Janet was in her room when she began to feel prickles all over her body. I must have some kind of disease, she thought. She went to wrongdiagnosis.com. It was a great site to learn reasons for one’s complaints. She typed in her symptom. Nothing came up under prickles. Janet gave up. Whatever it was, it’d go away.
But it didn’t. The prickles grew harsher and painful.
Her best friend, Dana, was the first to understand. “Janet,” she said, “You have fleas. Wash between the cracks in your hard wood floors. That’s where they like to hang out.”
Janet mopped assiduously, but the fleas did not go away. In fact, they were everywhere and it was unbearable to be in the house. She bought six cans of flea extinguisher and shooed the kids outside. She took them all to the park and stayed four hours. When they returned Janet opened the windows to clear the air of the chemical odor. She then took the clothes they had worn and threw them in the washer. Take that, fleas, she thought,
But it didn’t work. Sure, some fleas died, but others seem in a hurry to replace them. She called a number of pest control companies. For around $125.00 one claimed it could come out and kill them.
When they came she asked, “Can you do the car?” she asked, “They’re in there, too.”
She went in the house an hour later to claim victory. She found dead, little flea bodies stuck to the walls, particularly in her room. She was relieved. They were vanquished.
But the fleas weren’t defeated. The harsh bites continued. They liked to attach Janet’s scalp in particular. She scratched her head so often it appeared that she had lice. Janet looked up flea on the internet and stared at the ugly, little creature. I hate you, she thought, what purpose do you serve in life? Why did God even create you?
She returned to the yellow pages and found a powerful sounding company called Fleabusters. She called them and described her situation to a sympathetic agent.
The other company killed the older, adult fleas,” the customer service representative explained. “You have to kill them in an earlier stage before they lay eggs. Our product will do that.”
“How long will it take?”
“What are we supposed to do in the mean time!”
Go into each room and turn on the sweeper. The vibrations will attract them. But run out as soon as you turn it on, so you are not attacked.”
Their fee was $500.00 dollars. Janet winced. She was three months behind on the mortgage, and didn’t see how she would catch up. But, the fleas were biting hard, and Janet caved in.
Meanwhile, the eggs keep hatching.
The man from Fleabusters came to put down some powder. “Don’t worry about your children. It’s non-toxic.”
“How could something like this happen?”
“Fleas can live in their larva state for years. Vibrations awaken them. Has anyone been doing construction in the area?”
“My neighbor,” Janet said.
“By the way, I’d change my clothes if I were you.”
“You’re dressed all wrong.”
“What’s wrong with my clothes?” Janet looked down at her jeans and blouse.
“They are light colored. Fleas are attracted to light colors. Put on something dark. Besides, you’re already a target because you’re a woman. They prefer women and children over men.”
The man from Fleabusters sounded so knowledgeable that Janet stopped worrying about the fleas. The problem would be solved in six weeks. All she had to do was endure the bites a few weeks more.
Eight weeks later the fleas were still there. Janet and the kids wore long sleeved shirts in the summer to hide their flea bites.
The day she took a shower and found a drowned flea on the soap, Janet decided it was impossible to live in the house.
She began to look around. She found the perfect home not far away and began to collect and fill boxes. Dana’s cousins, Solomon and Ramiro, came to help her. They worked hard and it was over in ten hours settling, once and for all, the problem of the fleas.
The family moved to a small apartment a mile away from where they had lived before. Janet stopped paying her mortgage and began paying rent, letting the house go into foreclosure.
Six hours after she was in the apartment, Janet felt prickles.
“No!” she screamed, tearing up the yellow pages. “I can’t take any more.”
She called Dana and asked about apartments in her building. There was one available. Dana vouched for her with the landlord and the landlord accepted her as at tenant. Janet skipped out on her rental contract and moved the family into Dana’s building. They left behind their furniture and clothes.
Janet was tense in the new apartment and kept waiting for prickles to start. None came, but for months she wore dark clothing.
Written by: Nomi LironNomi writes: "I live in the Bay Area of California. I mainly write flash fiction but am also working on a novel. My stories have appeared in Powder Burn Flash, Dew on the Kudzu, The Linnet’s Wings, Flashshot, Soft Whispers and Shoots and Vines."