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SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK



The morning after I filled my home with enough explosive pesticide gas to level a small city, the house was still there, but I knew the fleas were, too. This was just the first battle of the war. Sure, the spiders were dead -- it took me a day to remove all the bodies -- but this one time it wasn’t the spiders I was after.

Next, I pulled out large white bottles, tubes with tapered ends from which puffed out great clouds of what looked like white talcum powder. Well, it wasn’t talcum. Printed in large, bold red letters on each bottle was the warning: “Poison! Use only if life no longer has meaning to you!”

Perfect.

The idea of the powder is that you spray it over your carpets, and into nooks and crannies – in the house, not on yourself. Then leave it there for as long as safely possible, letting it kill not only adult fleas, but the little larvae thingies trying to turn into adult fleas. Yes, I admit it: I was killing babies. By the score.

The powder was so fine that it sent great clouds up, coating every surface and making me think that maybe, just maybe, I should have worn a mask. Possibly I should also have aired the place out from the bug bombing, before going back in for the second wave. Possibly I shouldn’t be breathing. Possibly I wouldn’t be breathing much longer.

But I didn’t care, because by then I’d removed all the skin from my lower legs with my own fingernails. The itching from flea bites is worse than anything. I’ve been covered with poison ivy; suffered a million mosquito bites; broken out in hives from eating pesticide coated vegetables without washing them first. (Come to think of it, I’m an idiot.) At no time have I ever suffered more than from the evilness of fleas.

There comes a time when such suffering gets so bad that a person doesn’t care about anything else. The only reason I didn’t blow up my own home with high explosives was the knowledge that it wouldn’t kill fleas -- it would just make them mad.

So no, I didn’t air the house before I went back in, because I wasn’t willing to let up the attack. I didn’t even open windows when it was time for bed. I just unfolded a new blanket and spread it over my head, like a tent, filtering out the worst of the poison or providing me with a nice death shroud -- whichever. Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming option A is the one that worked out.

You’re supposed to leave the powder on your floor for as long as is safely possible. Well, that’s open for interpretation, wouldn’t you say? Since I was the only living being in the house (except for the fish, and they don’t get out much), I left footprints across the carpet for three full days. I know what you’re thinking: “Gee, isn’t that dangerous? Didn’t you absorb the poison through your feet?”

Nope. Wore shoes.

Um, expect I sprayed down the shoes. Which brings me to the third part of my attack, the flea spray, which comes in a regular spray can. That first night at work I suddenly felt something crawling up the back of my leg, and before the night was over I had a line of bites going up the inside of my thigh. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Now, think about that for a second. They started on my ankles. They devoured my lower legs. Now they were working their way up my thigh. Consider my thought processes here, the idea in my mind of where they were going to next. A place I didn’t want them to go. A place I didn’t want to get caught scratching. That place.

So you see, whether the powder got on me didn’t make a difference, because every day -- when I got home, before I left, plus as soon as I got out of the shower -- I doused myself with bug spray. Also, since the fleas were using my own clothes to hide from the relentless storm of pesticides I threw at them, I sprayed the clothes.

The itching was driving me insane. That’s my defense.

Sadly, the idea of using the fish as, to coin a phrase, canaries, broke down at this point. Since I wasn’t soaking little fish clothes with poison, they were longer a reliable indicator of whether I should consider calling the coroner.

(Wouldn’t that be a great opening for a crime novel? A guy calls the coroner and tells him to go to an address, where the coroner finds the same guy who called him, dead. Probably from flea bites.)

Three days into the air war, it was time for the ground attack. I used my daughter’s vacuum cleaner, which is newer, and the high powered type. (My vacuum cleaner is … cheap.) I ran it very slowly over every area of the house, emptying so much contaminated white powder into the trash that, for the first time, I’m actually concerned for the cats that have been eating my garbage on pickup day. Then I used the little wand thingy to get the corners and the baseboards, something I should do more often. Or ever. Then I wiped the dust from all surfaces, excepting my lungs, which I couldn’t reach.

Then I set off 23 more bug bombs.

Then, with it time for people and animals to return to the house, I opened the windows.

I sat down to observe my sterile world, and to recover from the dizziness, headache, blurred vision, and uncontrolled salivating, and thought how lucky I am that all that poison didn’t effect me. But did it affect the fleas? Did I finally kill off the last of those annoying little ankle biters, committing genocide in my own home? Can I relax in the knowledge that, this winter, I’ll be the only being in the house suffering from the cold?

I’ll let you know next August. But I doubt it.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
3goodtimes
Nov. 9th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
Jesus... that's awful!

I am sorry for your flea troubles. There's nothing worse than being incredibly itchy and irritated for an extended period of time.

Blagh!
ozma914
Nov. 9th, 2007 07:53 am (UTC)
Wait -- it was supposed to be funny!

