14.1.10

Fleas

Instead of editing, I've been playing.  This is what I played:



Fleas

The flea infestation had become problematic.  The bites were giving Sugar a fever.  It didn’t help that she was scratching all the time, either.  Warren told her not to scratch so much, but she couldn’t help it.  It was easy for him to say, they weren’t biting him – which was a sore subject.  Sugar was sure that he was doing something to keep them from biting him – something he wouldn’t share with her. 

They’d tried everything to get rid of the damned things.  Bombs, sprays, carpet shampoos, exterminators.  And every attempt only seemed to make the bastards stronger.  By the time the exterminator came for the third time, there was an army of super-fleas colonizing the house. 

They couldn’t figure out where they’d come from in the first place.  Sugar was allergic to anything with fur, so they’d never had any kind of pet, at least none that a flea would be interested in.  They had some fish for a while, but the tank cracked while they were in Mobile for Warren’s ex-sister-in-law’s wedding.  The water had drained out over the course of the five days they were gone and they came home to a smelly mess of dead fish and mildewing carpet.  Irrefutable evidence that the neighbor kid, Tim, hadn’t been earning his fish-sitting money.  They got rid of the smell finally, but the mildew that had formed under the legs of the tank stand left stains that hadn’t ever quite come out.  At any rate there was nothing for a flea to want. 

Sugar had taken to spending every possible moment on the patio.  Warren went out with her most of the time, but he wanted to be able to live in the house they’d looked for for so long.  Sugar was covered in bites.  The allergic reactions got worse by the day.  She could barely stand it.  Between spending all her waking hours on the patio and her sleeping hours in the bathtub, she was ready to scream.  Finally, after the fourth round of pesticide had had time to marinate, and the fleas weren’t gone, Sugar was tottering on the precipice, ready to go over the edge. 

Sugar told Warren one morning that she didn’t know what to do and that they might have to move.  He’d told her that there had to be another solution.  She’d told him that if he didn’t come up with something she was going to a hotel until he did.

But then Sugar had a stroke of genius.  She came in from work and, as the tiny beasts accosted her, she decided it was really the only thing to do.  She took off her clothes, covered herself in Off! and plastic wrap and started to peel up the carpet.  The attack began in the entryway.

Warren got home to find a pile of carpet and pad on the front lawn.  When he got inside, Sugar was in the middle of the living room with two fistfuls of carpet and blood running down her arms.
    
“Jesus, Shug!  What the hell are you doing?  You’re bleeding for Christ’s sake!”
    
“I know.  I cut the shit out of my hands on some of the carpet staples, but it’s okay.  It’s not really that bad.”
    
“You’ve lost your mind, you know that, right?”
    
“I can’t take it anymore.  I really am losing my fucking mind.  It’s torture.  The weight of one more flea on my skin will send me around the bend.”
    
“But, god, this seems a little extreme.”

“I’m not kidding, Warren.  I’ll lose it.  I’m this close,” she held her hand up with her thumb and index finger almost touching to show how close.  “Besides, the carpet got ruined when the goddamned fish tank broke.  We would have had to replace it eventually, so why not just do it now?”  She was looking deranged and her voice had reached a fevered pitch.  “And why are you fighting me on this?  I have lived with this for months.  You don’t understand.  You don’t have a single bite.”
   
“Okay, okay.  Calm down.”

“Calm down?  You are such an asshole.”  She was talking through clenched teeth, and flexing her fists around the wads of carpet.  “I’ve been calm.  I’ve been a fucking jewel and you haven’t done a goddamned thing!  You don’t care?  Fine.  But don’t fucking tell me to be fucking calm.”  She stomped past him, pushing him out of her path on her way out the door to get rid of the carpet in her grip.

“I’ll help you.”  He told her as she came back through the door.  He figured she was probably right, and his guilt about not getting bitten had been amplified when he saw his wife bleeding and crazed.
    
“Don’t bother.  Just get out of my way.”

“No.  I want to help.”  He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.  Sugar didn’t answer, just went back to ripping carpet up.  Warren started in another area without saying anything else.
    
Between the two of them they cleaned the house out before dawn, pad and all.  But the work wasn’t done there, at least not as far as Sugar was concerned.  The furniture had to go, too.  Warren made the mistake of leaving her alone to take a shower.  When he got out, he discovered all the beds in the house were missing.
    
“Sugaaaar!” he yelled down the stairs.  No answer.  He yelled again.
    
Sugar couldn’t hear him.  She was in the back yard ripping the upholstery off the furniture.  The plastic wrap had been discarded from around her body as she took great pleasure in the knowledge that there would be no place left for a flea to hide.  Warren caught a glimpse of her out the bedroom window and ran down the stairs and through the living room. 

