I’d like to talk about fleas. But first I’d like to talk about people. One of the tricky things about being a person is figuring out how to make yourself feel better without hurting yourself. We like to go for the big guns: Sugar! TV! Online shopping! Doritos! Heroin! What we really need are weird, personal, harmless ways to self-soothe. (I’m getting to the fleas, I promise.)
I’m not saying I’ve figured this all out, but I have stumbled on a couple of things. In college I realized that peeing outside was a huge stress reliever. I used to pee behind a palm tree in my co-op yard, hidden in the shadow cast by the street lamp. It was weird, I know, but also primal and reconnecting and effective. I recommend it.
Recently, I realized that combing Squinchy for fleas is also really soothing. It’s the ultimate primate expression of connection and caring, I guess. Squinchy doesn’t have too many fleas, but he does get some and I’ve noticed something about them:
Fleas roam in groups.
I’ll comb most of him and not find any, then find three or four in a clump. I got to wondering what you call a group of fleas. Is it a pack? A flock? A herd? Which led me to wonder — are they grazing or hunting? The answer is either neither or both or something else all together. Kabam! There goes dualism. And I feel so much better. Thanks, fleas.
YOUR FLU SHOT IS WAITING, said the sign outside Bartells, when I drove home from work last Friday. Ha! Who needs a flu shot, I said, through a tickle in my throat. The next day, that tickle was a mild cold. I went hiking. The day after, it was a bad cold. I played Scrabble on the couch. The day after that, it was the full-blown flu, and I slept except when I was blowing my nose or rolling over or groaning. Nate made me tea and drew me a bath and put my pj pants on me like I was a toddler. He rubbed garlic and oil on my feet and put plastic bags and socks on over. The garlic made its mysterious way up through my feet and into my breath, loosening my lungs on its way — my dad’s most folksy cure.
The next day, things got better, and it was like the whole world was new. Tiny things became incredible. I ate a tangerine. Kazam! The perfect orange sweet flesh zing. The rain fell on my hands. It was cold and I didn’t scrunch away from it. Alive!
It’s been quite a month. It began with Nate and me getting desperately mad at each other for a week. Then our house got broken into while we were all at work and my computer and flute and a bunch of other stuff got stolen, including Nate’s awesome gold bolo tie that his grandma made him. Then Nate’s back went out. Then Squinchy gave me a black eye because he heard “jump!” when I said “duck under!” and he jumped over the tire I was hoping he’d crawl through and collided with my face. Then our housemate got sick. Then I got sick. Now Nate is sick. Also, our chickens got worms, and they aren’t laying because they are also molting. I’d like to blame it all on Mercury Retrograde, but that ended a while ago, and anyways, that just may not be fair.
In any case, enough, stars! Enough, October! It’s November now, Mercury is direct, I deep-cleaned my house, and the renter’s insurance sounds like they’ll do us right. So here’s to a new month.
Important Insurance Documents Showing Stolen Flute and Locket. By the way, burglar, were you seven? If not, why did you want my locket?
My brother is disappointed because I’m not being a very friendly moth. “Write something!” he said. “Write something I want to read!”
“Like what?” But he didn’t have very good answers. Luckily, I figured it out: I can write about refrigerators.
Publicity photo for Stars Over Broadway with Jane Froman, James Melton (left), and Pat O’Brien, 1935
We had one. Then on Tuesday, its freezer stopped working. Our homegrown self-slaughtered chickens thawed. The fifteen pounds of berries I’d picked leaked out with the ice into a bloody puddle on the floor. My chocolate pudding ice cream turned into plain old chocolate pudding. Sometimes its easy to forget the fragile balance of life with machines. Sometimes life reminds you.
There we were at midnight, self-diagnosing our refrigerator on Nate’s telephone internet, hauling the fridge out to look at its backside with Nate’s internet telephone turned flashlight. Our diagnosis: call a pro.
Then came a period of what my mom calls “the life of a housewife.” I was personally involved in 23 phone calls and 13 texts on the subject of refrigerators, and that doesn’t include Nate’s calls to the landlord, the landlord’s calls to the repair guys, the repair guys calls to each other, Nate’s calls to appliance stores, or his call to our friend with a truck after the compressor was declared defunct and Nate took it upon himself to get a new fridge that night at Lowes. “Nate’s a doer,” said our landlord, during nearly the last phone call. “He’s a shaker and a – a – I can’t even think of the word.” Which is about right.
Now we have a new fridge! The chickens survived by being little chicken refugees in our neighbor’s freezer. The berry juice mostly came off the floor. I ate my ice cream. My brother has something to read. Something thrilling, right Buddy?
And if you would like to send us a photo of yourself, we’d put it, like my Aunt Buck would say, on our Frigidaire.
Everyone knows about how socks disappear into black holes in the wash. No one, as far as I know, understands how or why this happens. However, I recently have observed something that I feel will add significantly to the scientific study of this phenomenon.
For the past couple of years, I have been doing laundry separately from anyone else’s laundry. During this time, my socks seemed to avoid the vortex of oblivion. Occasionally I would lose an ankle sock, but who really cares about an ankle sock?
Then the strangest thing happened. Nate moved in and we joined laundry. Now he washes and I fold and somehow, socks have begun disappearing. I do not think this is Nate’s fault. We’re talking about a man who is very good at laundry. Did you know that wool socks should not be dried on high? I did not, but Nate did. That is why he washes and I fold. But still, somehow, despite his careful sorting and my careful matching, chaos has inched closer. Is it because of love? Is it because of the low heat setting? These are questions science has yet to answer.