I was a dirty little kid. We lived on a farm until I was 8.
We had two dogs; Cassie (looked like Lassie) and Snuffy (an old mutt who came with the farm when we moved in). Both Cassie and Snuffy served as a furry buffet of delight for the swarm of wood ticks living in our meager acreage. It was up to us kids to relieve our four-pawed siblings of their blood sucking tenants. We had a jar, the wood tick jar (I now shudder). One by one we placed the plucked creepers into their clear jail cell. I was taught to pull as close to the dog’s skin as possible, to ensure I would get the whole tick and not just rip off the body leaving the head still embedded in their skin. Sometimes this task was very difficult because the tick had been feasting for so long it had become ridiculously fat and tan colored (I never understood why they changed colors as they got bigger? I assume it was the blood?) so I had to be careful not to make the little guy explode during extraction. Once the jar was relatively full we burned them. Wood ticks, when thrown into a fire, make a little popping sound similar to those small fire crackers that you throw on the ground. Sometimes we would simply dump the whole jar into the fire pit at once and other times we would throw them in one by one or in small groups. The bigger ones were always louder and my brother made sure he got first dibs on the fatties. Often during naps or at night I’d have vivid nightmares of my bed full of crawling wood ticks. Upon waking, and after a significant amount of crying, I’d realize my bed only had the typical dirt or cookie crumbs that naturally cling to a young filthy child.
I bring this up because two nights ago as I pulled my blanket and sheet back two, not one, but two little creepy bugs scuttled about on my sleeping quarters. I immediately stripped the bed and shook out my sheets. But where did they come from? Did my mattress become a host for some exotic jungle flea population!? I couldn’t find any of their friends but regardless I was severely disturbed after turning off the lights and snuggling in. Last night as I opened my armoire (yes I have a wooden armoire in my tin-roofed room) a cockroach the size of a baby’s foot calmly made his way through my clothes and into the back left corner. I didn’t know what to do. The last time I spotted a cockroach in my room I used a piece of paper to shoo it out through my bedroom door, after it went through the hinge crack I slammed the door shut, re-opened it and discovered his sad lifeless body had been crushed from the door impact (apparently the little guy hadn’t quite made it through in time). I honestly felt a little bad. After reading Charlotte’s Web so many times as a kid I’ve always tried to spare the lives of little bugs, spiders and insects (except for mosquitos). So I stared at the corner of the closet and I could see his long pointy antlers moving around. I was too tired to move him and just hoped he wouldn’t defecate on my apparel.
Sleep did not come easily as the rain pounded loudly on the shanty shelter. As I was just about to fall asleep I felt something move under my blanket to the left of my feet. I ignored it and began to drift off until it moved again, this time I could feel the blanket’s weight shift. I jumped up and screamed that high pitched ‘I’m dying’ horror movie melody. I immediately ran for the light switch and cowered near the door staring at the foot of my bed. Nothing stirred. I carefully nudged the blanket a few times and then bravely lifted it up. Nothing! Where the hell did the little effer go!? And more importantly what was it!!!!!? I looked under the bed, empty. I glanced over at the bathroom, nothing except those ugly black worms that crawl everywhere in my room. I stood there, panting for several minutes before deciding whatever it was had found a decent hiding spot. I turned off the light (a little worried that my death screams hadn’t awoken my host family… what if I was really dying?) and crawled as close as I could up to the head of my bed, laying in the fetal position. I awoke only hours later to my host family going about their morning rituals (every day at 4am…. Although usually I sleep right through it). I got up to go pee and saw two more of those little nasty bed bugs from the night before scuttling about my tile floor. I grabbed a shoe and with an, “Eff you Charlotte,” I smashed both of their little brains in.
The days of Cassie, Snuffy and midnight cookie crumbs are looking pretty good right now. At least there aren’t any wood ticks here.