You hunter, me gatherer


By Janice Lindsay

Janice Lindsay
Janice Lindsay

Ordinarily, this woman does not believe that household tasks are sex-specific. A person does not need upper-body strength to balance a checkbook. The ability to bear children does not uniquely qualify someone to slip a role of toilet paper into a holder.

So when routine household chores don’t require superior brawn, she and her husband share them, each doing what he or she likes best or dislikes least.

But –

One morning, she’s home alone, writing in her office with the door closed – alone except for the cat, who should be enjoying her first morning nap somewhere in the house.

Suddenly, above the tick-tick of the computer keys, the woman hears an irregular bump, thump, thumpbump, bump. Something unsettling is happening in the hall outside her office door. Feeling like a horror-movie heroine (they always open the door, even though common sense screams, “Do not open that door!”), she opens the door.

A mouse skitters toward her, hugging the opposite wall. The cat pounces after it.

The women shrieks.

She thinks, “I can’t believe I just said ‘Eek.’”

The mouse takes a sharp turn into a bedroom, followed by the cat. The woman swiftly closes the door after them. They’re in, she’s out.

The cat, who is no killer, will probably catch, pat, lick, and release the mouse repeatedly until it wises up and slips away. This is an eventuality not to be desired in a bedroom.

What to do?

Her first cowardly, unfeminist thought is to go back to work and let her husband deal with the situation later.

“But that’s not right,” she tells herself. “Catching a mouse is not a sex-specific task.”

She fetches an empty margarine tub and cover. She slips into the room with the two animals.

Cat crouches at the open closet door, pawing at something not quite reachable in the neat row of shoes. Mouse, the woman cleverly deduces, must be in the closet.

She kneels. Gently, she moves one shoe, then another. Suddenly, Cat pounces into the closet and returns carrying Mouse. Drops it. Mouse is motionless.

“Problem solved,” the woman thinks. “Mouse dead.”

Mouse not dead. Opens bright black eyes, turns head, assesses situation. Quickly the woman pops the margarine container over the mouse, slides the cover underneath, snaps the lid closed.

Now what?

Maybe, she tells herself, if she takes Mouse outside, it won’t come back. She thinking lessons learned, like Peter Rabbit in Mr. MacGregor’s garden. Outside, she pours Mouse out of the margarine tub, wishes it well, and watches it stagger off.

Later that day, she surprises herself and buys a mouse trap, just in case, and because it seems like the right thing to do.

Buying a trap is not the same as using a trap. Setting a trap and disposing of the resulting product is definitely, she decides, a sex-specific job, and not specific to her particular sex. She berates herself. Where did this unworthy assumption come from?

She reflects. We are, after all, descended from an ancient hunter-gatherer society. Men hunted; women gathered edibles and household necessities. She’s the gatherer. She bought the trap, didn’t she? He is the hunter.

That evening, Mouse is back, scurrying through the family room.

Hunter sets the trap, fulfilling his first obligation with efficiency and dispatch. But the next day, after completing the disposal portion of his regrettable task, he says, “I sort of feel sorry for that mouse. He was just trying to make a living, like everybody else.”

The line between hunter and gatherer grows hazier all the time.