Service Story #53: The Heroes of Slumberland, Episode 2 (Hoarders, The Eviction Business, and the American Dream)
THE NAMES OF THE HUMANS IN THIS SERVICE STORY HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. ALL PHOTOS ARE DIGITALLY GENERATED TO REPRESENT WHAT THE ACTION WOULD LOOK LIKE IF YOU WERE THERE.
Before Portland was a glimmer in some long forgotten timber baron’s eye, gangs of bedbugs roamed the earth in search of human hosts. They were merciless. They infested the longhouses of the Native Americans. They infested the cabins of the pioneers. They didn’t care if their hosts had red, white, or blue bedsheets; all they wanted from their humans was their willingness to be calm, carry on, and feed them their blood.
The greatest of these mighty gangs was The Heroes of Slumberland. They were the best at what they did, and they prided themselves, like Marines, on being the front line…”First to fight!”…of their epic, endless battle to control the infestation known as “civilization.” Like many earth creatures, The Heroes claim their cause is not only right, but more right than any creature claiming to be “civilized.” They believe they’re right, because they believe our planet is suffering from the singular, uniform, monopolistic infestation known as The Suck. Their long name for it is The Suck of Civilization.
If you’ve ever said, “This sucks!” in reference to your human domestication, then you get The Suck. It’s not meant to be a complicated idea. The only complicated part of The Suck is trying to describe The Whole Monster without sounding like a raving lunatic. We all know the little parts that suck, but the big picture is always, forever illusive.
Good news is, we’re OK with not getting all our facts straight. To hell with “being right.” Life isn’t a test. We’re OK with injecting as much fiction into the truth as we feel The Suck needs to make a least a little sense to you humans. And that’s why you’re going to need to switch off your fact finding test-taking mode and simply accept this fact:
The American Dream isn’t the beacon of hope and hearth you think it is…
For starters, The American Dream was not invented by humans. Some hack named James Adams coined the phrase in 1931 in an effort to sell books and escape a life of labor. In his book The Epic of America, he defined The American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Words are often an unhelpful way of understanding anything. The Action we know as The American Dream was developed by The Heroes of Slumberland 3.25 centuries before James Adams staked his claim to the ocean of live actions that preceded his moment of literary brilliance.
The action known as The American Dream was first performed by a bedbug named Juice. It happened when she realized that their wilderness infestations achieved more victories (lasted longer) if they piggybacked on the actions of another seemingly unrelated infestation. Humans have many nice politically correct euphemisms for that kind of infestation. If you were a human sitting at your favorite diner wearing a red broad brimmed hat drinking tea with your friends who also enjoyed wearing red hats, you might call this kind of infestation a “collection.” If you were a celebrity (or eccentric) living on a hill with your dogs, you might call it “stuff in garage,” or “stuff in attic,” or “old sports stuff.” If you were hard working, God-fearing man, you might call the same phenomena “prepping,” or more specifically “End Times preparations.” And if you were an old Arthurian king you might call it “treasure,” or “riches,” or maybe even “plunder.”
The not so nice term for that kind of infestation is “hoard,” which is the same term our friends the dwarves and dragons use. Hoard is the human slang slur for the same normal “collection” the Red Hat Ladies sit atop everyday. When the hoard is bad (and not a good hoard) humans often label the hoarding action as a “phycological disorder,” which is the modern equivalent hosting an evil spirit. Like a spirit, a disorder is something immaterial you humans can only understand (or comprehend) with the help of a professional hoarding technician.
In any case, there was a long time in human history where The Heroes of Slumberland didn’t run across a lot of hoards, or hoarders. So much so, one of the old nicknames for bedbugs was “crimson ramblers,” because they were known to feast on royal blood. It wasn’t until circa The Industrial Revolution, The Heroes began to encounter more human hoards more often. It was like when humans discovered bronze and suddenly it was The Bronze Age everywhere. Suddenly hoards and hoarders were everywhere.
Juice wasn’t a phycologist. She didn’t know why humans suddenly began to hoard more than they did centuries before. All she knew was…if she could infest a human territory packed wall to ceiling with a hoard, then the humans would have to nail endings to 2 infestations instead of 1.
No this isn’t a Disney story. Bedbugs are bugs. They aren’t smart like humans. It was just simple math. Two infestations are harder to hunt down and end than one. And three is harder than two.
