tiny smudge of impurity
on four legs
was a late-June Sunday, the sky was clear. The heat, searing and
unrelenting, came from nowhere and had persisted for days.
I was sweating and folding laundry when I felt something
funny on my leg: a splash, like the first raindrop on a humid
day. It was not quite an itching sensation, not quite a painful
Upon closer examination, I noticed something strange.
The irritant was a tiny little black speck. When I attempted to
remove the infinitesimal bit of painful dirt, it quickly evaded
my reach. In horror and disbelief, I watched the tiny smudge of
impurity as it bounded across my kitchen floor and into my bedroom
where it vanished into the darkness.
The terrible reality quickly set in: I'd been visited
by a flea.
Was this a chance visitation, a butterfly in the
night? Or was it an ominous foreshadowing of a darkness that would
linger until its debilitating oppression had strangled all traces
of sanguine humor from my door?
I quietly dismissed the instance as the former,
a chance meeting of two star-crossed occupants of the world. I
had, after all, just moved into a new apartment.
Surely my new landlord would have bombed for fleas.
Surely he had taken any and all appropriate steps to eliminate
any such problems prior to turning the residence over to a new,
This, after all, is the greatest nation in the world.
How could anyone, any red-blooded American, merely ignore the
existence of such an unwelcome houseguest? I dismissed all notions
of infestation and quickly fell into a neurotic sleep.
In my dream, the fleas had grown to the size of
small dogs and taken over my apartment. They squeezed the toothpaste
from the middle of the tube and finished off the last of the snack
crackers without replacing them. They left tiny notes in broken
English and taped them on the doorknob. They erased my messages
from the answering machine and lost the TV remote. They left the
half-and-half out on the sink overnight.
They required my constant attention and fed on my
hot blood nine times each day, leaving me too weak even to deal
with the mounting piles of laundry. In the end, the apartment
was nothing more than giant heaps of unsorted laundry topped with
hordes of fleas. They were watching overdue videos while I lie,
white and bloodless, on a pile of socks.
Fleas are the vilest of all the blood-sucking insects.
Like the unholy and the undead, they feed on the blood of the
living and parasitically infest the dark corners of the home,
neighborhood or animal on which they choose to reside.
Fleas are transmitters of disease, plague and typhus.
They are predatory beasts with sharp, piercing mouths that open
the skin of their victims so that they may drink of the rich river
of blood that lies beneath. The blood of the prey gorges the flea,
who then, drunk with blood, lays eggs in your carpet, mattress
or favorite sweater.
The only thing I hate more than a flea is two fleas.
When I awoke the next morning, it was with the determination
that my life could not continue with fleas, and that I would spend
every waking minute of my life ending theirs.
I bought four cans of flea bomb and laid down a
pea-green blanket of death on my tiny one-bedroom basement apartment.
Four hours later, when I returned to the killing fields, the air
was still with the rank stench of death.
I felt like I was returning to a crime scene to
With steady precision I opened the doors and windows
and began to happily vacuum up the lifeless flea carcasses peppering
the floor, the walls and even the ceiling. With a hot cloth and
soapy water, I wiped away death from the table, chairs and countertops.
I mopped the carnage from the kitchen floor, and, when it was
all gone, I turned on the TV and watched a hilarious episode of
"Mork and Mindy," remote in my hand and a smile on my
Days later, the fleas returned. Their arrival was
unannounced no flourish, no fanfare. It was a defiant demonstration
of flea tenacity and resolve.
To celebrate the flea fortitude, on the Fourth of
July, I declared independence from fleas by killing them by the
thousands. I bought concentrated flea spray and used twice the
legal limit. With Carthaginian resolve, I sewed salt into the
carpet to render it sterile. No natural-born flea could possibly
survive this onslaught. But that was not enough; to make matters
worse for the fleas, I talked to my cat's doctor, the veterinarian.
"Fleas! You've got fleas!" He maniacally
rubbed his withered hands together. The sound they made was unpleasant,
like scratching sandpaper.
Then I watched as the look on his face shifted to
the left as if his soul had temporarily left him. The rosy hue
in his cheeks faded sharply and his pallor took on a hard and
sickly hue. He furrowed his eyebrows. Quickly they gathered on
his brow into an impossible arc of evil.
Then he giddily yelped, "I'll tell you how
you can get rid of your flea problem." He started twitching
uncontrollably as he told a story about how fleas had nearly forced
him into ruin. The fleas had overrun his home and dealing with
them took up all of his time.
Then he handed me a crumpled piece of paper on which
he had scratched: "death on four legs." Below this were
cryptic instructions and a crude drawing of a pussycat with sharp,
According to the vet, the pussycat is the ultimate
flea-killing machine. Contrary to the pre-conceived notions of
most sane and rational humans, the pussycat is man's best friend
when it comes to flea genocide. By medicating the cat with simple
drugs available at any animal hospital, you can bring a hasty
end to the lives of even the most inconsiderate fleas.
The medicine makes dogs and cats toxic to fleas,
which are naturally drawn to the animal's relatively high skin
temperature. Now, when kitty walks through the house, the fleas
greedily pounce on her and suck her poison blood. Then they die
a slow and horrible death.
Oh, what satisfaction! My own flea-killing machine!
Without hesitation, I medicated kitty and loosed her on the fleas.
Now, kitty kills fleas all day and all night. Even
while she sleeps, she brings death to the doorsteps of flea towns
and villages in the farthest reaches of my apartment. When she
goes into the litter box, she brings death with her. Down on the
corner, out in the street, death is coming to every flea she meets.
And now, aside from the occasional and uncontrollable
twitch, it is with pleasure that I declare an official Pax
Pulicis: "The peace of the fleas."