June 22, 2018

Al Martinez ... On Everything Else: Fleas, Ants, Rattlesnakes and Rats, Oh My!­­­


We killed a rattlesnake in our yard last week but that wasn’t the end of it. Well, it was the end of the rattlesnake all right but not the end of the creatures that have been invading our premises since the weather started heating up. As Desi Arnez used to say, let me ‘splain.

It all began when my wife, the expressive Cinelli, began scratching. I personally find comfort in scratching because I perspire a lot, causing an itch that must be eased. I scratch and I hum when I walk down the street, which creates the peculiar impression of one playing a non-existent guitar.

Cinelli, on the other hand, has no tolerance for scratching. “We have fleas,” she declared one day, showing me little red bumps on her arms and back. It was a declaration not unlike a bugle call to arms. “The fleas,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur might have declared in stentorian oration, “must die.”

She had every bed and couch in the house stripped and sprayed with a noxious mist, and then applied it to areas under the table, behind every picture and throughout our rear utility room. The fleas, thank you Jesus and L. Ron Hubbard, fled.

But wait, as the hucksters who sell Kaboom on television like to say, there’s more. When the fleas departed, the ants came marching in.

I have to tell you that nothing invades Cinelli’s kitchen and gets away with it. Doing so is not unlike Picasso finding cockroaches in his ecru. She is a culinary artist and the kitchen is the easel upon which she creates wonders. Even I, the Bard, am allowed in only occasionally.

I don’t like ants either, and when Italians and Basques unite in expressing mutual revulsion toward insects that pop up in their sugar bowls or floating in their martinis there is one hell of a ruckus in the house. It registers on seismographs and causes Lucy Jones to call press conferences.

We sprayed, we powdered, we staked and we lined the outer perimeter of the house with toxins, causing the ants to keel over on their backs, twitching and jerking until they died. Exit the ants, stage left.

Then came the rats. Actually they had been there all along, scratching and chewing somewhere in the walls or under the house, just beyond the reach of our three manic cats. Rats are as much a part of Topanga as hemp lobbyists and past life regressionists, but if we could get rid of them we would. Oddly, Cinelli won’t kill rats even though they united with their fleas in the 14th century to cause the plague. She thinks they have cute little ears.

Instead, she sets out Have a Heart traps in the utility room intended to capture the living rodents in a cage, after which we are expected to transport them to open fields where, one suspects, they can romp and sing until a raptor swoops out of the sky and eats them. I like that part.

The most recent annoyance was the presence in our yard of that rattlesnake. They, too, environmentalists will say, should be captured and released in sunny open fields, or at least stuffed into the mailbox of someone you don’t like. We called 911 instead and, at our request, a Fireman killed it.

I don’t know what will come crawling or hopping or slithering next into our lives, bed bugs maybe or a poison-resistant hybrid that will sneak up your nose or into your ears while you’re sleeping. Don’t sweat it too much, that’s just Topanga for you. Tell them to bug off and go back to sleep.