Since her groundbreaking discovery, there’s been 223.5 Juices (Juice 154.5 was squashed by a quick handed insomniac seconds after he claimed the name). The protocol for claiming the name “Juice” was not like human protocols, which require never-ending levels and constant suppressive discipline to enforce, all the bug had to do was perform The Action, play the character, and be Juice. And they performed that action by targeting humans will hoards. Meaning, the fittest bedbugs (Heroes of Slumberland) were the ones who could find the one, or two hoarder in a dark crowded theater, or bus with non-plastic seats (like Greyhound), or hotel in a favorite tourist destination (like Disneyland), and ride home with them; instead of hitchhiking home with a Buddhist minimalist monk with no stuff to hole up in.
The trick to becoming Juice was the super economic/unprofitable power of knowing instantly if a human was a hoarder, or not. Many speculative theories abound. No one (not even The Heroes themselves) agree on how this is done. It used to be easy. Back before The Hoarding Age, all a Hero had to do was catch a whiff of perfume. Only wealthy hoarders were able to afford such luxurious cures. Large disorganized purses full of stuff and bulging brief cases were also once a big tip off. Now days, many Heroes follow The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hoarders, which promotes the “hoarding center theory.” Very simply, it states that the fittest/most Darwinian way to hitchhike home with a hoarder is hanging out at hoarding centers.
For example, if you’re a “Low Brow Hero” you’d hang out at thrift stores. Economically challenged hoarders love Goodwills, Salvation Army stores, Deseret Industries, and old Portland favorites like The Red, White, and Blue. And if you’re a “Street Hero,” you’d hang out at apartment store dumpsters (in the cold and wet) waiting for the Trash Marauders to appear, like clockwork, with their bikes and wagons and carts full of random crap, each item peddled laboriously from street to street because each item in the hoard has a special place in their hearts. Every prop has a value, fills a need, and plays an irreplaceable part in the unfolding stories of their lives. If only for the classic reason, “I paid good money for it.” Once the payment/blood sacrifice has been made, it’s abhorrent for any hoarder to believe it had no meaning. Thus the collection continues to be collected, because the base action (the act of amassing stuff) has no meaning or part to play in the grand unfolding story. It’s pure infestation, but no professional hoarder will ever admit that. All the payments, sacrifices, and decisions they made in life have meaning, especially the old childhood train set.
Just because the prop is clearly an inactive part of the story that doesn’t mean it will never play a part in it again. All props have a place on the stage. Active or inactive, there’s a special place (a heavenly wormhole void of time and space) in the human mind where all the jangled pieces fit together. We call it the “magical mystery hoard hole.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Hoarders “High Brow Hero” theories are simpler (less infested with words). High Brow Heroes are advised to hang out at Ikea, or target humans with strict, borderline OCD routines.
Hoarding is an extreme sport. Rich hoarders spread their hoards full of eccentric inactive props out in massive, precisely organized spaces that only become horrifying if they were able to be viewed in full; like, for example, if we could stage the hoard in the center of a football field and view it. Poor hoarders, on the other hand, are limited economically. They don’t have the resources to rent another storage locker, garage, or second house to spread their hoard out. Sometimes all they have is a shopping cart. That’s one of the most interesting things about what we’re going to call, Inactive Prop Collection Disorder. When humans view a shopping cart mismatched with random stuff in full, they’re horrified. “In what possible story would all that crap make sense?” they wonder to themselves. “Who needs 5 broken computers, 2 dolls, and a book on housewarming etiquette from the 50s?” How can all that stuff possibly hold value?
We, the live action characters of earth, love this visual human reaction. It betrays the deep, hardcore fact that good or bad stories (time itself) are the only sane way to measure value. And hoards, when seen in full, are instantly seen as undesirable stories cobbled together without any action to connect the mass of unused props.
Thus Juice becomes Juice when he, she, or they feed on a human hoarder who fits that definition. All the great serious literary authors of our modern civilization have long heralded the death of The American Dream, but we know better. What is The American Dream if not the massing of props for stories that never see the light of action? Even the humans who claim to have put The American Dream in action are still often great collectors of mismatched people, places, and things.
A bedbugs greatest fear is going home with a human who knows where all their props fit on the planetary stage, and they use them on a regular basis to support The Action of their story. A human like that is almost invincible to bedbug infestations. Or any infestation for that matter..be that internal infestations (like singular action addictions) or environmental ones like neglecting the needs of one’s home territory (ie. Entry Hole Disorder).
