Our Tiniest Tenants

Some fear them. In Houston, we frame them.

I’m sitting here trying not to have what Far Side cartoonist so aptly called a cumulative attack of the willies. [The cartoon showed the janitor at the zoo in total meltdown mode when, after years of mopping up in the reptile house, the willies finally get him. Gary Larson, by the way, has done a bang-up job of keeping his cartoons off the interwebs!]

I’m listening to our tiniest tenants trying to claw their way into the kitchen, and distracting myself by thinking about the amazing tales of plague and infestation we shared at dinner last night.

  • One intrepid friend with two small children and a husband off fighting the war was delighted, as an amateur bird watcher, to have these beautiful birds in her yard. Which turned out to be starlings, not a bird most watchers appreciate, and one she ceased to appreciate when their nest filled her eaves and infested her 4-month-old’s bedroom with bird mites. Fortunately, her pest guy had a 24-hour cell phone number. It turns out, bird mites only like avian blood, so you just have to guide them, as the pest guy said, “to the bright light.” Meaning not heaven but the outdoors.
  • One friend, living on the edge of the fourth ward when rows of shotgun houses were being demolished to make room for 21st century shotgun houses with bad air flow upscale townhouses, turned on the light one night to discover a floor crawling with hundreds of field mice looking for a new home. She coped by moving out.
  • One friend set up her water-bed in her home in the California desert. (Not in the desert, but you know, in a dry part of the state, a climate condition it is hard for those of us in humid Houston to imagine, but I trust her.) She awoke covered in a swarm of ants delighted to have discovered a new source of the precious elixir of life. You know how you get sand in every part of your body when you go to the beach . . . ?
  • I recounted the horrible night in the mid-90s when, after the neighbors had tented their house to rid it of some horrible wood-boring insect, my garage apartment had what some delusional fools call palmetto bugs but I know to be EXTRA LARGE TREE ROACHES dropping into my bedroom from every crack, crevice, and vent. I valiantly fought them off with the only spray bottle of product I had in my home, which was unfortunately not bug spray, but a bottle of Aveda Brilliant Emollient Finishing Spray that I’d liberated from the Mirabella product closet on a trip to NYC. In my freaked-out state, I figured spraying the bugs with something, even if it was a lavender-scented rice bran-based hair product, was better than nothing.

When it got cold a few days ago, squirrels moved into the southwest corner of our attic. I haven’t seen them or anything, but I’m fairly certain they are there. I hear them during the day.

I’m listening now to something in the wall between our bedroom and kitchen, and it is dark out, which means, I am afraid to say, rats. I’d like to say mice or raccoons, but let’s be honest. Rats.

I know that, since we live in a pier and beam house, we get tiny illegal sub-lessors every time it gets cold. Doesn’t make it any easier sitting here listening to the scratching and almost fluttering sounds. There’s no evidence they are coming inside, and that fact, along with the incredible strength of my girlfriends who managed not to melt down too much while we told our stories of plague and pestilence last night, is preventing me from running back to bed.

For now.

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2 Responses to Our Tiniest Tenants

  1. Anneliese says:

    Ugh. Now I’ve been reminded of the possum-raccoon death match that went on five feet above my head the last night I spent in my Heights house. No way I’m going back to sleep now.

  2. matt says:

    hey anneliese: who won?

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