ANTWERP — We’ve arrived here, to be with our daughter for the birh of her son. And apparently I came bearing gifts. I’ve given fleas to the two dogs in the apartment upstairs.
The pooches were fine until we showed up from Las Vegas and, within a day, I broke out with flea bites like some mangy sheepdog. The dogs upstairs — a pair of cute Malteses claimed by Cassie and her Kurt — didn’t have any fleas until exposed to my hangers-on. Some of the little bastards jumped ship for more traditional prey.
Where I picked up the fleas is the mystery.
Jeanne and I arrived here Sept. 10. We were fortunate enough — we thought at the time, at least — to be able to rent a nice apartment three floors below Cassie’s and Kurt’s; the owners are in France, tending to their primary home, and were glad to sub-let their Antwerp loft to us for a few weeks. The apartment building fronts over a main downtown street; across the street is the century-old opera house.
By the next morning my left ankle began itching unmercifully and when I pulled down my sock, I saw why. At this point, I hadn’t been outdoors, certainly no where near grass and not even that close to Provo and Indy, the two aforementioned white step-ons who, for the record, showed no inclination to scratch themselves.
By the end of the next day, the flea bites were progressing up my left leg.
By the third day, bites began appearing on my right ankle. And the dogs started scratching.
Not only has the march north continued up both legs, but I’ve seen the fleas and picked them off my calfs, more than a dozen so far. Twice a day I slather myself in no-itch creams and gels, and spray myself with an anti-bacterial spray I picked up at the apothecary across the street. Click on this photo: I am now ready to fight to the death with my army of over-the-counter ointments and sprays.
But these fleas seem to have descended from cockroaches. Nothing will take them out.
The bites have now progressed north of my waist. Everyone is very sympathetic. Kurt took a photo of my leg like some twisted souvenir of our visit. I won’t print it.
We all are puzzled as to how I became infested. There are two hunches: On the 12 hours in flight from Las Vegas to Brussels, my feet may have unwittingly been planted where someone previously had transported a flea-occupied canine who now are collecting frequent-flier mileage. I mean, do the airlines vaccuum or otherwise scrub their carpets clean between flights? Me thinks not.
The second possible flea source is our rented apartment, which at first blush, and even second blush, seems as clean as a whistle. It is free of carpeting and even throw rugs; its wood-plank floor runs the span of the loft.
But here is why I am suspicious: We met the owners briefly when they turned over the apartment key, and they have a long-haired mutt that would be a most-upscale resort for fleas seeking a staycation. And where would said dog rest during the day? I think at the feet of its owners when they sit at their multi-purpose table. That’s precisely where I was sitting, claiming it as my workspace. And I remember the night, sitting barefoot, where I felt the barely noticeable tickle and discovered two fleas running up my left ankle.
I jumped out of the chair and got down on my knees and examined the wood planks. Between them are narrow channels and within those channels I found two more fleas. I think the dog’s fleas much have a more permanent encampment in the material beneath the wood planks.
Today we sprayed the floor. For good measure, we sprayed Cassie and Kurt’s apartment, too. Their dogs already had a flea bath (yes, I should have had one, too). And before we head home, I will buy another can of insecticide and sneak it aboard the aircraft. If you hear of a passenger being kicked off an aircraft for illegal use of an aerosol can, that would be me.
My American-Belgian grandson will be so proud.