The Heroes of Slumberland love to boast. They will feast and drink the blood of humans, and then lounge around their jidey-holes boasting about how they were able to “trigger The American Dream” and sedate their human hosts enough to develop hoarding actions. But we know that’s all bullshit. Classic novelists, TV binge show writers, and video game developers are, by far, more skilled at triggering the hoarding action in humans than bedbugs. Figurehead characters such as those have perfected the art of anti-inspiration inspiration; the production and maintenance of what we call “The Fourth Wall,” or generic stories that sedate humans instead of inspiring them to control The Action of their lives.
At best, bedbugs are like most of us: great riders, breakers, and benders of infestations. Juice 223.5 likes to boast that she developed the infestations at The Humble Apartments in SE Portland, but we know that’s not true. She just got lucky (struck dragon’s gold) when she hitched a ride with one of its tenants many years ago.
And that’s where The Action of our service story begins. Our human receptionist at Storysold: Pest Control received a message on Thumbtack from the building’s landlord. He said 2 of his units might have bedbugs. He asked if we would inspect the units and give him a quote. We agreed, and triggered The Pest Predator for the job.
A few days later, we met the Humble Apartment’s live-in manager. After Predator did a quick inspection and found bedbugs in his tiny, one room unit, Manager filled us in. Or at least gave us a good beginning for our story. Apparently, the property management company’s first response when they heard the word “bedbug” was to inform the Manager that he was responsible for killing the bugs because he brought them in. The Manager was a savvy youth (and amazing cartoonist) who respectfully reported that, in Oregon, if more than one unit was infested with the same pest it’s the Landlord’s responsibility to provide their tenants with a healthy living environment. No battle ensued. The property managers and Landlord agreed to pay someone to kill the bugs. Manager also told us that we weren’t the first company in line. Another fairly well know local company had already inspected and given a quote.
“So why are we here?” we thought As One Flesh. “Why wasn’t the other company already killing bugs?”
Then we walked from Manager’s tiny unit, across the tiny hallway, and met his neighbor. Predator liked the guy almost immediately. Gruff, but warm and friendly. He reminded us of Bookmaker’s old character Bob/Gunny G, a classic tough guy xenophobic front shielding a heart of gold, willing to do anything to help a good cause.
As we let Bookmaker paddle on, getting to know the character we’re going to slander as “Hoarder #1,” Predator was taking stock of he human’s hoard.
“Juice!!’ Predator suddenly screamed a silent inner scream only the character kind can detect. “I know you’re here my old nemesis…reveal yourself to me!”
After a few more silent screams, Predator heard a mocking chuckle rise from the human’s closet that was packed, top to bottom, with treasures. “Yes, it is I…” Juice.224 finally replied. “You’re looking trimmer than last we met. Is Bookmaker on another Adventure in Sobriety?”
“Yeah,” Predator replied. “Beer’s hell on our human’s waistline.”
“You should be thankful you’re not being hosted by a bloated corporate human. There’s no end to the walls and waistlines of some corporate characters. Warehouses as far as the eye can see…all stocked with treasures.”
“You should know better than to buddy talk me, ‘Buddy.’ You know why I’m here.”
“Same old Predator,” Juice chuckled. “All action, no foreplay. 110% sociopathic human hater.”
“I’m not a sociopath. I like a few humans…here and there.”
“You can’t fool me. You’re like Bookmaker. You like trained humans like humans like trained dogs. And that’s not the same as liking wild humans. Not by a long shot.”
“What do you know about wild humans?” Predator laughed. “You’re a Hero of Slumberland. You prefer all your humans to make their actions nice and routine…domestic as pets.”
“Oh yeah?” Juice shot back, finally emerging from a crack in the wall. “At least all I do is suck their blood!”
Predator prompted his human to tear a strip of duct tape from the roll on his arm, reach up to the bedbug emerging from the crack, and pluck it from existence. “What’s worse than feeding on human blood?” Predator asked, knowing all too well what Juice would say. All live action characters (creatures of the character kind) know the ruling king currency of our planet isn’t gold, stuff, or blood. It’s The Action.
Another bug emerged from the crack and said, “All we do is suck their blood…you suck their hearts, minds, and souls.”
