Wednesday, July 6, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 30

There's a real nutter in the computer room, freaking out about his photocopying card and being generally chaotic. He seems otherwise on the ball, though, which makes me wonder: am I ever someone's nutter? Anyone could witness a stressed-out moment of mine and think that I'm off my rocker, when in fact, as we all know, I'm as much on my rocker as it is possible to be. I AM my rocker.

So listen. I've spent my entire time in Guadeloupe calming my terrified heart each time something streaks by and I think it's a mouse. Relax, Kathryn, it's just a lizard. Or a frog. Or a snail, a cockroach, a bat, a caterpillar, what have you. I am always open-minded about these creatures who share my space, even helping them when I can: I scoop the frogs up out of the toilet so they won't be flushed away; I take the fist-sized snails in my shower and put them outside so they won't get shampoo in their eyes; I crush the cockroaches in a swift, clean movement with my heavy-soled school shoes, so as not to cause them pain.

Indeed, I do considerably more than my share to keep the critters of Guadeloupe alive and well - or dead and so much the better - which is why I feel I have been stabbed in the back: we have mice. So far I've seen two of them, scurrying behind the stove, but I am not fooled for a moment; I am no stranger to the world of in-house rodents and I have learned, oh, I have learned, that where there are two mice, there are always many more lurking just behind.

We found a home for Sprocket and Chisel, you see, which made for a heartbreaking goodbye but was undeniably the best decision for us all, and so now the mice have nothing to be afraid of. I obviously emptied the apartment and scrubbed like I was losing my mind, and I obviously cleaned out all the food and organized it in boxes so that we can have easy daily checks for mouse droppings; this goes without saying. But I have a feeling it won't be enough.

We have nightly power failures, usually lasting about 25 minutes, but Hervé's house across the way has a solar-power back-up system, so it never goes out. The result is that the trees outside our house are backlit and we can see all sorts of night life that is usually hidden from our eyes, namely the rats running along the branches to eat fruit. Big, fat, hungry country rats, scurrying at head-level and surrounding the house - I'm getting itchy just writing about it; can you get hives from anxiety? - so that all I can think of as I try to fall asleep is one of them coming into the house, chewing through the mosquito net and eating my face. (Thank you, 1984.)

This morning, though, I glimpsed salvation: looking out of my window, I saw Hervé's huge tom cat stalking something on a big branch. Of course! The tom will take care of the rats! He's big, tough and usually hungry, and he obviously knows where to look. Long live the tom! So why couldn't he have waited until I turned away? Just as I was beginning to think I might be able to sleep at night, maybe even be spared my otherwise inevitable death-by-rat, the tom scratched behind his ear, lost his balance and fell off the branch into the bushes below. With him crashed my hopes, as I realized that I counting on a moron.

I have a good eight days left and I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't complain about the nine wasp nests over our porch - which we take down every couple of days and then the wasps come back and build them up again - or the flooded bathroom that smells like sewage. (The plumber's coming tomorrow; he's been coming tomorrow since May.) I don't complain about neighbour Eddie's constant and aggressive ragga music, which wakes up the neighbourhood in the morning and sees us off to bed at night. (My old Latin-playing neighbour lived way over the ravine and the music sounded like it was coming from my bathroom; this guy lives in the little wooden cabin next-door, so it sounds like the music is coming from my stomach.) I think I'm being a jolly good sport about most things, in fact. But rodents - rodents I can not bear.

I've been distracted from my rat-face panic by the presence of Hervé's four kids these last few days. Suzie, at eight years old, is the oldest, and seems to be looking for a female role model, as she took to me very quickly and wouldn't let go. She asked me to bake with her, to walk to the store to get stuff for her dad and to make little dolls out of yarn. Apparently nobody's told Miss Suzie that being a girl doesn't mean you have to be impossibly girly, and I can't think of a worse week-end combination for me than cooking, shopping and yarning. Get out of my face!

She also used my last bananas and my special Ultimate Lunch apple-cheese-and-bread apples (Royal Gala from Chile - look into it, my friends; you won't be sorry) to make a "dessert" for the whole household: you carve apple halves into little cups and fill them with banana slices, which you sprinkle with sugar and lemon. Suzie's invention. Wait a second, you're thinking, that's just an impractical version of fruit salad! And you're right. Stupidest dessert ever.

I agreed to show her how to make cookies, as it's not something they do here and everyone is excited to taste the better, home-made version of what they buy at the store. I nearly burned my hand off trying to light the gas stove, I slaved in the heat for three times as long because they don't have cookie trays so I had to use a frying pan and could only do five cookies at a time, and all she did was pour in the flour, which I had measured and which I then stirred in, since there are no automatic mixers. And she took all the credit, like she had made these awesome cookies! Get off of my cloud, loser!

Maybe my hostility towards a clingy eight-year-old is a bit unwarranted, but I got bitter when she told me I reminded her of Nora, the tenant before Franck. Nora's nice, and she's a girl, and I think I'm those things too. Other than that, she's a flaky, vain, pot-fried and irritating French girl, and Suzie is way off the mark when she says we have the same essence of character. Really, Suzie? Am I a lame thirty-something who thinks she's still sixteen? Great. Thanks. I can't wait to hang out.

She left this morning to go back to her mother's, and gave me a potted mint plant to take back to Canada and an ugly little seagull figurine (that one of you is getting as a travel gift; consider yourselves warned.) So now I feel like a jerk, on top of everything. Thanks a lot, SUZIE.

Get me out of this place.


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