that I snuff out into nothingness. It will be the last fullness of my experience, the final bit of life needed to complete what I was born for, the end of my story, a book never to be read again.

So I don’t care for money. It won’t do a damn thing for me in that last minute. I don’t care for fame, because it won’t matter to me at all in that moment. I may not have friends or loved ones in that last moment…and do I really want them to be there, to feel that dread helplessness? I do, selfishly. It’s a weakness. But mostly, I want those close to me to be a source of happy memories, so that my last thoughts can be joyful recollections.

And that is why I live my life the way I do. The only thing of value is memories of good virtue. Quiet happy memories, moments of joy when fencing, when teaching…when I try to make other people’s lives better. No matter how low and mean a person is, they are likely to have a last moment in common with both me and the mouse.

These thoughts stop me from feeling morbid, or even sad, about the things that happen to me in life. It’s my choice to be happy or sad in life, it’s up to me to suck as much as I can out of what I have been allotted. I won’t waste time fretting about things that won’t matter in that last minute. They are of no value. What I have now is good enough, and I try to make it always so…because at some point now will be all there is.

I went out to check on the mouse twenty minutes later. The mouse was gone, and so was the box.