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Story pick: When bugs take over


The Acme Miniature Flea Circus in 2007. Photo by James M. Thresher/The Washington Post

I remember the first flea. Or maybe it was a family of fleas. All I know is they were hungry, really really hungry.

I was a teenager, sleeping hard in that way I can only sometimes still do, where nothing – not passing cars, not blaring televisions, not crying babies – can wake me. So the fleas that night were free to feast in peace. It was only after I woke up the next morning that I noticed the evidence of their banquet, dozens of tiny raised bumps across my body, each itching with its own intensity.

From there, it only got worse. Days turned into weeks and their flea family grew to the point where I could see their tiny black bodies jumping up and down in my bed like menacing flecks of dust.

The whole time, I blamed my mother.

I knew she didn’t mean to bring fleas home. But she worked as a code enforcement officer, a job that required her to walk through cluttered backyards and neglected fields, where owners let their grass grow above the knee. My theory: A rebel flea must have hitched a ride on her clothes into our house and in my bed. (Bugs have always liked me. At barbecues, no one will see a mosquito until I arrive and then exposed legs and arms will start showing the red welts of their presence, mine usually being the first).

I am not sure how long it took before we killed them all. But I know that I, without guilt, squished each and every one I saw.

The author of this recent Esquire piece was much more merciful.

It’s a great read from the subhead – “You think it'd be impossible to share your house with your wife, your daughter, and fifty million or so Argentine ants. And you would be correct” -- to the ant horror stories. Here’s one of my favorites:

When the historic rains came to Georgia last September, the ants came with them; my office leaked freshets, and on the freshets floated fist-sized balls of ants protecting their terrible brood. That was a pretty bad ant story. But there's always an ant story worse than the story before, so here is another one: A few months ago, in late winter, I was working late in my office. I hadn't noticed any ants on the windowsill, so I placed my water bottle there, neglecting to fold down the straw. A few minutes later, I took an absent swig.
Reader, I drank them.


By Theresa Vargas  | July 30, 2010; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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