Just when you think you know a person -- I am referring here to my wife -- she goes out and buys mice.

Of course the pet store people did not tell her they were mice. They are much too smart for that. They told her she was buying "gerbils," which, according to the instruction manual they also sold her, are a kind of "small desert animal found in Asia and Africa." But what they clearly are, when you look at them, is mice. I bet the folks over in Asia and Africa are tickled pink that we're willing to purchase their surplus vermin. They're probably wondering what kind of handsome price they might be able to get over here for head lice.

I want to stress that my wife did not purchase merely the mice. No sir, because your mice also need food and medical supplies and of course EXERCISE EQUIPMENT -- God forbid that they should get out of shape! They might get SICK! You probably do not appreciate the extreme irony dripping from my word processor here, because chances are you were not in bed with me the night six months ago when my wife came racing in and announced that there was mouse poop among the cereal boxes, and consequently we had to make an urgent call to the Lethal Chemicals Man.

Like everyone else who lives in south Florida, we pay a man to come around regularly and spray the interior of our house with massive quantities of chemicals of the type that, if they were accidentally sprayed on our house by a major corporation, we would sue it for $350 million. We do this to keep nature from coming inside. There is a tremendous amount of nature down here in south Florida, and despite our efforts to control it by covering it up as much as possible with condominiums, it is still a constant threat. Of course you bleeding-heart public-radio-subscriber ecology nuts in places like Wisconsin probably think we're being irresponsible, but this is because you are not familiar with the kind of nature we get down here. You're used to the warm, furry kind of nature with big brown eyes, such as deer, scampering around collecting nuts for the winter and talking in high squeaky voices. That is not what we have down here. Down here we have toads that can kill a person. I am serious. This is one of the first possibilities the police consider when they arrive at a murder scene:

First Policeman: This looks like the work of toads.

Second Policeman: Why do you say that?

First Policeman: The victim's fly is missing!

Second Policeman: Ha ha!

But it is no laughing matter, the nature problem down here. Even as I write these words, there is a spider right outside my house that could serve, all by itself, as our NATO forces. This spider has erected a web that covers most of our property and contains wrapped-up food bundles the size of missing neighborhood dogs.

Anyway, the point I am attempting to make here is that I find it highly ironic that we are paying the Lethal Chemicals Man to place deadly violent traps all around the Rice Krispies in hopes of sending one set of rodents to the Great Piece of Cheese in the Sky, while at the same time we are spending valuable United States dollars on another set of rodents, so they can have toys and Ferris wheels and God knows what else. Technically we are doing this for Educational Purposes because we have a 6-year-old son eager to learn the secrets of the Animal Kingdom. But these rodents don't know any secrets of the Animal Kingdom. All they know how to do is gnaw cardboard toilet paper tubes that my son saves for them -- heaven forbid I should throw one out -- into 650,000 tiny pieces, which they then push out of their cage onto the floor. They do this very industriously, as though they are engaging in the kind of serious life-or-death tasks that animals engage in on TV nature specials, but I know for a fact that they do it solely because it really frosts my shorts.

"Look," they say to each other, in Rodent. "He's cleaning it up again! Ha ha! This is a lot more fun than Africa and Asia!"

They'll change that tune when we get the educational cat.