Humans are not at the top of the food chain here. Or, I wanted all the poison.

Last night, something horrible happened. I ran across these two articles and actually, for some reason, read them. This was the equivalent of being alone in a house in a horror movie, hearing a noise in the basement, and (why god why) going to check it out.

You probably have a mind-controlling parasite in your brain, and

You also might have tape worms in there (your brain), too.

If you don’t want to ruin your life by reading the above articles, let me go ahead and reveal the moral of both of these stories:

Poop is gross. Don’t touch it.

Karen Munro asks Roxane Gay about emerging writers, getting your work out there, and all the various cool shit she does in this audio interview at this very cool site, and I have a fan girl brainsplosion at hearing both their voices conversing together cause it’s established that I have a writer-crush on Roxane Gay and I’d like to take this moment to announce that Karen Munro is pretty darn cool, too, and we’ve been published in two of the same journals, which I find awesome. I may play this interview every night as I fall asleep to encourage sweet dreams. It’s like listening to angels. Gay also hands out some good advice about promoting your work and some encouraging words about emerging writers, so if you’re a new or emerging writer, it’s definitely worth a listen.

An acquaintance who I wish I could call my best friend because she’s such a cool person and an amazing writer, Tarfia Faizullah, had this beautiful poem published in Lantern Review a little while ago, “At Zahra’s Salon for Ladies,” and this profile where Tarfia speaks on the process of writing the poem just came out. Both the poem and the process profile are gorgeous. In fact, the process profile is almost a poem, itself:

I wanted to write a poem that could dwell in nostalgia, that could dwell in those first feelings of hunger without fully leaving the present.

I wanted to write a poem that acknowledged the beauty and terror of solitude.

Don’t we all long for a lifetime of sweetness?

Yes, Tarfia. Yes we do.

In other news, I have discovered that here in New Orleans there exists a breed of termites that may or may not eat concrete and the mortar in foundations and between bricks. How terrifying is that. That’s what those round, metal discs are in the sidewalks–a team of pest guys open those up and put special termite bait down there to keep them from undermining the whole city and sinking us into the swamp which so readily waits right below our feet.

Speaking of pests and crazy New Orleans insects, we have determined, through a smattering of bites that appeared on Mr. Claire’s ankles, that our house has fleas. We do not have a pet. We do not have carpet. But somehow the fleas have taken up residence. I am not imagining this, as my roommate thinks I am. I have seen them. They are real.

At first, I was ashamed. I thought only unclean people who are probably also hoarders and have two dozen cats that they don’t bathe got fleas. But I am here to tell you that bad fleas happen to good people. At least in New Orleans they do, because in the summers here humans are not at the top of the food chain. The insects rule the city and the people become food. This is one of the reasons I am excited to be leaving, but that is a topic for another post.

I reacted to the discovery of fleas the way I always react to things like this: abject terror, followed by obsessive research and a crazed killing spree through every means possible besides purification by fire. I only drew the line there because we wouldn’t get the security deposit back if I burned down the house.

This makes me feel like a bad person (I have a fair amount of hippie guilt), but I was not concerned with non-toxic or all-natural methods. If I could have found diatomaceous earth, I would have used it in addition to every other thing I could get my hands on, but I couldn’t.

We had a mouse in the house a month or so back, and at first I insisted we put down humane traps. I was planning to trap it and then get Mr. Claire to drive it to a nice open field somewhere far, far away from the house where it could run free and be happy in the sun and not be a part of my life anymore. But no, it wouldn’t be peaceably removed. We gave it a chance to escape with its life, and it refused. So we did what any animal does when an unwanted creature invades its territory: we killed it. Is that so horrible?

With fleas, there is no humane option. In every scenario, they die. And I wanted them to die. And I killed them by every means possible I could find on the internet. I didn’t care if it was proven or healthy or not. I wanted all the poison.

These means included: obsessive vacuuming, pitching my roommate’s area rug, light traps made of a dish with soapy water and a candle (the fleas are attracted to the heat and light and drown in the water), sprinkling Borax literally everywhere so the house looked like the aftermath of a horrible powdered sugar accident, spiking the bedroom with cedar blocks (I put one between the bedsheets and Mr. Claire found it and was like, “Seriously?”), cutting up flea collars and leaving them under the furniture, two different kinds of spray poisons–the second in an industrial sprayer, ingesting B complex vitamins which supposedly make you un-tasty to fleas, and rubbing Vick’s VapoRub on the feet and ankles because supposedly fleas are repelled by the smell.

Yeah, I know.

Stocking the arsenal at Target. I also found a bra and two cute shirts. Surprisingly, the checkout lady did not bat an eye.

I did everything short of flea bombing the place, because I’m just too lazy to wipe down every surface in my house afterwards, and then we’d all get poisoned and die.

Mr. Claire became alarmed when I began forcing B vitamins on him and offering to rub Vick’s VapoRub on his ankles, but he’s a remarkably good sport when it comes to my temporary insanities. My poor roommate, on the other hand, came home one day to find me chain smoking on the steps outside, Mr. Claire’s long johns tucked into my socks in the 90 degree heat, smelling like a human mentholated cough drop, and by way of greeting I say, “The white powder is supposed to be there. Also, don’t sit on the furniture.”

I found out later that she called my best friend and asked if I was okay, to which the friend apparently replied, “Yeah, just let her do her thing.”

I am a Borax ninja.

Oh, also, in the process of moving all the furniture to vacuum and sprinkle Borax, which I distributed using a Progresso can with holes aggressively punched in the lid, I found a hole in the floor under the armchair. A hole clear through to the ground beneath the house. (The house is raised on blocks cause it’s New Orleans.) I could see daylight. And the ground. How is this shit getting into the house? Mystery solved. I did not have any duct tape, so I covered it with painter’s tape. This is probably not a permanent solution.

The fleas seem to be gone now, but I’m still having phantom itches all over my legs, which leads me to believe I have sustained neurological damage from all the poisons I have coated my house in.

I’m hoping this is temporary and doesn’t trigger a degenerative nerve condition.

I am told I can be a hypochondriac.


One thought on “Humans are not at the top of the food chain here. Or, I wanted all the poison.

  1. Hello, Claire. This is Iris, the Editor of LANTERN REVIEW. I just wanted to thank you for your kind remarks about Tarfia’s poem and process profile; I’m glad you enjoyed them! We are huge fans of hers, over too. 🙂

    And yikes; fleas sound horrible! Hope you were able to eliminate them from your house for good!

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