The Bed Bug Chronicles Parte The Seconde

…in which we continue our woeful tale of The War of the Bed Bugs.bed-bugs

The Big Shot Professional exterminator made off with my infested camping cot and 200 shekels (approximately 65 US Dollars), leaving me with a completely empty apartment…or was it?  I strongly suspected that in folding up said cot, he had dumped some unwanted guests onto the quarry stone floor.  There were deep gaps between the quarries, which could harbor anything.

So I got out the bleach.  In Israel we don’t have wimpy 1% sodium hypochlorite bleach like we do in America.  We have 5%, which burns through rubber gloves, shreds clothing, and makes your eyes water as soon as you open the bottle.

I dumped enough into a bucket of water to kill anything, or so I thought, and swilled it around the stone floor, letting it fill the cracks between the stones.  Then I turned on the fan and got out of there.

After a severe coughing spell that threatened to activate my stress incontinence, I ambled over to my favorite coffee den in the Shuk to think things over and decide what my best course of action was.  Actually, my choices were few and none.  I couldn’t go back to Ron’s, seeing that he was also infested; and I really couldn’t visit myself on any of my other friends because of the risk of contagion: the little beasts conveniently travel in the seams of your clothes, the soles of your shoes–not to mention your luggage.  Damn, I was stuck.

I hit upon one good idea: the apartment came with a flat tarred roof that extended over three buildings.  I had access to it via an Arab-built wooden ladder that my landlord, a contractor, had doubtless saved from one of his many construction projects.  In Israel, the construction industry is almost exclusively run by Arabs. Instead of scaffolding they often use purpose-built ladders, which are abandoned, in many instances, after they are no longer needed.  They are sturdily built, reminding me of the ladders that the Pueblo Indians use for getting up and down the levels of their dwellings.  Mine was perfect for getting up to the roof.

There are two things that reliably kill bed bugs: dry heat above 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and prolonged freezing temperatures.  So after my coffee I went next door to the variety store and bought a bunch of black plastic bags, the better to cook bugs in.  I went home and loaded my clothes and anything else that could take high heat into these bags and hauled them up to the roof.  Also my luggage and my dog’s doggie travel carrier.  I must have made 25 trips up and down that damn ladder.  Let’s not forget that I was still suffering from the concussion I got from taking one on the chin, and it was becoming apparent that I had “done something” to my right shoulder in the same wreck, so I had to be extra careful on my excursions up and down the ladder.

Did I mention that the ambient temperatures were hovering around 40 Centigrade/104 Fahrenheit?  Well, they were.  Good for killing bedbugs, bad for people on Lithium.  I was feeling it.

Finally everything I owned was either on the roof baking or in the freezer freezing.  I wondered if my external hard drive would survive freezing, but since it certainly would not live through broiling I thought the freezer was the better risk.

As I stood there wheezing in the bleach fumes, it occurred to me that I no longer had a bed.  My Israeli mattress, a 3 inch thick strip of hard foam, was on the roof baking.  The Professional Expert Exterminator had pronounced that to be unnecessary, but I was taking no chances.

Under normal circumstances, I would have simply tossed the mattress on the floor until I could get some semblance of a bedstead; but Jerusalem quarry stones are not only very hard, but uneven and pointy in many places.  Not only that, but the proximity to my bleach job might melt the foam, and kill me via asphyxiation.

Then came one of those “lightbulb moments.”  Indeed, I did have a bedstead!

Three years ago, I was forced by family circumstances to give up my long-term lease on a beautiful house in the same neighborhood.  A very sweet couple moved in, and I had left them my bed; but they had their own, and they were storing mine–for when I returned to Jerusalem for good.

I called them, and within the hour had my old bed back.  Tears of gratitude welled in my eyes–or was it just from the bleach?

Nightfall, and I hauled myself back up the ladder for the last time that day, to fetch my mattress down.  Something nagged at me, paranoia perhaps, that I should run down to Davidka Square and buy myself a brand new mattress wrapped in plastic, but then again I had had the cover off of this one and inspected all the seams for signs of bed bug poo, and eggs, and all of the signs and symptoms of infestation, and found none.  I told myself firmly to have confidence in my own expertise, and plunked the mattress on my good old bedstead.

This wasn’t just any bedstead.  I had bought it in 1989, just after my ex-husband moved out and took every stick of furniture in the apartment with him (he was moving into an unfurnished apartment, you see), including the bed.  So I invested in this wonderfully simple bedstead made of hardwood slats, that came apart and went together in a few minutes’ time, perfect for the young upwardly mobile professional lifestyle.

The first night was blissfully bugless.  I awoke, anxious, and checked myself over for new bites; and finding none, rejoiced.  Even my dog was scratching less.  She is allergic to everything, and, as I found out later, bed bugs feed on anything with blood in it, including warm-blooded animals.   I took her food out of the freezer, and took myself out for Israeli Breakfast to celebrate.  If you haven’t had Israeli Breakfast, you haven’t had breakfast.  I will tell you all about Israeli Breakfast another time.

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that the third morning dawned with a peppering of itchy welts.  I freaked out.

I called Sammy.

Sammy showed up the next morning with a backpack sprayer and a respirator mask.  Now, I thought with satisfaction, we’ll get something done about this.  I stood guard over his van, which he had left in a tow-away zone, while he did his thing.  He came running out of the apartment followed by a noxious white cloud, coughing through his mask.  Jesus, I thought, what the hell did he spray in there?  I didn’t care, as long as it killed the damn bugs.

