My daughter, Melissa (name changed to protect identity and relationship), is a college student who lives off campus. The house she is renting is simple, practical and within walking distance to grounds — real estate agents would gush that it has great personality and a pretty face.
But in truth, it’s no different from every other college town rental. Those contracts might as well be signed with the grim reaper’s scythe. Before the ink dries, the house has given up the ghost: doors swell, paint chips, faucets leak, smells emerge and money disappears.
Melissa was home for a recent weekend because she misses me and my MasterCard terribly. She left here after Sunday dinner and called when I expected her to get there, around 8 p.m. Because I have a habit of writing notes when I’m on the phone, I pieced together the following.
8:15 p.m. - Melissa, screaming: “AHHHHH! THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!”
Me: “What’s everywhere?!”
Melissa, through sobs: “THEY’RE HOPPING EVERYWHERE! THEY’RE ON MY BED!”
8:30 p.m. – After I made sure she was safe, but before I was able to translate her sob-screams, I assumed Melissa walked in on a rabbit sleepover. But it was far less cute. The antithesis of cute, actually: Over the weekend, spider crickets had invaded her bedroom. For those fortunate enough not to be acquainted with the critters, here is a scientific description: brown, long-legged, mutant demon. There were so many of them that when she walked across the room to turn on her lamp, she stepped on one. Barefoot.
9:15 p.m. – I stayed on the phone while she walked the aisles of Super Wal-Mart looking for bug bombs and glue boards, which are basically overpriced halved sheets of card stock paper that’s sticky on one side.
9:45 – 9:47 p.m. : She returned to the house; I listened as she yelled and pummeled a cricket that made the fatal mistake of being near a blunt instrument.
9:48 p.m. – Note to self: Replace roommate’s umbrella.
9:50 p.m. – Melissa’s two-week old smartphone hit floor after skating off her sweaty face. Second note to self: Call Sprint to see if they cover damage due to excessive facial perspiration.
10 p.m. – Melissa slid three glue boards into her room using a broom, shuffleboard style.
10:30 p.m. – Stayed on phone as she tried to sleep on the living room couch.
10:35 p.m. – Melissa saw two crickets jump out of her bedroom and into hallway.
10:35:01 p.m. – Melissa decided to sleep in her car.
We talked until she finally fell asleep, around 1 a.m. Five and a half hours later, my cell went off.
Melissa, alert: “I’m going back in. OK, I’m in. I’m walking slowly. I don’t see anything yet. I’m going into my bedroom. Ahhhh, there’s one in the hall! Hold on, I’m getting the umbrella. [Thwack]
Got him. I’m going into my room now.”
Me, on the edge of my pajamas: “This is exciting! Like the Blair Witch Project!”
Melissa: “Not funny. I’m in the room. THEY’RE ALL OVER THE PAPER! I’m going to take a picture to prove it. No, I can’t. [I hoped her inability to take a photo was emotional and not mechanical – see 9:50 p.m.] I’m going to count them – one, two, three, four ... there are 22!” I told Melissa I’d take the day off and drive down to help “take care of business.” Every mile brought me closer to her house, and to my inner Terminator. By the time I reached Melissa’s local Wal-Mart, I left her this gruff, two-word voice mail: “I’m here.” [The Terminator talks like that] I kept my sunglasses on while stocking up on weapons, which included insecticide and Smirnoff Ice. One was the stick; the other, the carrot. Warning: the dialogue gets more hackneyed.
I got to her house and immediately told her to “spray the outside perimeter while I do recon inside.” Turning to her room, I muttered, “Party’s over, boys” — the crickets were stunned by my intimidating swagger – and the bug bomb Melissa’s roommate set off earlier.
After turning her room upside down, I put down fresh glue boards and a container of Damp Rid. Then I gave Melissa the all’s clear signal — she cried with appreciation. It’s been years since she truly depended on me, and I shamefully thanked the vile insects for letting me be her hero.
My parting words: “I’ll be back.”
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