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Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 7:41:00 AM
Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 7:41:52 AM
by sumiko tan
I WALK around the house with murder on my mind. I want blood. Blood on my hands. Fresh, red, juicy blood.
I hate mosquitoes, I really do. I just want to smack them, squash them, kill them. I live in an area that is prone to dengue, you see.
Two years ago, after H got dengue, I subscribed to a notification service from the x-dengue.com website.
Every time there’s a dengue case in my neighbourhood, I get an SMS alerting me to it, right down to how far away the dengue-infected household is from my home.
Every time the dengue threat clears – no new cases in two weeks – I get another text telling me the good news.
Since June 2012 when I signed up for the service, my house has been part of 15 dengue clusters, and I have received more than 30 text messages.
The worst messages are those that say the cluster is “0 m” from “Home”. In other words, an immediate neighbour has been hit. Should a mosquito decide to nibble his toe, then make its way to make a meal of my arm, I’ll be struck down by dengue too.
Because I’ve had dengue fever before, coming down with it again means I may get the much more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever, where a patient goes into shock and dies. Which explains my phobia, paranoia and hatred (yes, hatred) of mosquitoes.
I hunt them down like a woman possessed.
My eyes are trained on any flying object. I search out dark corners of the house. My body is on high alert, arms poised, ready to reach out and whack those bloodsuckers.
The best way to kill a mosquito is, ironically, using a mosquito net.
Mosquito nets, I’ve discovered, aren’t only good at keeping them out. They are also wonderful at trapping them in – so you can go for the kill.
Once I have a mosquito at my mercy, I don’t just let it die, oh no. I squash it to a pulp. In fact, because it’s such a tiny thing, I mash it till it becomes nothing.
Is there something wrong with me to take such pleasure in killing them?
Mosquitoes are, after all, part of the ecosystem, God’s creation and all that, so should I be feeling so murderous towards them?
They aren’t the only inhabitants of the animal kingdom I abhor.
Recently, I found myself thinking hard about which animal I detest most. It started when I was driving home and saw a rat running across the road 10m from my house.
It was a big, fat, grey rat, the sort you see rummaging around dustbins at night.
I hate rats. But it was outside, so I didn’t think too much about it.
The next night, as I was driving into my house, I saw not one, but two big, fat bouncy rats scampering across my driveway.
They had gone from the road to invade my home! They were mere metres from the kitchen door! Was there a family of them? Inside the house?
I was practically shaking with disgust and fear when I got out of the car (what if a rat slipped into my car without me knowing and popped its head up while I was driving?).
I headed straight for the Classifieds section of The Straits Times and called the first pest control company that was listed. They said they’d come and check the next morning.
They couldn’t find any rat burrows in the garden, which was a good sign.
They said the rats were probably the outdoor “longkang” (drain) variety, not roof rats. There were gaps in my fence and the rats were probably just dropping by for a visit.
The woman in charge said I didn’t have to worry about them entering the house. Longkang rats prefer dirtier habitats like drains and rubbish dumps, she said.
I was so agitated by the rat encounter that when she asked if I wanted to sign up for a monthly pest control service, I said yes at once.
Under the package, I can get rid of five types of pests. Which would you like, she asked.
Mosquitoes topped my list, of course, and rodents were No.2.
I chose cockroaches (nasty creatures) as the third pest, which left me with two more slots.
She suggested household ants, and as we’ve been seeing an unusual number of them in the house recently, I agreed to put them on the menu.
For the last slot, I went with lizards.
I’m terrified of lizards. Their bulgy eyes, splayed feet, translucent bodies and detachable tails give me the creeps.
I’ve been especially scared of them since a lizard fell smack on my body while I was showering at a hotel in Thailand some years ago.
I saw something drop from the ceiling, heard a “splat” sound and felt its horrible padded feet between my bare waist and hip. I screamed, flicked it away and ran out of the bathroom, falling in my panic.
H wasn’t happy with lizards being on my to-kill list. They’re harmless and eat mosquitoes, he said. It’s cruel to kill them.
I asked the pest control woman how she’d go about killing the lizards.
She said strips will be placed around the house. The lizards would get stuck to them and die within hours because they can’t move. It wasn’t a pretty way to go, but I was adamant.
I changed my mind a week later. We came home one day to find a lizard stuck in a strip. It wasn’t dead. Put it in a plastic bag and throw it away, I shrieked.
H was clearly upset. He didn’t say a word and took it outside. I felt really bad. He was right. It was too cruel. I was too cruel.
It’s one thing to kill disease-carrying pests like mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats, but another to target the placid (if frightening-looking) house lizard.
The next day, I called the pest controller and asked for lizards to be dropped from my list. I added termites instead.
There was no disagreement about that. — The Sunday Times/Asia News Network
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