“Oh please!” Predator roared. “You know your infestation controls the actions of this poor human. The difference between us Juice, is our team doesn’t use The Fear to control Jake. He can kill us off anytime he wishes.”
“Well, our human kills us everyday…”
“Not the same,” Predator stated flatly. “You know your guy only kills your insect hosts everyday. He doesn’t have even the faintest control of The Slumberland Infestation you’ve developed to pacify him.”
Predator cued the duct-tape killing of three more bugs while Bookmaker continued to chat with Hoarder #1. Every time one of their host bugs died, we could hear Juice laughing like Lord Vader deep in the walls.
Predator paused their banter and took another look around the room. There was only one path through the tiny one room unit, and it appeared (based on the large piece of foam rolled next to the closet) that 2 human were living there. Bookmaker confirmed that fact. Hoarder #1 had a nephew who had been living there as well. Apparently, as the story goes, his nephew was the one responsible for the mountain of dirty and clean clothes piled in the kitchen.
“Nice work,” Predator said finally. “You found a good hoard to hide behind here, bug.”
“Oh we’re very happy here,” Juice laughed. “We’ve been here for more than 2 years…”
“2 years!!!” Predator almost choked on the words.
“To be fair to our human host…he really isn’t a classic hoarder. You’ll find that you won’t be able to trigger an emotion response from Our Guy when you separate him from a piece of his hoard. He’s more like a messy person living in a tiny apartment with his nephew, who he helps because he’s a Classic Tough Guy With a Heart of Gold. He’s not a true hoarder…the kind of guy who cries and throws a tantrum and wants to die when someone scratches his sports car, or a sudden drop in the price of of his stocks, or diverse, forces him to sell half his hoard.”
“Not a true hoarder huh…” Predator pondered thoughtfully. “Then why are you here?”
“Just you wait and see,” Juice laughed. “Just you wait and see!”
That night, we presented our acton plan to Landlord. Our pitch was simple. Bookmaker explained to Landlord that most companies who claim the ancient and honorific title of “bedbug destroyers,” aren’t capable of exterminating a dual hoard/bug infestation because they don’t actively hunt bedbugs. The Action usually flows something like this: a) company issues a long, jangled preparation list to the said Hoarder; b) said Hoarder doesn’t have a friend with a truck, or saving to hire a fake friend with a truck, or the physical ability to empty all their dressers, launder and bag all their clothes, put the bags in kitchen or bathroom, pull all their furniture a foot from the walls, and do The Hokey Hokey and turn themselves around; c) and then, when the inevitable happens and the said Hoarder fails to comply, they’re evicted on the grounds of health reasons. Usually the pitch swings the other way. The pest control company explains that “health concerns” can be a blessing, or an “eviction warp zone” (for you millennials), which frees the landlord from the usual long, drawn out process of riding themselves of a hoarder. We know this extremely lucrative storyline between landlords and pest control companies as The Eviction Business, and it’s usually pitched and sold with a lot of well worn one liners, quips, and odes to responsibility and tough love. The tenants who are usually targeted by the Tough Lovers of The Eviction Business aren’t always true Hoarders; like the characters who will bomb or burn a village down if you steal their gold, or harm their economy. Other characters include Single Parent, Low Income Working Parent, Disabled Non Worker, Elderly, and Messy Adult, all the humans hosted characters who, for a range of reasons, can’t keep their piles of clothes, toys, books, and stuff from piling into hoards.
We, on the other hand, pitched Landlord a fairly radical action plan. We told him that the only effective way to kill off Juice and the other Heroes of Slumberland who had piggly backed on a hoarding singularity to hide behind was to hunt and end both infestations at the same time. We called it a “harborage removal service” (like it was one of Guide’s environmental controls) even though it was, clearly, a Hoarder character control service. And we kept our prices low enough for both services to make it make sense. “After all,” Jake said on the phone. “Even if you evict them, you’ll still have to pay someone to haul all that junk away. And you know they’ll charge extra for hauling bedbug infested junk.”
