Louie, my slowly-becoming-civilized, white and black cat, sat purring on the office futon. Just looking at the lanky feline at rest that evening made me feel peaceful. When he dozed, his eyes closed and there appeared to be a smile on his face.
Leaving my desk chair, I crossed the room and sat down on the futon next to him. I reached out and stroked his silky side. Louie stretched and looked even happier. Something tickled my forearm. I looked down and saw a small bug. When I reached to pinch it, the small bug sprung straight up into the air like it had been launched by NASA. A huge surge of adrenaline flushed through my veins. Simultaneously, I felt flashes of Saharan heat, icy blasts of Artic chill and the need to expend energy by slaying dragons while galloping the circumference of the world. MY CAT HAD FLEAS!
Fear and loathing made my mouth feel like it was full of dirty cotton balls. I jumped to my feet, reflecting that the fleas had probably been around for a while. Being oblivious to the signs, I’d ascribed the itchy bites on my ankles during the past week to mosquitoes. There was no way I could continue in this denial. My house was fully contaminated and it needed a good cleansing!
I drove to a local veterinarian’s office and bought flea medication and squirted it onto Jonah’s and Louie’s skin between their shoulders. Then I began to clean my house.
Despite being what I call a casual housekeeper, I set about washing everything I could lay my hands on in the house and vacuuming everything else that was too big to fit into my wash machine. Nothing I did seemed to be enough to take care of the problem.
At a pet supply store I was told the flea problem this year was bad. That must have been true, because they’d sold out every single flea bomb in stock. Despite living a chemical-free, organic lifestyle, I bought a spray that would kill fleas, their eggs, larvae and pupa. I used it on the cat’s favorite resting spots. Afraid that the poison didn’t have enough coverage, I looked around for another method to kill fleas. Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from sea shells with small shards of silica in it. The shards supposedly slices and kills insects by getting under their exoskeletons. I sprinkled it all over my office carpeting as well.
Between all of these activities, I kept checking the internet about flea eradication, so I KNEW I was doing all that was recommended. I just couldn’t understand why everyone on the websites sounded so calm. If I would have messaged anyone about my problem, I would have done the internet version of shouting…BY USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!!
It quickly became apparent to me that I didn’t have just one problem, but two problems. Problem one was the flea contamination. Problem two was an Obsessive Compulsion Disorder (OCD) version of flea anxiety.
Problem number two manifested in constantly feeling itchy spots all over my body. Convinced that I had a flea on me, I took to undressing while vacuuming, pushing the clothing into the washer. Suddenly, at other inappropriate times my focus switched to search out and destroy the fleas. On one level, I KNEW I had to do what I was doing. On another level, I knew what I was doing was excessive.
Nothing I read made me feel better. I researched more. Cold winters and dry houses don’t kill fleas although they prefer warm, humid weather. I also read that one unchecked adult flea was capable of producing one million descendants in a six-week period.
One day I said to my daughter Niki, “Do I have a flea problem, or a mental health problem?”
My sweet, honest daughter looked into my eyes and confirmed, “You have both.”
Probably sick of my histrionics over the wee bugs, Tammie, my other daughter huffed in exasperation, “Having fleas doesn’t make you less of a person, Mom.”
All I could think was, “I know that, but I want to be a person without fleas!”
Lady Macbeth had an invisible blood spot on her hands from having murdered someone. Trying to scrub away all traces of it she cried, “Out…out, damn spot!” Unlike Lady Macbeth, the thing that is ‘bugging’ me is not my conscience. Fleas are real and might be, right at this moment, invisibly multiplying somewhere in my house. The word, flea, is a four lettered word…one that brings to mind a most filthy, unpleasant reality. “Out…out, damn fleas!”