XII: Mousebegone

            My snakes are not natural businessmen – businesspeople?  Businessbeasts I guess you’d have to say.  They never heard of money before they came to stay with me and discovered those gold coins in the back yard.  As far as they are concerned, money is something humans think about.  They are not interested in the connection between money and all the meatballs they eat, and the electricity to keep three electric blankets running 24 hours a day.  The mice in the fields out back, and the meatballs Antoine supplies, are both just there for them, part of the richness of the world.

            However, the richness of the world does not supply them with everything they might like.  And so it seemed like a lucky day for them when Luigi, whose pizza parlor they keep free of mice and rats and cockroaches, mentioned them to his neighbor Kumar, who runs Bob’s Paradise Bar and Grill (Bob retired some years ago and lives in Florida).  Kumar called me and asked if I could spare some snakes to help him get rid of a serious mouse problem.

            So I called a meeting, as usual, and asked the snakes if they wanted to take on the Paradise Bar.  Some of them were all for it right away, but others were not so sure.  Mice are just mice wherever they are, and between Luigi’s and the back yard, and my daily rations, they were not all that excited.  But Aretha, who has a good business head (for a snake), wondered what else they might get out of it.  “What would you like?” I asked her.  “Well, mealworms, for one thing,” she said.  “I had some mealworms once and they were delicious.  But there aren’t any around here.”  Trixie, who had once done some time in a pet shop, said they used to give out mealworms with a scoop from a large bin. She remembered how good they were – about the only good thing in the pet shop – a rich, complicated flavor and a satisfying crunch.  Did they have mealworms at Bob’s?

            “And Diet Coke,” added Xzrwжmkяq, who liked Diet Coke maybe more than was really good for him.  “Bob probably has lots of Diet Coke.” They others murmured agreement.

            So it was agreed that I would provide snakes to keep Bob’s Paradise Bar and Grill free of vermin (as people think of rodents and bugs), and in return Kumar would supply, for each visit, three pounds of mealworms, one case of Diet Coke, and $50 (plus, of course, all the free mice and roaches).  I would keep half the money to help pay for the meatballs and the electric blankets, and I would add half to what was left of the coin money I was holding for the snakes.  I also ate a few mealworms myself (roasting them first), and washed them down with a Diet Coke.  Not bad! 

            Every Thursday Antoine would drive a different group of snakes out to Kumar’s to hunt.  This worked out so well that other local businesses wanted to join – the Bodega Latinoamericana, and China Garden Dim Sum, and Nikki’s Flower Shop, and the Hot Sauce Barbeque, to name just a few.  Soon Antoine was making a trip every day, and sometimes twice a day, to provide snake service to our customers.  We called our service Mousebegone.  Business was really good – so good, in fact, that mealworms and Diet Cokes were stacking up in the garage, more than the snakes could possibly eat.  And they were getting tired of mealworms, and tired of working so hard.  Snakes like to hunt, but they don’t like being rounded up at a particular hour and sent off to work a regular shift.

            So in the end we kept Luigi’s, and the Paradise Bar, and told the rest of our customers that we were going out of business.  And then things sort of went back to normal, with mealworms and Diet Cokes from Kumar as a special treat, and $575 more in the Coin Fund (that money could buy lots of mealworms and dried crickets from Amazon).  Snakes are not meant for long careers, which is probably just as well.  As Abelard keeps reminding us, what really matters is not how many mealworms we gather, but how much joy we get from every day.