Sleeping with Einstein

October 25, 2010

As for me, I was perfectly willing to let the little fella have the run of the house.

He looked out of the narrow trap, little button eyes shiny as glass in the beam of the flashlight, his right forepaw still resting on the peanut.

I mean, we were going to be at the little cottage on the northern Maine coast for three days. He was there all year. Who the hell am I to tell him he doesn’t belong?

It was the first visit for us. The place belongs to good friends, who had been urging us to give it a try for years and years.

There is no electricity, only a generator. And it’s maybe five miles to a paved road. For light, the house was piped for gas lamps, and there were plenty of kerosene lanterns, and a fireplace.

The house was so close to the shore that at high tide it was like living on a houseboat. It was invigorating.

So, filled with the pioneer spirit, I said what the hell. Leave the little critters alone. We kept our food put away, not that they ate much. And if you can’t live with a little bit nibbled off your bar of soap, well, you should stay in the ‘burbs.

Look, it’s Maine. It could have been worse. I was happy it wasn’t bears or moose. Bears smell bad, a moose can take out a lot of crockery with those antlers.

But I made the tactical error of telling my friend Candy about our roommates in a phone call.

Big mistake.

Candy, it turns out, is not overly fond of mice. I don’t know how this came about, given that she and Alan have a platoon or more of Special Forces trained cats, and has probably not actually seen a mouse since the Carter Administration.

She got pretty excited. Candy at top RPM is a force of nature, a sort tsunami in a minivan.

She told me where to find the traps. There are the traditional wooden guillotine types that bash the critters’ heads in, and there are little Hav-A-Hart traps that capture them alive so you can release them out in the woods.

Naturally, I chose the latter, figuring that of all the sins I have committed in a long and interesting life, the murder of a couple of Mainiac mice would not be on the ledger.

The little traps are quite ingenious, really. A long, narrow box with a scoop-shaped trap door at the front, hinged at the top. The trap rests on its back end and on a little bar on the bottom just behind the front door. There is no mechanism. The weight of Mickey stepping into the trap makes the door fall shut, and Mr. Bright Eyes is in the slammer.

I dropped a few roasted peanuts into the box, laid the lid back, and set the trap on the kitchen counter.

I went back to my reading table and its kerosene lamp and settled in to squint at my book. My admiration for Abraham Lincoln grew steadily.

I heard a funny little plastic sound and an alarmed squeak. And there I was looking at the little guy with his bright black eyes. I swear he looked worried. Don’t worry, my friend, I told him, I’m going to put you out where you can make your living without leaving mouse emissions in the soap dish.

A little way out in the woods, I let him go.

I came in the house and set the trap again. Within moments, I heard the lid pop shut. Flashlight in hand, I lifted the trap door. No mouse. But the peanut was gone.

I set the trap again, baited with another roasted peanut.

Same thing, maybe 10 minutes later; no peanut, and no mouse.

I looked over at the drawer where the guillotine traps laid, springs coiled and ready for their dark purpose. I was tempted. My little friend had outsmarted the kinder, gentler trap three times. Did I really want to let a mouse with those kinds of smarts remain in the gene pool? Lots of Grade B Sci-Fi movie plots unspooled in my mind. Race of supermice building strength in the Forests of Maine, waiting for The Right Moment. That sort of thing.

I put the trap down, and went to get ready for bed. I may have left one or two peanuts on the counter by mistake. I really don’t remember. As I rolled myself up in the comforter for the long, cold night ahead, I think I heard him skittering and scampering here and there, and I might have heard what could have been the sound of gnawing on peanuts that might have accidentally been left behind.

I fluffed my pillow.

“G’night, Einstein,” I said, and settled in for the night.

© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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Any introduction to a new technology is bound to be unsettling.

Take, for instance, Native Americans’ first introduction to men on horseback, which they took to be strange, sinister beasts with two heads.

Instead, it turns out that they were sinister beasts riding on horses. Worse, they were carrying guns, another new technology that did the Indians no good at all in the short or long run.

Being an American male of a certain age, I have always been fond of new technologies. I still like to tell tales of the first time I drove a concrete mixer (who knew that trucks came with TWO transmissions, and thus two sticks, back in the old days?), or the very first time I sat down to use a computer, at the beginning of my career in journalism. (What do I do first? “Turn it on,” said the inimitable Bill Fresch.)