Okay, it wasn't funny at the time, I'll give you that ... but it's all over for the season, I promise. I think.
3goodtimes
Nov. 9th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC)
Oh, it was funny, but my overwhelming reaction was one of instinctive horror. I just violently dislike bugs.

And I have bad memories involving fleas specifically. :/
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:16 am (UTC)
Same with me, although it's spiders that trigger the true horror in my case. I'm allergic to the bite of even non-poisonous ones, but mostly it's shear phobic terror ... someday I'll write a column about what happened when one of those weird white ones suddenly crawled onto my hand just yesterday, but right now it's hard to type until the bruising goes down. :-)
elizalavelle
Nov. 9th, 2007 02:39 pm (UTC)
1. I think you should write the murder mystery novel

2. I understand the need for drastic measures. When I was a kid I was horribly allergic to flea bites and they'd blister. For a while I looked like I had some kind of plague going on on my lower legs. Not the most fun ever.

I hope you had sucess in getting rid of them!
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:21 am (UTC)
As it happens, I'm writing a murder mystery as we speak -- maybe I can use the poison thing for the sequel! After all, I can only hope it'll be good enough to become a series ...

They're all gone, for now, although whether it's from the poison or the weather change is in the air. I'm allergic to some insect bites, and to spider bites -- and cat scratches. So I'd just as soon avoid getting anything on my skin!
enigmaticblues
Nov. 9th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
LOL! That's awesome. I'm so glad you can laugh at your troubles.
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC)
It's laugh or cry ... and at least with laughter people may laugh with you, instead of running the other way. :-)
strangexgirl
Nov. 9th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
That first night at work I suddenly felt something crawling up the back of my leg, and before the night was over I had a line of bites going up the inside of my thigh. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Nope, wasn't me this time.
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC)
Bites were too small!
curiouswombat
Nov. 9th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
I so sympathise - I remember my bed clothes being dowsed with Coopers Louse Powder on more than one occasion as a child to kill fleas - and coming to the conclusion that my mother didn't care much which died first, me or the fleas, so long as the fleas died eventually!
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
When the worst of the flea itching hits, that's exactly how a person feels! Your poor mom had been driven mad by that point.
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Nov. 10th, 2007 06:13 am (UTC)
They didn't have a chance to move on, by the time I was finished with my shock and awe. :-)

But yeah, humor. It's what I do, how I cope. Believe me, none of this is funny at the time.
iamcyber
Nov. 16th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC)
UGH, I totally sympathize!

balior had one of his cats sneak outside and she brought in a demonic variety of flea that seemed immune to EVERY FORM of pesticide known to modern man. Naturally I was their favorite occasional snack...I discovered that my prescription Triamcinolone cream worked wonders in suppressing the maddening itching associated with flea bites.

Hopefully the cold weather will signal the END of your infernal flea woes.
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
I did find a Benadryl Spray that does fairly well against the itching, although it's on the expensive side. But just knowing they're in the house tends to make a person itch even when he's not being bitten ...

In any case, they're gone for now, although whether that's from my work or weather changes, I couldn't say.
skeeterbug00
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
o.o

I would have moved out. I would have bought a tent and slept in the backyard. Yuck! I have a HUGE bug phobia. And I don't care if you can't see them or they can't hurt you . . . I watched a documentary about them once and upon finding out that you have microbugs on your skins, developed a serious OCD about hand and facial washing.

How on earth did you get so many fleas? I've never had fleas in my house before and I have a cat and a dog . . . I'm assuming your fish was not a carrier . . .

Hehe. The vacuum scene reminded me of a scene in The Memory Keeper's Daughter where this woman attacks a bee hive with her vacuum cleaner. It didn't go too great.

"Since I wasn’t soaking little fish clothes with poison, they were longer a reliable indicator of whether I should consider calling the coroner." Did you mean to put a 'no' before the longer. . . ? Sorry. Maybe you did, maybe you didn't. I'm anal retentive, so I had to ask.
ozma914
Dec. 16th, 2007 09:10 am (UTC)
no "no"
Eek! Out of everybody who read that column, you're the first person to notice that mistake. You have a future ahead of you as a copy editor. (It doesn't pay well.)

Much as I hate bugs, my only real phobia is spiders -- I'd rather crawl over broken, acid soaked glass than walk into a room full of spiders. I'm allergic to spider bikes, but that has nothing to do with it -- I'm just plain terrified of them.

I had this same flea infestation almost exactly a year before, with no animals in the house to speak of. I can only conclude their larvae managed to survive in a corner somewhere -- they can live for a year in various forms. They must have gotten in originally on me, while I was mowing the lawn or trimming the bushes, or something equally unfun ... or even while I was out on a brush fire.

Where they originally came from I don't know, but as you can imagine, I vacuum'd the heck out of the house after covering everything that didn't move with flea powder. The bad part is, I won't know how I did until *next* August!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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