Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Aroostook County, Maine

I came back home to find a house infested with fleas. It's our fault, really—not for the fleas but for the mice, and not really for them either but for the cat, which was left out to become feral and live in a truck. Which didn't work to keep the mice away. Mice are the reason we adopted him in the first place, less than a year ago. It's the reason why, catless, we had fleas last summer—we'd catch one mouse, and the next would move in, bringing with it its own troop of fleas.

So I was unsurprised to find a mouse dead between layers of crocheted afghan on my second day back. It was big, too, bigger than the tiny field mice with tails as twice as long as their bodies, the ones that generally move in. I thought it was dead because of the clouds of methoprene I'd sprayed on everything for the swarming fleas. I kid you not. I could see them squirming on the kitchen floor.

The mouse was big, with a big belly, and the next night the cat caught three baby mice in a row, in the same spot, and ate them all, nose to tail. I was told, later, that I should have snatched them away and bashed their heads in. I was cowering in horror in the back part of the house. However strong my fear of being a girly girl, I hate mice.

So the fleas are driving me to depression, and new appreciation for the quotidiana of medieval life. One day, I thought to myself: if they're like that here now, we're going to have to start preparing for black plague. (One should assume by now that I will correlate any entomological shift to climate change.) That same day, driving to the store for yet another chemical (I'm on my fifth), I heard there's a case in Kyrgystan. Black plague. The first in twenty years. Probably from fleas.

Fleas also bring a form of shame. It's not the shame that comes with bedbugs or lice, but it's pretty close. It's the same feeling as when you find mouse turds in your condo--everyone leaves bread in the bread box, fruit on the counter, dry pasta in the cupboard—but suddenly your doing so is a condemnation: you! You there! You're not clean enough! Do you see the way you live? It's disgusting.

And that empty popcorn bowl that you leave for morning becomes a scarlet badge.

So the last week has been a bit depressing for me. But the fleas—and grief about the things I have lost, still—and grief at leaving this place for an uncertain expanse of time--and leaving now, with summer's end in full bloom, giant crickets jumping away from the weeds around the back step, echinacea with drooping purple heads, yellow jerusalem artichoke named for the sun and smelling of honey and love, burdock beginning to tangle, and sugar maple beginning to turn—all of it is breaking my heart.


Emily said...

Wow MJ there is big change in your life. Have yall recovered from the boat capsizing? Where is Shadow now?
Listen with your inner senses to the messages from the universe, and relax.

Red Sonia said...

I love this story and your ability to share it! The mouse is alive in my head and flees and the sense of uncertainty within the space and time. So powerful to witness you living life!

Barb said...


Dan has tried to contact you with no success. From your blog, I can see what a scary experience you've had. I hope you are okay and safe wherever you are. Writing group has started up again, and we are missing your voice. I have a feeling you may not be in the area. Please get in touch if you can. Barb

Melissa Jenks said...

Hello all--I guess maybe I am still recovering and Shadow is with K in MA. I'm okay, but life is still fairly discombobulated--Barb, I've been meaning to contact Dan and make plans to come back to writing group. A lot going on, but I'll let you know.