So, when I took a room at a nice B&B on the Maine Coast, I was intrigued to find installed in the room a bit of technology that was new, to me anyway.

It was a bidet, pronounced “bee-day.”

It’s a French word for “pony,” though I suspect the number of cowboys who have used bidets is rather small. If not, then my notion of life in the Wild West will need to undergo some serious revision: “Sorry, Marshal. I tried to stop that gunfight out in front of the saloon, but I got my boot heel caught in the stirrup on the bidet, and had a devil of a time getting loose.”

Bidets don’t actually have stirrups, but never mind.

Now, I’m not a total rube, so I knew what it was. I’ve heard tales of people mistaking them as something strictly for a foot-bath, a use to which they are sometimes put, or sometimes a water fountain, though it would have to be a fountain for a very short person, or one who is unusually limber.

See, I knew that a bidet is used to wash one’s “business end” after using the toilet or just as a general hygienic practice. All in all it seems like a pretty good idea, but they have never really caught on in the U.S. and, in my young manhood, spent mostly as a truck-driver and general roustabout, I believe I can safely say that I never heard any of my co-workers say they were late for work because the bidet was busted.

Though I knew what the bidet was, I had no idea exactly how to use it. There were no instructions, supposedly because this is a pretty tony B&B and the assumption would be that most guests would either (A) already know or (B) be too embarrassed to ask.

I fell into that second category.

So, I figured that I’m a journalist and should not be afraid to try new things, and so took a run at it.

Well, not literally. One wants to be careful with anything having to do with those regions of one’s physique, generally speaking.

Basically, the thing is sort of an elongated sink, with a faucet and two knobs, Hot and Cold, on either side, and a drain thingie.

The idea, obviously, is to straddle the thing and lower one’s self onto it (hence, I suppose, the name “pony) and then turn on the faucets.

Well, that’s what I thought at first.

Which direction one faces depends on the, um, target area of the stream of water. So, I sat down facing away from the faucets, thinking to turn on the warm water. Trouble is, facing away like that I got mixed up as to left and right and gave a good hard twist to the Cold faucet.

Happily for me, the B&B was deserted at the time, else the loud WHOOP I gave might have caused me some embarrassment, although witnesses might have been handy, as I’m pretty sure I beat the world record for the standing high jump.

I must say that unheated water in Maine in October is very bracing. Boy, if you think splashing cold water on your FACE will wake you up…WELL.

When I settled down and got my pulse to a reasonable rate, I got the brilliant notion that I should turn the water on and get it to a comfortable temperature before sitting.

Well, that made all the difference in the world. I’m not sure one is supposed to sit on a bidet as long as I did on that one, but I’m sure the novelty played a major part in my persistence, and gave me a certain sparkle.


© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content, though there have been moments when I wish I could blame it on someone else.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:


Kicking Back

October 5, 2010

A new fire crackles in the Franklin stove, armor against the growing chill.

The writing-for-money stuff has been put away for the day. Time to relax.

This little working harbor with its tiny fleet of lobster boats and a few pleasure craft lie quiet under an overcast sky. The bell buoy at the harbor mouth tolls over and over, promising an unquiet night for those on the open water.

Out in the Gulf of Maine the sea tosses, never easy, and waves smash on the boney coast.

From here, it sounds like breathing.

It has been a vacation of small adventures. Nothing hair-raising. Nothing that would make the papers. Saturday night our friend and neighbor Bob brought over a blueberry pie he had made that afternoon. We dug out the vanilla ice-cream, and an evening of dietary mayhem and great conversation ensued.

Yesterday, we spent an hour or so up in Waldoboro with Nate Nickoll, an artist of endless imagination who has populated his property with dancing figures, dragons, giant ants and frogs and mermaids, even a yellow submarine, all made from scrap metal. Sometimes he sells his creations, if he can bear to part with them.

This morning, I created my first breakfast involving scallops. It was a big hit. There’s no telling what might happen next.

And, no, this column doesn’t have a point, not as it would if I was tackling economics, or man’s inhumanity to man, or my personal glee at the demise of the Hummer. It’s just me taking time to disengage, knock it into neutral, and just be.

You should try it.

© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites: