The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Gene Weingarten: My new housemate and a prescription for world peace

(Alex Fine/for The Washington Post)
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Five animals live in my house. Two are humans. One is a dog. One is a cat. We have a new, fifth roommate, and in her sudden presence lies a prescription for world peace.

I am Gene. My girlfriend is Rachel. Our dog is Lexi. Our cat is Sherman. I do not know the new roommate’s given name, if she has one, but I call her Elaine. Elaine is a mouse.

Elaine is not a fancy mouse, the pristine lab-grown white kind you buy at pet stores for $2 and then feed to your stupid snake. Elaine is the color of a dust bunny and lives by her wits under our stove. She is chubby, probably from horked-down stove drippings. When she first appeared I was a little alarmed — I thought she might be a baby rat. (Perhaps unfairly, humans regard rats with disgust, whereas rats are not very different from mice except that they were blamed for killing half of Europe back in the 14th century through an outbreak of the bubonic plague, a terrible global tragedy that I am mentioning here simply because I get to tell you that “bubonic” refers to “buboes,” which sound like boo-boos but were terrible explody awfulnesses that grew on victims’ skin. You are learning important scientific things here, so shut up and listen.)

Elaine is definitely a mouse. I have decided she is female — misogyny alert — because she seems to have feminine characteristics. She is darned cute and quite resourceful, and most important, she doesn’t seem to give a crap about what people think. She may well have a full family of meece under the stove, in which case she is both a feminist and a mom, because she selflessly protects them — I have never seen one — and forages for food for them at personal risk. She also is fearless: She will boldly make noise scuffling through things, knowing she is revealing herself and not caring. (If there is a husband mouse, he probably spends his days watching porn and drinking beer drippings.) Recently, Elaine brazenly ran out from under the sofa to try to find some morsel of food — I had left a jar of fig jam uncovered on the living room floor, so this was not a completely insane notion. Then Elaine noticed that Rachel was watching her, and didn’t care. Rachel didn’t care either; she opened a new window on her computer; she was working and didn’t want any distraction. They are women, living together in a man’s world, and winning. There are no “eeks!” in this house.

Now, I know what you are thinking, and I am way ahead of you. Why has neither Lexi nor Sherman killed and digested Elaine yet? Sherman, for example, who is out on the street a lot, regularly kills rats and leaves them on our doorstep as thank-you tributes, presumably for our dinner. The answer is, I think, that Elaine is family. She is part of our pack. Animals understand that. Elaine is not some shiftless next-door neighbor whom you can attack with impunity, some member of a competing tribe who must be dispatched with dispatch. To animals, she is one of us.

And she is. That’s where we are going here. We are in times of terrible partisan divide. We mistrust, and even hate, individuals who differ from us. And yes, a mouse is very different from a dog or cat or human. Very foreign. But we are all mammals. We have common enemies: We are clearly aligned against snakes. We have common desires and values: We like to eat delicious things, for example, and live in peace. We can make this whole thing work.

I have learned that mice live only 18 months or so, so Elaine’s time on Earth is short. When she goes, she will be missed, by four animals living together.

Email Gene Weingarten at gene.weingarten@washpost.com. Twitter: @geneweingarten. For previous columns, visit wapo.st/weingarten.

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