The radical part of that plan we liked the most was the part where we, the pest control operator, amped up The Action of their services with real work. For too long, pest control operators have profited by playing The Authority Figure character, who tells tenants and homeowners what to do, but they won’t lift a finger (even for a price) to fix the rat holes, move the carpenter ant infested old wood, or help an overwhelmed tenant sort and throw away their bedbug infested stuff. Operators like to think of themselves like soldiers with spray guns who’s job it is pull the trigger and kill the Bad Guys. They prefer to leave the food growing, wall building, homemaking hard work to the poor townsfolk. Watch any action movie, it’s always the non-hero supporting cast types who build the walls and traps to prepare for the villains arrival while the Hero sits back and supervises the work, watching and waiting like a bedbug for the right time to “bite” the Bad Guys.
A week later, we were standing in the middle of The Hoard putting our action plan to work.
“What do you think?” Predator asked as he held up an old leather jacket to show Hoarder #1 the bugs crawling on it. “Should we try to save it, or toss it?”
Pausing, “chin to mouth,” Hoarder #1 said, “Hum…I don’t know…that’s a nice jacket.”
Over a hundred items later, each discernibly placed in either “the shit can” or a bag for laundry or storage, we finally cleared the epicenter of The Infestation:
Aside from removing enough harborage to spray the epicenter, the goal was also to install a new boxspring and mattress for my new friend Hoarder #1. It took some convincing, but Landlord had agreed to pay for it. “If we can remove his infested mattress and box spring,” Predator explained to Landlord on the phone. “You’ll be killing enough bedbugs in the removal process to save us at least one service.” Not only was the mattress and box spring infested inside and out, it was worn well beyond its expiration date. If it was a pair of old shoes, it would have had holes in it all its toes.
During the first hunt at The Humble Apartments, Predator removed an entire pickup full of infested stuff and harborage, including Hoarder #1’s mattress and boxspring and Manager’s homemade bed frame. Two weeks later, Predator packed our humans truck “Ranger Jane” full again. The service featured the removal of Hoarder #1’s infested entertainment center and dresser. Predator shared a moment with Manager when he asked if he’d help him move the massive dresser down to the truck. Most humans (very nearly 100%) would have freaked out at the thought of lifting and moving a dresser, facing live bedbugs inches from your face, but not Manager. He didn’t even flinch. When they were done, Predator wanted to share his warm feelings with Manger, so he gave Manager a “mind hug” shared between two consenting live acton characters. As Predator’s fond of saying, “Physical contact is overrated.” A good action is never wasted, in or out.
Long story short, in 3 killer bedbug hunts Predator was able to eradicate all of the bugs in Manager’s apartment and clear enough of The Hoard to do a proper chemical application: baseboards, under bed frame, inside epicenter closet, and even the baseboards behind the mountain of clothes, which had been sorted, (mostly) washed and dried, and relocated in a truck full of storage bins that Predator bought on sale at Freddy’s before The Virus hit. Turns out, that was a good thing to buy. A few months later, Farmer Emily discovered that bins had become a hot commodity, out of stock and pricy.
All the signs were looking good, until we got an email from Landlord. The word was out. The Humble Apartment had another “hoarder” and he had bedbugs too. Manger had already described this tenant, saying, “We have sort of a hands off policy here. You know, as long as the rent gets paid…” Through the meandering process of piecing a coherent and accurate story together, we learned that Hoarder #1 and Hoarder #2 were both in their late fifties/early sixties and they had both lived in The Humble for more than twenty years.
No doubt, this wasn’t their first rodeo. Before Predator knocked on Hoarder #2’s door to do his inspection, Bookmaker drew a horrifying mental picture to harass him. The picture showed a progression of all the characters who had played in the same scene, and knocked on the same door, prepared to do battle with the dreaded Hoarder. First was the parent who screamed “clean up your room!” followed by the teacher who scolded “organize your desk!” followed by the supervisor who calmly (through gritted teeth) asked “please clean your work van.” Next in line was the social worker armed with star chart trackers, legal drugs, and The Latest Theory who was determined to return the hoarding infestation to the routine rules and orders of civilization. Clearly all of them had failed, and Predator was just the newest sucker to saunter to the mouth of the cave and raise his shiny sword to face The Hoard.
Predator’s response was classic Predator. “Fuck all that,” he shot back. “I’m only here to hunt the bugs.”
“Hello?” Hoarder #2 answered the door like a question.
After a few minutes of introduction and routine questions about the bugs, we finally opened the door enough to see The Hoard in full. The small 3×3 space where the door swung open was the only space not filled floor to ceiling with stuff. No walkway to the back room. No space to access the kitchen. No living room to sit, kick off the shoes, and relax after a long day of work with a beer and bad TV.
