I may be too bold in making this statement, but here goes: We had fleas, “had” being the proper past tense.
“Had” in the sense of having fleas on Monday, and for several weeks before that, but not now. We think. We don’t want to declare “mission accomplished,” ala President George W. Bush when the mission was hardly accomplished.
For a week or two or three, I had noticed small red marks around my ankles, and I did not give them much thought because they were not itching. The weather might have been hot, and these were the bites of some summertime pest. Nothing to worry about. No itch, no foul, to paraphrase a basketball term.
I didn’t mention anything about them. Didn’t seem necessary, it being summer and all when little buggers bite.
We had a cat living with us for some months, and toward the end, she seemed to be scratching more than usual around the ears, and we wondered what might be causing the itching. The agreed-upon reason was dry skin. And Kitty was bathed in an anti-itch, skin-moisturizing solution, something Kitty did not appreciate in the slightest. It seemed to help some.
At about the same time Kitty moved out, my good wife determined what had been left behind were fleas. Add an exclamation mark to that sentence. Fleas!
Ick. What a parting gift.
My good wife was showing evidence of ankle bites, and hers were itching, and any lingering doubts we had about Kitty’s itching vanished: She had fleas, and when she moved, she left plenty behind. My good wife was less tolerant of the bites; the itching became furious.
We were at war.
Sheets, bedding and clothing were washed like never before in an effort, I guess, to drown the bloodsuckers that are the size of an exclamation point. My good wife spent the better part of Saturday while I worked, doing laundry yet again, and sweeping, vacuuming and mopping the house thoroughly.
Yet, the bites continued. All was for naught.
She also bought two packages of flea and tick indoor fogger on Saturday, and I read the directions on the box, and I determined that if I did not do things just right, I would blow up the house. According to my best reading of the ominous instructions, the slightest electrical spark, say, of the refrigerator cycling on, or the fog coming in contact with a pilot light, and kerboom!
I read the directions Saturday and Sunday, and I was not convinced these foggers would work, nor was I convinced the house would survive the fireball. Maybe what I needed to do was to go to Farm & Fleet to see what kinds of chemicals it had for battling flea infestations. Maybe what we needed to do was hire a professional exterminator who would get the job done right and done quick.
Farm & Fleet had a variety of foggers, with the same precautions about sparks and pilot lights. While I was looking over the products, a woman stopped by the same spot in the aisle. I asked her if she had fleas – kind of a personal question – and she said yes, and it was her first time, and she still had the pet, and needed to take a different approach than all-out war.
This was Monday morning, and I bought two gallons of spray in very threatening-looking red containers. When I got them home, I studied the directions, and you had to mist everything with the chemical, and it would kill fleas and eggs on contact.
But the fleas could be anywhere, and out of desperation – I had to do something provocative and fast – I returned to the foggers. It was pushing noon, and my mind was made up. I was going to fog the house, which meant I had to vacate it for two hours while the fogger did its work.
I taped off the door to the laundry room where the pilot lights were, and I unplugged anything electrical that would cycle off and on over the coming two hours.
I gathered up all the sheets and blankets and bedding, and money for quarters at the laundry, to wash the items in hot water, drowning and scalding the fleas. In the meantime, my good wife bought a new set of white sheets – our sheets are dark – to be able to inspect them for fleas after the fogging.
The house did not explode, for which I am eternally grateful. And the fleas seem to be gone. Like I said, we had fleas. Which means we had them in the past, but technically means we still could have them. The tense I am hoping to be able to use is present: Yes, we have no fleas. Mission accomplished?
• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.