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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Messy Gus Flea-ing

Growing up, I would carry cups and glasses of assorted beverages into my bedroom. I can’t recall what the beverages were but I know they were seldom plain water because plain water does not mold whereas these half neglected beverages would develop buds of mold that floated atop the surface of the drink. The dwindling supply of cups and glasses would require me to bring what mom termed “science experiments” back to the kitchen or she would retrieve them from my room. I’d like to tell you that I’ve left science experiments in the past but that would be completely false.

“Whoa. Look at this.” Andrea said as I carried neglected glasses of water with lime juice from my nightstand to the kitchen sink. I shrug - only a little sheepish.


These types of behaviors have earned me the nickname of “Messy Gus.” I’m not sure how Andrea landed on Gus - versus the much more alliterative choice of Messy Mags.


When we were moving to Richmond, Andrea was with the movers at our home in Forest when the movers unearthed what she coined my “Templeton the Rat Hovel” under my couch seat cushion. I was happy they had found my missing credit card and cuticle trimmer (although, by then, I’d replaced the cuticle trimmer).


Recently, we took our recently tuned up bikes for a ride through the park in our home. Although it wasn’t particularly a hot day, the park is hilly which made me wish I’d filled my water bottle before the ride. Returning home, I pulled the bottle off my bike and was surprised to realize there was liquid in it.


“Ohhhh. There’s something in here.” I exclaimed. Andrea knew better than to even look surprised. I began unscrewing the top, wondering what was in there. “I bet it’s moldy Gatorade.” I thought.


“Oh. Wow. There’s coffee in here!” I announced. I drink my coffee black so the contents were surprisingly free of mold flotsam.


“Throw the bottle out.” Andrea directed.


“Yes… I suppose you’re right.” I agreed, tossing the bottle.


“That was Massachusetts coffee!” Andrea said. “You moved that coffee!”


Twice, I think. Andrea’s looking at me - a mixture of awe, disbelief and probably disgust. I get it. What is it with me and beverages?! I mean - clearly - that’s not where my messy Gus tendencies end but it’s a big area of opportunity if I wanted to amend my ways. Maybe that’s a goal I can pursue in December? I try to only bring water to bed but try isn’t the same as do.

When I was enlisted in the Army, I attended training for my Army job at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. I shared a room with one other girl (I think - maybe there was a tidy and quiet third girl? It’s funny the things you forget). One day, our drill sergeants did a surprise room inspection. These drill sergeants are not the same style of drill sergeants who terrorize recruits in basic training. These are a more docile pedigree. Even so, a room inspection by a drill sergeant is enough to induce nervous sweating. I stood by my open “locker”, which was more of a closet arrangement where we were to neatly store our clothing and supplies. My roommates locker was being inspected when the drill sergeant suddenly and sharply drawled, “What the hell is this?” pulling out something that I was unable to see.


“This is fried chicken?!” The drill sergeant seemed incredulous. “You cannot keep fried chicken in your locker!”


This, I decided, was far worse than my science experiments. Fried chicken in a locker in the south could attract all sorts of unwanted attention - and not just from drill sergeants.


“SMITH! Do you have fried chicken in your locker?!” The drill sergeant asked.


I wanted to laugh but I didn’t think he was joking, although he seemed amused, and I didn’t want my roommate to feel bad.


“No, Drill Sergeant.” I replied, avoiding my roommates gaze as though I felt bad for not having such contraband in my locker.


The inspection soon concluded and the roommate and I never discussed her elicit chicken stash - although I did have questions. How long had she kept the fried chicken in her locker? When was she planning to eat it? I’d never seen her eat fried chicken in the room or anything else for that matter.


I think of this story when I make a Messy Gus move - at least I’m not fried chicken level bad. Although, this seems a very low bar.


I paid a visit to Massachusetts this weekend and slid into a hotel. I unpack my things when I check into a hotel rather than live out of a suitcase. This sounds like Classy Gus but really - I usually end up spilling some powdered, non-dairy creamer that ends up looking like I’m doing lines off the desk. Messy Gus.


On Saturday, I observe bites on my torso, thighs and ankles. I’m not at the hotel so I pray that there are no bed bugs when I later check. That night, I return to the hotel and search the bed. No evidence of bed bugs. Hm. I put my pajamas on and start watching one of the Halloween movies on the Sundance channel. I tell Andrea about my bites and we chalk it up to hives due to different soap or detergent. That is until I see something small and black leap. What the fuck. I stand up and observe the bed. There it is again!


I call the front desk, “Can you come up here?” I ask.


“Is it something maint-“


“There are fleas in here!” I hiss.


“I’ll be right there.”


Moment later, there is a knock at my door. I’m wearing my pajamas but drag the woman in and point at the bed, braless and accusing.


Of course, we see nothing. I occasionally lunge toward a piece of lint.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a fuzzy? We can move you - you’re going to have the heebie jeebies all night at this point.”


“Wait a minute - it wasn’t a fuzzy. Jesus. This is like when I take my car into the mechanic and it’s - LOOK!” I shriek.


“Oh-oh. That’s a flea!” The woman says as I frantically point to another leaping black fleck. “Gonna have to get the exterminator in here.” She says as I resist the urge to rip my pajamas off and run to the shower.

I’m relocated to a new room. I schlep my belongings from the fourth floor to the sixth. This requires two trips in my pajamas. The elevator doors open on the 6th floor and two guests seems startled by my appearance. “Oh. Excuse me.” The woman says, backing up so I can get off the elevator.


“No prob. Sorry. Little situation.” I mumble while bee (or flee? Flea?) lining it to my new room. I sequester all my belongings into the bathroom, then take a scalding shower. I shut the door of the bathroom.


The phone in my room rings. It’s the front desk checking on me.


“Yes - I’m presently burning all of my belongings in the bathroom.” I reply. There’s an awkward pause so I add, “Kidding. Do you have any sedatives?”


“Oh. Uh. Would you like a late checkout?”


I want to say, “Why would I want to stay here any longer?!” But instead I say, “No, thank you. I have an early flight.”


The woman tells me she’s adding points to my account and I think, “Honey. That’s not all you’re doing. I’m calling corporate tomorrow.” Instead I thank her and say, “Well. I’m off to scrutinize the bed VERY CLOSELY.”


I stand naked by the bedside because I’ve locked my pajamas in the bathroom as well. I absentmindedly scratch a bite on my stomach. I put my reading glasses on and peer at the bed. Nothing. I cannot sleep but fortunately, the Sundance channel is having a Halloween movie marathon. Nothing like a psychotic killer to relax you and take your mind off of fleas. I should point out that this is a brand name hotel whose name rhymes with Riot. I look at the clock and I’m grateful the clocks fall back in a few hours. I set my glasses on the bedside table. My wrist itches and I violently smack it only to realize the small dot I assaulted is a small freckle. It’s too late to show up at anyone’s door so I reluctantly get into bed & turn on a boring podcast with droll narration in an effort to fall asleep. It works.


So yeah. I’m messy but not fried chicken or flea messy.


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