He was so caught up in trying to stop her that he didn’t notice that the screen on the slider was closed and he ran through it.  He knocked the door off the track and ripped the screen out of the frame.  To make matters worse he caught his foot on his way through and fell forward.  He put his hands out to break his fall, hit the now bare sofa frame and pushed it across the patio.  It hit Sugar in the backs of the legs and she flew forward into the pool, taking one of the chairs with her.
    
“Oh holy shit!” Warren yelled as he regained his footing.  He ran to the edge of the pool as Sugar surfaced, choking.  “Oh hon, I’m sorry.”  Sugar just glared at him, rejecting his offered hand.  “Really.  I am sorry.  And I’m sorry about the fleas, but do you really think that stripping down the furniture...”
    
Sugar cut him off, “Say one more word, Warren, and I will burn down the house with you in it.”
    
Warren held up his hands in a gesture of surrender and backed away.  He disappeared into the house and Sugar didn’t go looking for him.  By noon, she had finished un-upholstering the furniture, ordered new carpet and beds and took a shower.  Then she waited for the new beds to arrive and the upholsterers to come take the furniture frames away.
    
Warren had slept in the tub for a couple of hours and then sneaked off to work.  He arrived home to find that new carpet had been installed (at what cost he didn’t want to know), and new beds had replaced the contaminated ones.  Sugar was asleep on the new mattress in the master bedroom.  Warren let out a small sigh, hoping the storm had passed, and went to the kitchen.

********
    
After three months, things around household had mostly returned to normal, although things between Warren and Sugar were still chilly.  Sugar still hadn’t quite gotten over his bitelessness, but the house was back together and Warren was sure in another month or so everything would be fine.
    
But then Sugar’s allergies flared up.  They got so bad while she was at work one day that she decided to go home at lunchtime and get her medicine.  When she opened the garage she was surprised to see Warren’s car there.  As she opened the door into the house she heard a door upstairs shut and then Warren was in the kitchen with a caught look on his face.
    
“Hey, sweetie, what are you doing home?”  He sounded weird, too.
    
“I came to get my pills.  Why are you acting so weird?”
    
“What do you mean?”  Warren’s voice got squeaky.
    
“Is someone here?”
    
“Are you accusing me of something?”
    
“I’m asking you a question. Should I be accusing you of something?”  Sugar walked past Warren and headed upstairs.  Warren followed her so closely he nearly bumped into her.  Sugar opened the closed bedroom door and found a cat – the ultimate betrayal.
    
“Oh. My. God.  You.  You let the fleas in.  And you never told me.  Were you trying to make me crazy?  The least you could have done was confess that you did it.”  She pulled the door closed again and stood, facing Warren, with her hand on the knob.
    
Warren was a little scared of how calm Sugar sounded.  “I wanted to tell you.  I really did, but I only let the cat in once before – and it was an accident - and I really thought we’d just get rid of them, but when they didn’t go all the way away, it had been too long.  Then they were only biting you – it snowballed.”
    
“Let’s ignore the fact that you watched like a pathetic helpless bystander while I was bitten, to the point of near insanity, by fleas that you let in the house.  Ignore the fact that you let me sleep in the tub for months without taking any responsibility.  Let’s focus on the cat.  The reason I was always so puzzled about the origin of the fleas was because we’ve never had a fuzzy animal because, and I cannot stress this point enough, I’m deathly allergic to fur of all kinds.  My throat is beginning to close right now just by being proximate to this creature.”  She rattled the doorknob to indicate the cat.  “You’ve just contaminated my sleeping space.”  Sugar cracked her neck and looked at Warren, who remained mute.  “Apparently you don’t consider me important enough to even answer.”
   
“I’m sorry.  I just always had a pet and I miss it.  And then this cat started hanging around and I felt sorry for it.”
    
“You felt so sorry for a cat that you could lie to me and disregard my wellbeing?  And now?  Is it in there spreading a new batch of fleas around?”  But she didn’t wait for an answer.  She released the cat from the room and started packing.
    
“Wait.  We can work this out.  I know we can.”  He didn’t sound very convincing, though.
    
“Maybe we could have worked it out, but you clearly care more about a pet than a wife.  It’s worked out.  Things weren’t great before the fleas and they’ve only gotten worse.  I think we both knew it was only a matter of time.”  She held up her arm to show Warren a new flea.  “See?  It’s already started again.”  After half a minute of folding she stopped, “Wait.  Why the hell am I packing?  You get out.”  Then she stormed out of the room.
    
She was on the phone with the exterminator when Warren struggled down the stairs with two large suitcases.  When she heard the trunk shut in the garage, Sugar went to the door and leaned on the frame.  The cat was lingering around, trying to get inside again.
    
“Don’t forget your cat.”
    
Warren looked at her with narrowed eyes then said, “Come here.”  He leaned down.  “Come here, Sugar, kitty.”
    
Sugar didn’t bother to slam the door behind her.

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