“I have to ask…” Predator asked. “Where do you sleep?”
Hoarder #2 pointed to the foam pad teetering at the top of his most immediate pile. Predator knelt down and took a closer look at the sleeping area just inside the door. He saw the diatomaceous earth and the spotting/bedbug droppings on the newspaper bags all around. “Nightmare scenario” didn’t begin to describe it.
Like cowards, we fled from that scene as quickly as we could…offering safety advice about the health hazards of inhaling bug killing dust as the the door closed, once again, on The Hoard.
At first we rejected the job, sighting the fact that (even if we wanted to do it) we couldn’t move The Hoard with only one human host employed on our payroll. Wilderness Guide, Bookmaker, and our receptionist Jake all remembered our recent misadventures with our human’s late, great, hoarding uncle “Just Jim,” which had been digested throughly in our first live action novel, The Rise and Fall of The Novel Corporation. It was Predator who stood alone.
“I started to hunt this infestation,” Predator cried aloud like a Viking in town square. “And I will not back down!”
It was more than Predator’s need to win victories than dragged us into the cave with him. We knew our teammate like we knew ourselves, and we knew he needed, more than any of us, to finish what he started. He needed to hunt like our human needed chips, pizza, and beer. It was Guide who threw her live action vote first.
“I can use a break from breathing insulation in crawlspaces,” Guide replied. “Let’s do this.”
We all turned our attention to Bookmaker. He was already on the couch eating pizza and watching his favorite action simulation on The Fourth Wall. It was the part of The Wall called Vikings on Hulu. At the end of 3 action packed episodes, he turned to our team. “You know,” he began rhetorically as usual. “Wouldn’t it be awesome to send a big ‘fuck you’ to those industry assholes in The Eviction Business by showing them a better way to hunt Juice?”
“Yes,” Guide smiled. “That would be awesome.”
The next day, we pitched Landlord an insanely low price to hopefully keep his interest through the whole ordeal. A few days later, we were once again standing at the mouth of The Hoard. We carried no tanks full of pesticide, or fancy dust, or some stupid bug killing program designed in The Industry’s Bug Lab. All we had was a big roll of plastic bags and Ranger Jane (our human’s beat up old truck) ready for action on the street outside. Our first goal was to get Hoarder #2 off the ground, away from the front door (where the infestation could…and did…spread easily to his neighbors), and sleeping in a bed. That way Juice and all the other Heroes of Slumberland would have to climb the bed to reach their host. As it stood, Juice could hide anywhere, in anything, within a few feet of their host’s sleeping area on the floor. In warfare, general’s refer to this classic strategy as “picking the terrain.” Predator wanted Juice to follow their host to the edges of a mattress, where he could find them and pluck them off, one by one (if needed), easy as shooting deer in an open meadow.
Each for our own reasons, Storysold: Pest Control liked Hoarder #2. He was a hardworking career temp worker who didn’t have a set schedule, a freedom most employees take for granted. He waited for The Call from his agency everyday. When it came in, he took the bus to work, worked his shift, and returned to wait again. He had a radio, but no TV. He clearly didn’t drink to excess or do drugs. He was interested in nutrition, eating right, and remembered fondly his younger days when he once biked from Seattle to Portland in some kind of event. He had the usual loner habit of monologuing, which didn’t bother any of us except Bookmaker who is, of course, also an epic monologuer. But Bookmaker let that one roll off him, because he was genuinely in awe of Hoarder #2’s storytelling powers.
“What about this?” we’d say, holding an item up from The Hoard. “Can this go?”
Every item we held up was a precious part of his creation. The kitchen was buried, but the pot we held up was the perfect pot to cook his favorite dish when he got more organized. And so on.
Predator identified it immediately. It was The American Dream in action. The Hoard was built on an interconnected web of “some day” dreams. Some day you’ll use those skis again. Some day you’ll need that box full of lawn games when you invite your friends over for a backyard barbecue. Some day you’ll use that tool in your garage to build a shed to store all your tools in the backyard. Some day The End days will come and you’ll need a AR-15 with a sniper scope. No doubt, this was Juice’s doing. When the Heroes of Slumberland weren’t busy sucking human blood, they were building Slumberland (aka The Fourth Wall) and stocking it full of action less dreams that have less than zero chance of becoming true.
