Yesterday's Magazette

8 – Fleas In Summer

Fleas In Summer

By Amy D. McNutt

My parents, brother, sister, and I arrived at Grandma Iva’s and Grandpa George’s after midnight in the height of summer in the south. Heat and humidity do not seem to care what time it is, keeping their grip on your skin much like the persistent mosquitoes.

The house was not big, but big enough to accommodate Grandma and Grandpa. The living room and kitchen were, essentially, one big room with a piece of trim dividing it by the refrigerator. The living room portion had a brown, shaggy carpet that looked as though it had never been cleaned in its fifteen years of being underfoot.

Grandma greeted us at the door in her tall jolliness of two-hundred pounds. Her grey and silver hair was pulled back into a bun, her tortoise shell, wide-rimmed plastic glasses setting off her green-gold eyes. The largeness of her swaying cotton gown wrapped each of us as she said, “Come give Gram-ma some sugar,” like a pure Arkansan.

Although late, or early, depending on how you see things, Mom and Dad accepted the invitation to sit up a bit longer to chat. It had been several months since my dad had seen his mother. All three of us kids were ready to go to sleep but we climbed onto the couch to lean on our parents, sleepily waiting for the cue to go to bed.

Only a few moments on the couch passed before my legs began to itch, and I scratched intently. Like a virus spreading through the room, one-by-one we all caught the itch and were scratching like mad. That is, all of us except Grandma, who had decided to Nair her legs in a washbasin in her living room while we chatted. Besides the stroking of Grandma’s hands up and down on her hairy, then magically shiny, legs, my dad noticed other movement in the room as he skillfully pinched something from one of my legs.

“Mama ….” He looked confused. “Do you have fleas in your house?”

“Oh, yes,” she calmly answered. “I just don’t know how those got in here. Maybe from George’s ole dog pen out back.”

“Mother, maybe it would have been a good idea to tell us about the fleas before we got here to stay with you. Don’t you and George find it difficult to sleep this way?”

“Oh, I guess we’re just used to it,” she said with a sigh.

My parents snatched us three up and set us on the kitchen countertop. One by one, my dad scrubbed our legs with soap and cool water. When he asked for some towels, Grandma told him to help himself to the drawerful in the kitchen. Reaching in, he pulled out a handful of men’s briefs. Shaking his head in confusion he said, “Uh, Mom, your kitchen towels look like men’s underwear.”

“Oh, no, honey, those are my towels. I use them to wash my dishes too. George never throws them away when he’s worn them out.”

Every bit a loving son, my dad responded, “Mother, do you have any towels I can use to dry off my kids?”

She smiled as she retrieved towels from the bathroom. “Sure, son.”

We dried off quickly. Dad thanked her and we all exited the door in the kitchen, out onto the carport as not to wade through the flea farm thriving in her carpet. My dad kindly explained that we would stay with other relatives until the fleas were gotten rid of. We hugged Grandma and loaded into the van. She tearfully waved goodbye.

More tired than ever, Dad maneuvered our van down the pitch-black, two-lane country highway. Arriving at our destination, we were never happier to see my other grandparents’ house appear out of the treeline. Pulling in, our van’s headlights lit up the large two car garage, whose door was dependably open at all hours, showcasing a large red stop sign hanging on the far wall.

Not only were there no fleas at Nanny’s and Papa’s house, clean blankets and pillows awaited us. I wiggled into the soft pallet I made on the living room floor, thinking about how, in a few hours, I would hear the rooster crow.

*Amy has compiled a short book of essays entitled Caterpillar Pie: Sweet and Lumpy Memories from a Midwestern Girl.

Vol. 37 No. 2 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Summer- 2010


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