Travels with Fred the Flea


Monday, December 1, 1997

Oh my goodness, what have I done? Where am I? Where on earth are we going? Earth? Where is earth? Is that it way down there? Looks cold. That’s either snow and ice on the ground or a LOT of flea powder. Either way, I’m glad I’m up here instead of down there.

Oops, I suppose I’d better introduce myself. My name is Fred. I’m a flea. Usually I live (quite contentedly, I might add) in a warm furry little burrow close to the tail of my dear host, Ralph. Ralph provides me me with a good home and lots of interesting sights and sounds to keep amused during my days. He is quite tasty, too. I suspect it’s all that residual sugar from the candy wrappers that he drags out of the boy’s garbage. The boy is called Bucky. He’s a rather active young human. I see Bucky a lot. He claims to be Ralph’s "owner." I’m not sure what an owner is - if it’s something like a host, I don’t understand why Ralph doesn’t live on Bucky and suck his blood for sustenance instead of eating candy wrappers. Just one of those philosophical questions I ponder in my spare time. There is another human I live with (not on). It is a girl called Maggie. She provides my wonderful host with many taste treats as well, although she doesn’t appear to WANT to do so. When Ralph is at his happiest, after visiting her bedroom where her dirty laundry doesn’t seem to make it into her hamper often enough to please the human they call "Mom" (more about her later), this Maggie comes chasing after Ralph yelling "RALPH!!!!!! Stop eating my underwear!!!!" I don’t understand why she is so concerned, but then, I don’t really know the significance of "underwear." Maybe someday I’ll have an opportunity to research the question. But right now I have more urgent business to contemplate.

My trouble really started yesterday, when the human they call "Mom" decided it was time, once again, to put my poor host in a huge bowl of hot smelly water. Humans seem to love this smell, although for the life of me I don’t know why. I think they call it "soap." Anyway, I know this routine. I have lost many a relative to this little weekly adventure. First she puts poor Ralph in this stinky water. Then she pours gigantic buckets of water all over him. THEN, she pours more and more and more of this disgusting soap stuff on him. Then she scratches him all over for the longest time. It’s at about this time that my relatives start appearing belly-up in the water. It’s a horrifying experience. I have always managed to escape before Ralph is immersed. My great-grandfather Henry taught me the secret to survival. When the human starts to take off the big blue belt that goes around Ralph’s neck, JUMP!!!

Usually there are plenty of other suitable hosts to jump onto. There’s Sophie, the big gentle yellow dog who nobody ever yells at. And there’s Ebert, the cat who Ralph loves to chase all over the house. But yesterday, they were nowhere to be found, and time was of the essence. As Mom leaned over to take off the blue belt, I jumped as high as I could and landed on the top of her head. I’ve been there ever since, except for a brief time this morning when I smelled that horrible soap smell and felt too much moisture in the air. I took a temporary rest on a towel while she did the same thing to her hair that she does to Ralph. And SHE even seemed to enjoy it. What is it with humans, I wonder.

Well, it just so happens that I kind of liked the perspective from up here. You can see SO much from this vantage point. I decided I’d stick around for a while. This seemed like a good plan, because Mom is never away from Ralph for too long. I felt certain that I would be able to get back to him as soon as I started craving the tastier diet and the adventurous lifestyle. I mean, Ralph eats underwear and chases cats. All Mom does is sit in front of that thing she calls a computer staring at it and making weird rhythmic sounds on it. Here’s another thing I find a bit puzzling about Mom. Although she seems to spend most of her life sitting in front of that thing drumming out the weird rhythms, she yells at it and curses it constantly. If she is mad at it all the time, why does she spend so much time drumming and staring. Just one of those puzzling questions about humans. I have so many of them.

Now, speaking of humans, I have learned a very important lesson about them: Never assume you know what they will do the next day. This morning, after getting up when her clock said 3:16 a.m. and staring, drumming and swearing at her computer for a few hours, Mom did something quite incomprehensible to me.

She got in a large, loud silver thing called a "car" which runs 100 times faster than Ralph (and HE’s fast) and flew across the ground to a huge place they call a "Sea-Tac Airport." There she unloaded boxes and bags and more bags from the car, and gave them to a very nice human who seemed to be concerned that the big green bag was going to split apart. Mom didn’t seem to be so concerned. She said "I guess I’ll have to get some new cheap luggage in Bangkok. This one has had a long, happy life." I wonder if she’ll be able to get a new cheap Ralph in Bangkok when his time comes.

After Mom left most of her bags and boxes with the nice man, we were met by 3, no 4, no FIVE women, all happy and excited about something. This started to get confusing for me because they were calling Mom "Laurie." These humans are a strange lot.

Well, I was really doing OK with all of this until Mom/Laurie went inside - yes, inside - the largest, ugliest, noisiest bird I have ever seen. And that’s when I started to get nervous. They call this thing an "airplane." Luckily, Mom/Laurie is sitting by a window, which is helping me to figure all of this out. Apparently, we are way up high in the sky. Above the earth. Off of the ground. What a strange sensation. I mean, I can jump. High. It’s one of my special talents. I have seen the world from the top of the curtain racks and light fixtures when I have ventured away from Ralph for short periods of time. But I have never seen anything like this.

The little television in front of me has a picture of an airplane right next to the word "Homer." I wonder what that means. Does someone named Homer live down there among those ice fields and frozen rivers and rolling snow-covered hills? Unless it IS flea powder, of course. This is too overwhelming. I think I’ll take a nap.

December 2nd

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