Driven blindly by that regrettable desire for ever-richer experience, today I decided to practice mouse handling and dosing at one of my P.I.’s auxiliary laboratories.

I met Park Taehee* at the other hospital around 9:30. She led me up to a small laboratory, where I prepared the syringes while she disappeared momentarily to retrieve our subjects.

She returned with a large cage and set it heavily on the table between us. “These are our mice. They’re the ICR strain, a little different from the BL/6 ones we use back at KHU.” I peered into the clear plastic bin and saw no fewer than ten lean, well-muscled rodents, incisors bared and mean crimson eyes flashing, scrambling madly over each other, under the bedding, on the cage lid, pausing only to briefly lunge at a neighbor in a flash of teeth and claws before continuing their frenetic rounds. What were these things, transgenic murine models of violent sociopathy?

I was supposed to put my hand near that?

I was supposed to put my hand near that?

“If you can learn to handle these mice, you can handle any mice!” My obnoxious mental optimist piped up unbidden. Shut. Up.

In any case, I had just spent twenty minutes among the armpits of sweaty subway commuters to get to the research center; it would have been totally irrational to back out now.

I grabbed the closest beast by the tail and set it down onto the cage lid. Unlike our BL/6 mice, which just sat obesely and pooped in fear while I fumbled for the fat around their necks, this one attempted to scramble away the moment its nasty little claws touched the metal bars of the lid. I pressed into its bony back, searching desperately for enough loose skin to pick it up while the meatheads below busied themselves with killing each other in a testosterone-fueled rage.

“The animals can sense your fear; if you’re nervous, they get nervous too,” Taehee reminded me. I repeated this mantra as I worked my way through a series of clumsy gavage administrations and intraperitoneal injections.

Around the eighth mouse, something changed.

I just wasn’t afraid anymore. My hand wasn’t shaking, my lip not biting, my brain not running warp trails on Ludicrous Speed while I reached for the animal’s neck, turned it upside down, poked around its abdomen with a syringe.

I had reached animal handling enlightenment. Hacked into the biolab Matrix. I was the i.p. chu-sa master. Led by firm hand and determined brow, I was going to scruff, inject, and gavage my way to limitless impact factors and blank-check national grants. Gold, glory, and—ohshitohshitohshitohshit.

The mouse was hanging off my hand, chewing with relish at the index finger that had been poised for the Nobel-winning scruff just moments earlier.

“Aaaaaaaahohohoho,” I whined like a baby, snatching its tail with my non-bleeding limb and pulling. The mouse popped off reluctantly. I threw the little monster back into its cage, where it undoubtedly began to regale its companions with tales of victory over the giant roaming hand.

I wanted to scream, to cry, to curl up into the fetal position behind that surgical table and break the learned-helplessness immobility score world record. I wanted to stick my hand back inside the mouse cage and show the nippy ICR bastard what happens between fingers and mice in Soviet Russia. Instead, I stalked over to the garbage can, threw away my useless blood-streaked hand condoms, and turned to Taehee with a look of anguish.

“Are you bleeding?” she asked. Grimacing, I lifted my blood-soaked and dripping, withering and putrefying hand. “Eo-meoh, we  have to get you to the emergency room!” She pressed a button on the wall, and a stretcher labeled “無能初步者應急用” dropped neatly from a trapdoor in the ceiling onto the linoleum floor. She gathered me onto it, plunked my rapidly decaying arm into the built-in ice bucket, and whisked me down the hospital halls as a cacophony of sirens alerted nearby emergency surgeons of my dire condition. I smiled contentedly as the oxygen in the mask Taehee had expertly slipped over my face was slowly replaced by a delicious cocktail of halogenated ethers…

“Are you bleeding?” she asked. I showed her my hand. She peered closely at the rapidly clotting pin-sized hole in my finger. “Aww. Getting bitten is inevitable at first. It happens to everyone; you’ll be fine. Here, let me show you how to take blood from the heart.”

An hour later, my sorry hand was still throbbing.

At least I don’t research infectious diseases.

*Pseudonym

 

 

 

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