Blood Poop of the Bed Bugs

James wracked his brain for what to write. He lowered his head behind the computer screen to maybe ram his way through the writer’s block. His monthly deadline was fast approaching and Dad, job, new girlfriend, World Series, marathon training, rock ‘n’ roll, and chocolate milkshakes all needed undivided attention and concentration. While creating his monthly blog was supposed to be fun, he reminded himself of the true purpose behind the doodlings: to praise the Holy Ghost and acquire a writing discipline; to sing the praises of Buddha and gather all my “p” and “q”s; to honor the sacred coyote and set my inner editor on fire. So what subject matter could be tackled for the month of October? He thought of guitars, reincarnation, the invention the single burrito meal, the crack of the baseball bat, hot trapeze sex, and politics…and politics….what a creepshow…wait..wait..October….creepshow…OMG…Halloween!!!!! The idea struck James in the brain with the brunt force of a penny dropped from the heights of the Empire State building. One of James’ enduring loves was the horror genre, from Stephen King to the Cabin in the Woods. Why not try his hand at a small horror story to sacrifice at the altar of bored FB users? The idea excited him so much that he took his computer out as soon as he got home, and did his fingertip stretches. Unfortunately, as he moved his fingers down to the keyboard, he realized that while he had the urge, he still didn’t have a story. He put it all away, coughed a raspy cedar cough, and watched the Giants destroy the Tigers.

The next day he sat in his team meeting contemplating the latest rules and regulations and strong suggestions when somebody mentioned Austin’s great Bed Bug epidemic. A great ball of lightening barreled through the window and struck James with inspiration.

He knew social workers that would hack their way through jungles of bureaucracy to secure services for a client, that would try against all odds to talk someone down, that would run into a burning building to get a release of information, but you mention “bed bugs” and they’re on top of the table bellowing like a wet cat. James understood the fear. He knew that for many years Bed Bugs had slumbered underneath the ground, building back their strength from nearly being vanquished into cute kiddy euphemisms in the forties, and then slowly evolved into a super insect that would not die.  In the mid-nineties, they arose from their slumber to launch their diabolical crusade, and they crossed the crevices of the world in a blitzkrieg of nocturnal bites and stigma. They supposedly had no class bias in who they would destroy, from houses in the Hamptons to housing projects in Dallas, Bed Bugs wanted it all. At least thier non-discriminatory nature was emphasized in a wave of press a few years back. James knew that the entire nation could not possibly experience the numerous bed bug infestations that he saw in the field (which consisted mostly of low-income housing)…anyway…The only possible way to get rid of bed bugs is a heat treatment where exterminators roll in a thermonuclear reactor and microwave your house with extreme heat for a day or so. (a post-apocalyptic war between bedbugs and roaches will probably never occur…though James felt that it would make for a great graphic novel) They do that treatment as you throw the mattress out, wash every single piece of clothing you own in hot water, and shave the cat and dog. And that’s not even a guarantee that your days of scratching bites into scabs is over. Needless to say, they were a social worker’s worst nightmare. A couple of bugs hop the train in your wool coat, and all of sudden you’re waking up with bites all over, your friends won’t return calls, and your wife leaves with the dog. James got home and started writing.

He knew the story would be a breeze. He wouldn’t even have to embellish the bed bugs a great deal; no need to make them “Giant Atomic Bedbugs” when they were already a nightmare to behold.  He would simply start with a character finding a bite, an infestation erupts into being, and then he is slowly overwhelmed by the monsters of the night. Maybe one day he would wake up and find himself so completely covered in Bed Bugs that he can’t see out of his eyeballs. James knew he had a great story, and, in addition to horrifying readers for Halloween, he would also call attention to the great Austin Bed Bug Epidemic.

Research was the first step James undertook in weaving the wordy nightmare.  He spent the entire Saturday in the Austin Public Library going over the various habits and delicacies of the Cimex lectularius.  James combed over thousands of pictures of bed bugs, bites, diseased mattresses, academic entomology papers, Time Magazine, a thousand newspapers,and a couple of microfiche articles. For nine hours, James probed the bed bug like the Greys gave prostate exams, thorough and complete. As James walked out of the library, he decided that one of the most horrifying aspects of the monster was that the creature actually pooped out your blood after he munched on you. In fact, the blood poop of the bed bug was one of the first signs of infestation. So, not only do you wake up with horrible bites, but you are sitting in poop made of your blood as you scratch the itch that seems to grow from the soul. The title of his short story was being handed to him from the golden muse of the library: Blood Poop of the Bed Bug. YES, YES, YES. Maybe all that would be left of his poor infested character would be blood poop on a white sheet. That was true metamorphosis: human to bloody bed bug poop.

James went home and wrote the easiest two thousand words of his life. All he would have to do is add a Misfits video here or there, and his blog would be complete.

He even named the character “James” to give a sense of mystery. He slept well that night, with only occasional twisted dreams of his subject matter. He awoke that morning to sunlight crawling through the window. He dressed, and walked out the front door to work in the great big world. The day started off in Southeast Austin and by lunch he was parked in Pease Park, unwrapping his sandwich. At 12:23 pm, he had his company laptop on the dashboard, going through his latest batch of emails. In the next second, he received a text from a client proclaiming emergency. The second after the text, his phone started ringing with a strange area code on the display. In the third and fourth second from the first, James picked up and lit a cigarette he had bummed from an itinerant minister outside a Starbucks. In the second after that, James glanced down at the gear shift, and saw what he thought (as he would later testify) was a bedbug crawling over the R (for Reverse). He was pretty sure it was the dreaded Cimex, although on several occasions he had witnessed small spiders crawling out of the air conditioning vents. In that fifth second of bedbug terror, James saw his entire life crawl before his eyes: He carries the bedbugs home and they create an infestation, his new girlfriend finds out and will not come over and this leads to tension and finally dissolution, his roommate firebombs his car out of anger, family won’t return phone calls, etc., etc. As this litany of horror passed through the mind of James, his cigarette fell on a small patch of his belly hanging out from his shirt. He threw the laptop out the window in his brief moment of pain. James grabbed his bottle of SUPER EXTERMINATOR from the backseat, jumped out of the car, and the cigarette fell to the grass. The grass took a moment, but eventually caught fire as James was busy spraying chemicals all over his clothes and surroundings. For several seconds, James could have simply stomped out the grass fire, but right as that crucial threshold of time was about to expire, he happened to spray the bug spray into his eyes causing a kind of pain usually reserved for double agents. Several people jogged by before somebody actually called 911 and reported the Pease Park fire. Before the fire trucks arrived on the scene, the fire had taken James’ car, several trees, and was working on a local coffee shop. Meanwhile, James was banging his head against the sidewalk pavement in a mad attempt to desperately kill the burning that penetrated his skull. That was how the great Austin fire of 2012 began (only of a slightly lesser intensity than the Great Chicago fire.) The Governor blamed the social worker. The social worker blamed the bed bugs. The bedbugs blamed the cigarette. The cigarette blamed the dry grass. The dry grass thought about blaming the bedbug (whom it had a certain loathing for) but in the end, blamed the drought, and while the drought knew who the real culprit was, it ultimately went with the wacky Gulf Stream. Happy Halloween!!!!

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