SOCIAL DISTANCING, Chapter 24: In Which I Don’t Let The Bug Bites Get Me Down

By Liz McLeod

Still Your House Manager

“You reek of chemical stink,” frowned Miss Carol T. Cat as I shambled into the kitchen via the back door.

It was almost eleven o’clock at night, and I’d spent the evening out at the Owls Head Transportation Museum screening another presentation for our Strand Drive In Theatre, and it was too late and I was too tired to be reprimanded for my personal bouquet. “It’s bug spray,” I muttered, tossing my mask on the table and reaching into the refrigerator for something to eat. A lone cellophane-wrapped slice of pasteurized-process cheese food seemed to offer the most promise. It was too late and I was too tired to risk interaction with that brown paper bag full of left-over General Tso’s Chicken.  Miss Carol gazed at me with impatient frustration as I peeled the plastic off the cheese slice and methodically folded and refolded it until if formed a small but pliable cube. “Did you know,” I began, “that you can only fold a slice of pasteurized-process cheese food five times before its molecular cohesion breaks down? Try it yourself some time – it’s fascinating.” I dropped the cube into my mouth and chewed without much satisfaction. Eleven o’clock at night is no time for pasteurized-process cheese food. At my age, eleven o’clock at night is really no time for much of anything.

Miss Carol glanced at the stack of cat food cans on the kitchen table, and then flicked her deep green eyes in the direction of her food bowl.  “Do not come too close,” she warned, a hint of claw extending from her raised paw. “Your chemical odor is offensive. Once you have completed your food service obligations, you will immediately remove the residue of your insecticide product.” She didn’t need to tell me that, of course, because I’d have done it anyway. Bug spray goes with drive-in theatres like popcorn and kids in the back seat, but it does have its downside. I’ve gone thru five cans of the stuff since June, and if there’s one thing I know about in this year 2020, it’s bug spray.  But it’s worth the effort, because no matter how many mosquitoes, gnats, and those beetly-looking things with the long antennae show up to crash the proceedings,  the Drive In has given us a chance over the summer to see and interact with our patrons, and to make a lot of new friends for the Strand. It’s worth giving up a few quarts of the old Type O to the mosquito population in exchange for that chance, and though I scratch the night away following every show, let it please be noted that I scratch every bite with gratitude.

But yeah, it doesn’t smell too good, and I can’t wait to scrub off the residue when I get home. There is such a thing as too much Deet, and I have learned, in this trying summer of 2020, exactly what those consequences are. 

Miss Carol intercepted me again as I stepped out of the bathroom, refreshed and ready to hit the sack for the night. She came immediately to the point. “I call to your attention the condition of the bedroom window screen,” she said. “During your absence a large moth entered our establishment, and since you were not present to deal with the crisis thus manifested, I took it upon myself to dispatch the invading creature.  When it lit upon the window screen, I neutralized the winged menace with a single decisive claw stroke. Its remains made for a stimulating mid-evening snack.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Whatever.” Moths I don’t worry about much anymore.  One more hole in the wool blanket isn’t going to make much difference in my life.

“I must inform you, however,” Miss Carol continued, “that in taking action against this interloping specimen of Lepidoptera, it was necessary to cause a significant tear in the window screen. This has permitted the entrance of additional insects, including a large number of Culex Pipiens, which species seems to flourish in the unkempt and overgrown municipally-owned lot behind our domicile. I suggest you call the unacceptable condition of this property to the attention of the appropriate city officials and demand immediate remediation. Threaten punitive legal action if satisfaction is not provided. This usually proves a stimulus. I have secured the telephone numbers of several reputable legal firms from late night television advertisements who might provide the necessary counsel.”

I heard a high buzz around my head, and swatted hard , but too late. I could already feel the itch.

“In the meantime, I suggest that you see to a repair of the window screen at once, “ Miss Carol concluded, turning to lick at her ample haunches. “You will find duct tape in the bottom bureau drawer.”

I would have grumbled “ridiculous fat barrel cat,” but I was too busy trying to get the last drop out of the bottle of calamine lotion.




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