Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: Fight or Flea: This Time It's Still Personal


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!”


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.
Tags: new era, slightly off the mark, weekly column

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