I was told to abandon the place for three hours, and then wash the floors very well.  VERY well, he said, looking significantly at Noga, my dog.  Sammy raises champion Pekingese, and knows what dogs can handle and what they can’t.

I left the apartment to air out for eight hours instead of three, just for good measure; then I went after the floors with a vengeance.  I washed them VERY well.  But I did NOT wash the bedstead.  I wanted anything lurking in there to be DEAD.  And so it was that as I was inspecting the bed, a very sick bed bug tottered out of one of the joints of the headboard.  It looked like its shell was melting.  Ugh, and GOOD.  Death to you!  Death!  And then another one, fat with my blood, dragged itself out from beneath one of the legs.  Oh. My. God.  Even now the hair stands up on the back of my neck to think of….what it…..had certainly done….

To be continued……

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  1. i am very much enjoying your writing, although i am painfully aware it is non-fiction, and then feel somewhat badly for enjoying it quite so much. i look forward to the next installment. perhaps you should publish this (also in installments) in a magazine (like The Atlantic) or some other?

    • Why, thank you, Kat, that is a very sweet compliment! I’m glad you enjoy my writing. If it were not for painful adventures, what would I have to write about? Yes, I wish the Atlantic would publish my serials, too. So far I have not got my courage up to submit anything, except for one story to The New Yorker, which I knew would get rejected because I am unknown. But for some perverse reason I wanted my first rejection letter to come from The Highest Of The High, so I submitted and so it was. But you have given me a good idea; it doesn’t hurt to try!

  2. Ditto on Kat. Your title had me howling, and I am sure I looked like Bill the Cat while reading this post. So funny, so horrible, so disgusting. But I hung in there with you Laura! Hopefully you will never see another one again. While I love and think all creatures are worthy and admirable, I do scratch my head a little over bedbugs….God’s infestation, I think, for what the heck else are they for?

    • Thank you, I think…I will have to Google Bill the Cat. Although they are truly wonderfully made (I think I will explain that in a future post), I do not think BB’s come from God. I think they come directly from Hell, along with fleas, ticks, head lice, and all the other hell-spawn. God only makes Good things, and unless you can provide me with one Good thing that bed bugs do (other than provide me with fodder for black humor), I will not concede that BB’s come from the Side of Good.

  3. Wishing you success. Your Jerusalem stone room sounds suspiciously like the one I occupied when I lived there, but B”H I did not have bedbugs!

    As for who created bedbugs, I have no idea, but I think mosquitoes come from the same place.

  4. I can’t help it, Laura — as I was reading this post all I could think of in the back of my mind was an (almost) Biblical-sized swam of locust attack!! HA!! 😀 I know that’s not what’s happening to you, but you know me — or should by now — I see God in everything. I hope you’re chuckling with me right now. I don’t mean about the bedbugs, but comparing your ordeal with a swarm of locusts. Just the thought tickles me and I hope it does you, too.

    I know you know me well enough to know I’m not laughing at your plight, just the weird things that come to my mind. Black humor, I guess you’d call it. I also think I know you well enough to know you understand and could get a slight chuckle out of this — even if just for a moment.

    Seriously, I am truly sorry you and Noga are going through this and I pray you will swiftly see an end to your bedbug days. I’d heard that some countries have it really bad and that if a tourist goes into these countries, they’ll bring the nasty things back with them. And so it spreads around the globe. I’ve never heard of a direct encounter like what you are going through.

    May God bless you and Noga and perform a miracle for you (and your friends, neighbors, etc.) by (since I already referred to it) a Biblical-type modern-day equivalent of a strong wind to blow the locusts (bedbugs) away!!

    As for God creating them . . . I think they along with all other parasites, thorns, sin, sickness and death entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned against God and instead obeyed the serpent. The Curse came onto the planet. People, animals, reptiles, the land — all things were cursed. So many times I’ll hear/read about something horrendous happening to someone(s) and I get so upset that I am filled with righteous indignation, tears over their plight (or mine) and the helplessness that accompanies these feelings. That’s when I say to God that I cannot wait until the day the devil and all his cohorts get what’s coming to them. There are so many things wrong in this world, so much needless suffering. Unfortunately so many blame God. It’s not His fault!! The fault lies with satan and with mankind for the stupid choices we make.

    Okay, the lectern is closed for the night and I’m stepping down off my soapbox!! 😀

    Thinking of you and remembering you in my prayers!!


    • OK. First things first. I did have one of my many huge arguments with God over this. Like, what am I, Pharaoh that I need a plague in order to get something through my hard head/heart? Maybe.

      Secondly, in Judaism we are very frank about some things, so hold onto your teeth.

      One of the things that happened when the First Couple ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that they had “marital relations” before they were supposed to. It was God’s plan that they do it after sundown (it was Friday and he wanted them to sanctify the Sabbath by bringing in the Sabbath that way) but after eating from the tree they thought that was unimportant so they had relations on Friday afternoon while it was still light.

      Once Adam understood (only after Cain, and Abel) what he had done, he separated from Eve for 130 years and sat in the River Yabbok the whole time, doing penance. (Yabbok is one of the four rivers that originate in Eden.).

      As is the nature of men, while he was sitting in the River he had seminal emissions, and these turned into every kind of pestilence.

      Now you have it from the Zohar, the central text in Hebrew mysticism.

      • Well for goodness’ sake!! I never heard that before. I keep telling me you’re opening up my mind to awareness of new ways of seeing things all the time!! 🙂

  5. Uhg. I just read this. I hate bugs! i had to live with roaches one year in college. The worst ever. Hope they are gone for good!


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