After two full truck loads to the Metro Transfer Station (and a last pre-quarantine lunch at Subway), we were really beginning to enjoy the rhythm of sorting through The Hoard, discovering little pockets of bugs, sealing them in bags, and then making our runs to the dump. We talked a lot about our childhoods, our human’s old Marine character, and sharing the best of our work stories. Hoarder #2 had some good ones. Like the time his boss from the Oregonian tossed 50 gallons of a flammable printing substance away and ended up setting the dump on fire.
As we sorted and inspected, I discovered that The Hoard had a few familiar American dream themes: 1) bike gear 2) travel magazines 3) cooking 4) flashlights, 2) shopping bags (reusable and paper), 3) daily newspapers, 4) Terry cloth towels, and 5) porn. Lots and lots of good old fashioned porn.
“How disgusting!” Guide protested. “Porn objectifies women…”
“At least it’s not another Precious Moments collection,” Bookmaker laughed.
Wilderness Guide took her usual position on The High Ground. “No crimes are ever committed by characters who objectify happy childhood memories.”
“Oh contraire!” Bookmaker laughed again. “Why do you think Shrinks are so obsessed with unlocking the childhood memories of their patients? At least, in most case, porn leads to some sort of pleasurable action.”
“And I suppose objectifying Precious Moments makes our hosts miserable?”
“Are you kidding?” Bookmaker rolled with laughter. “The Fourth Wall is like 65.3% built with nostalgia for youthful days of Drive Ins, Milkshakes, and Sweetheart Kisses on the Cheek. At least they try to censure sex fiction.”
Then suddenly, out of the blue, Predator turned to his team and said, “Ok, I need to say something to the team…”
“Well then, say it!” Bookmaker mocked.
“In private,” Predator said, as he prompted our human to drop his bag of hoard and walk away. A moment later, on the sidewalk outside The Humble Apartments, Predator let us have it. “We’re not here to play psychotherapist…and try to figure out The Hoard like it was a got-damed math equation!” he shouted like a drill instructor. “Standing apart, figuring out stupid nonsense isn’t going to help us end this infestation!”
We had no reply for that. Predator was right. In The End, The Action is all that matters. So we stopped trying to figure out The Hoard (and its collective core of porn) and put our better characteristics to work.
1,250 pounds of hoard later, Juice’s human host was off the floor sleeping in a bed we made for him. The window shown in the photo below was literally the light at the end of the tunnel we burrowed through The Hoard with a lot of hard work, iron wills, and a lot of patience and humor >
And yes, you can use glue boards to catch bedbugs…
At the infestation’s peak, we were active hunting bugs in 4 occupied units, 2 vacant units, 2 shared bathrooms, 2 storage rooms, and the laundry area. There is so much more to this story; like the part where we waited months waiting for the last of Juice’s hoard-hiders to emerge from the cracks and wall voids and shopping bags; or the part where small pockets of bugs popped up in Hoarder #1’s storage (from the clothes bags of Clothes Mountain he didn’t wash) and migrated to the shared bathrooms; or the part where Hoarder #2 failed to use his new bed and propped it up to make more space; or the adventure we took with Hoarder #1 to his friend’s apartment in a low income high rise in Hollywood to make sure The Infestation wasn’t going to reignite there, and then hitchhike back to his home. Or the part where, no matter what we did, there is still a 75.3% chance that Juice will find their way back to The Humble Apartments. There is so much more to this story, but thanks to our new friends Hoarder #1 and #2, Manger, Landlord, Property Manager, and Hoarder #2’s Neighbor we’re feeling more sensitive than ever to the hoarding of our American Dream.
Today is our second day off in a month, and Storysold: Pest Control would rather not waste any more time recollecting and objectifying the actions of this service story. It’s time to get our human off his ass (go running, or do the dishes, or make dinner for Farmer Emily) do something, anything, before we become a part of our little hoard of literary gold.
And while we’re away, engaged in The Action, we suggest strongly that you imagine this story exactly as we wrote it. Memorize and learn it “by heart” it like all the collections of Precious Moments the teachers teach. Don’t you dare edit it (even by accident), or digest our treasured words in a messy way.
Because there will be a test, and if you fail we will send Predator to shit can your precious hoard too.
Wouldn’t it suck to have to start over from The Beginning? All that hard work and sacrifice lost?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that’s just the point of reaching…