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to be read to the tune of pink floyd’s “animals”

I’m wondering if I name my fleas, if we can come to an accord in which they stop sucking my blood. I’ve killed one, and spotted another, but it got away. They can’t be squished. They have to actually be captured, and skewered with a fingernail until the blood that they’ve extracted squirts out of them and stains my finger. They’re living in my bed. Pulling back the sheets every night, I look for them, stripping my blankets of little bits of black fuzz in a vain attempt to catch another and send a message to their leader that I’m not worth sucking on. I slide into bed to read, or write, and I imagine the fleas waking up, stretching their little jumpy legs, and rubbing their microscopic hands together in anticipation of the feast ahead. “Hello fleas.” I am resigned. “Bon appétit,” I say as I pull the blankets to my chest. Do flea collars work on humans? I’ve seen a few dogs with blue plastic-y accessories. Someone else suggested making a mix of lime and boiled water, letting the limes steep overnight, and then rubbing myself down with the citrusy liquid before getting into bed. Fleas hate lime. Who knew? Difficult to try, though, without arousing the curiosity of and subsequently offending my host family. I can imagine the conversation. “What are you doing, Susana?” “Oh, nothing…it’s an old family recipe for the skin…” Right. I’ve heard that fleas can’t breed on humans. And my family doesn’t have any pets. So how are there fleas in my bed? Horsehair mattress, perhaps? I can’t tell if anyone else in the family suffers from the little parasites. I seem to be the only itchy one. Perhaps they’re immune, or inured, and simply don’t notice the bites.

Speaking of animals.
“Do you know how to kill a duck?” Feliciana ducked into her neighbor’s doorway. “No? Ya, mami, gracias.” She giggled, and soft-shoed down the cobbled path to the next house, Estefani, her daughter, trailing behind with the panicked, unlucky ducky, and I (and my camera) trailing after Estefani. “Si? Ya, mami, gracias,” There was a flurry of feathers as Estefani transferred the duck into the hands of the señora with the stick. The señora laid the duck’s head on the dirt floor of the cook shack. I could hear cuys chirping in the shadows. The body she grasped with both hands, and Feliciana placed the stick over the duck’s neck. “Ya, listo.” The señora stepped on the stick with one foot on either side of the duck’s head, and pulled. Wings flapped, in vain, and the rose-colored beak struggled to open and draw air through a crushed windpipe. “Ya esta.” It is done. Feliciana thanked the señora, collected the limp but still twitching body, and shuffled quickly back down the path to her mother’s cook shack. Water was already boiling over the wood stove, and Feliciana plunged the duck into the water, head first. Careful not to burn her fingers, she pulled the body back out, dropped it into a plastic bucket, and began pulling feathers. White down stuck to her hands and knees and drifted in the air like ashes. Soon the white gave way to yellowish pink, thick skin pocked with stubble. The clean, white, quacking duck was quickly reduced to a carcass hanging in the butcher’s window. Without its feathers, it was suddenly just a piece of meat. Raw. Undignified, inanimate. My sympathy kept trying to revive the struggling, snowy animal that had been picking at grains in the courtyard only a few minutes earlier, but the animal was gone, and lunch was in two hours. Time to get cooking.

1 comment to to be read to the tune of pink floyd’s “animals”

  • Gasp! Poor ducky, but of course I’m curious to know what type of duck dish was cooked.
    And I’m sorry about the fleas. If there’s anything that could quite possibly drive me to insanity, it’s thousands of biting insects and no defense. Go get some limes!!!
    Miss you.

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