At the first of the summer I had a terrorist cell of moles hiding out in my front yard. They were real professionals. Their ankle-high bunkers zig- zagged across my lawn. That was until I brought home a calico cat named Edie. She is more stealth than the Israeli assassins who revenged the murdered Munich Olympians. In three months, she has nabbed and play-tortured, eleven moles, and those are only the ones I know about.
For her, it’s all in the thrill of the hunt. Like a Zen master, she sits atop a rock in silent meditation, her head bowed, patiently waiting. I know the sound of success. When she trots in the house with her catch, she trills.
Edie typically releases her prey in the middle of my kitchen floor. Bored or simply self-satisfied with her ability to bring home fresh meat for her pride, she trots back out of the house, head and tail held high, more Pepé Le Pew than a huntress of the Serengeti.
I am the one left with the moral decision. Rather than kill, I chose to relocate them to an empty lot at the end of my street, a fact that I mistakenly revealed to my neighbor, Mr. Hardcore Gardener.
“You let them go?” he said after I had told him about catching one and then realizing that I was half-dressed. Running down the street to the corner lot in bra and panties was out of the question, so I tiptoed out my back door and tossed the little guy into my back yard.
“What would you have me do? Wring their tiny necks.”
He requested that I bring the next one to him and he would take care of it.
Well, he wasn’t exactly around this morning when Edie’s most recent capture scurried behind my refrigerator. While my husband was at the doctor, I sat on the kitchen floor for more than an hour, one eye on The New Yorker and the other on the slender line between refrigerator and tile.
Finally, when my husband came home, we had to do the unthinkable. I flushed the mole out with a yard stick and he brought a broom handle down squared on its head. He tossed its body into the trash, vetoing my request for a more dignified interment. (What’s with these men?)
I’d admire moles. A group of moles is called a “labor,” maybe because they work so damn hard digging and eating. Their streamlined, cylindrical bodies, tapered heads, and fleshy paddle hands are perfectly designed to travel their underground by-ways in search of worms and grubs. If you look closely, they have a devotional look about them as if their pinched, monkish faces and their gold, pin-sized eyes are the sacrifice of transcribing religious texts. Think about it, these workaholic, thumb-size rodents really move some earth. Perhaps we hate them because by comparison we are weak and lazy.
Of course, I would never say any of this to my neighbor. In fact, I told his wife that her husband would be proud of me. A particularly large mole had been taken out.
She told me that her husband was just talking tough. Last summer, he had killed a mole with a pitchfork and felt awful about it.
“When he walked in the house, I swear I saw a tear in his eye.”