Service Story #53: The Heroes of Slumberland, Episode 2 (Hoarders, The Eviction Business, and the American Dream)

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.

[ Note the plastic along the wall in the background of that photo. That’s a clever DYI pest control device. The bugs get caught behind the plastic on their way to their host, where the host can kill them like soldiers on an open field with ease. ]

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…

THE END

Service Story #28: The Heroes of Slumberland (aka The Part Where Pest Predator Learns to Lie to Humans)

Service Story #28: The Heroes of Slumberland (aka The Part Where Pest Predator Learns to Lie to Humans)

PREDATOR: The safe bet is to wait until we get the all clear to move new furniture in, but I get that life has its own pace. I have your back either way.

SOPHIE: 4 bugs on me from big couch last night. Blech!

Produced on Oct 7, 8, 22, 23; Nov 5, and Dec 17 in Vancouver, WA

by Sophie and David N.

I am Pest Predator, the customer service character in charge of bedbug services for Storysold: Pest Control.

I’ve been hunting bedbugs for many years now, and the question that everyone always asks is, “Where did they come from?”

I’ve tried to tell the truth. If you’re out in the world and you sit on a chair, rest on a couch, or sleep in a bed infested with bedbugs for more than, (let’s say) fifteen minutes, then you might have made a new friend. Cleanliness has nothing to do with a bedbug’s decision to befriend you.

I’ve tried the truth, but my social skills aren’t, as they say “appropriate.” I can tell by the look on their faces. “I don’t know where you made your new friends,” isn’t an appropriate answer to that question.

That’s why I’m learning to lie. Nothing in the following service story is true. It’s the story I should have told Sophie when she asked that question…

On Monday Oct 7th the immaterial, generically engineered commercial character known as Thumbtack (who we generically endorse in hopes they will someday vanquish Home Advisor and leave that monster lost forever in a sea of forgetfulness), sent the following messages:

SOPHIE: [requested an estimate for bedbug elimination]

PREDATOR: Hello Sophie, I prefer to start with an inspection even if you know you have them. I have found it saves a lot of time, money, and confusion. I charge $85 for inspection. If you decide to go forward with treatment, it will be applied to first treatment fee…

SOPHIE: When can you come 🙂

PREDATOR: I have time today between 12 and 2, tomorrow AM, or Wednesday afternoon. Do any of those times work for you?

SOPHIE: Yes today please

PREDATOR: Sounds good. I’ll text you when I’m on my way

Hours later, I was standing in Sophie’s home in Vancouver WA inspecting all her sleeping and resting areas for bedbugs.

I found a small gathering (about 25-50) in her son’s bed, about as many in the bed downstairs, a few possible signs in the back bedroom, but the mass of them were in the living room. The nice, comfy, red couches were populated heavily with the bugs that bite at night.

Like I said, I’m not always socially appropriate. And I’m proud to report that I did not look the family in their eyes and say, “Holy Moses! You have a small army of bloodsuckers in your living room!” I very calmly assured them that I was the right character for the job, all the while setting what I felt was appropriate expectations.

“My average number of treatments is three,” I reported as I added what I thought was amazing sellspersonship. “I’m Pest Predator, and I take my hunts seriously. If I can’t hit by average of three, I’ll do the rest for half price.” Later that night, at our nightly team meeting around the movie screen (featuring the latest action movie), our human host Jake made it clear that was not the right answer.

“Half off?” our human railed. “Do you have any idea how expensive healthcare insurance is?”

“Never fear, human vassel,” I spoke in calm, even tones. “I will vanquish their infestation in three services…”

“Or what?” Jake laughed nervously. “Where’s my cut of this deal?”

CHAPTER 1: The First Hunt

That was The Intro Inspection. The next morning, on Oct 8th, I arrived bright and early for my first bug hunt. As you might have already noticed, I hadn’t begun lying to the humans yet.

Sophie greeted me at the door, bright eyed and full of energy. I like to indulge myself and identify as a “supereconomic action hero,” but Sophie was the real deal. She put her customer service mask on, clocked in for the nightshift, and became that undervalued hero we know as “social worker.”

You know, the social services superpeople who form like Autobots (or Voltron) to help the humans who host non-normal characters who don’t always produce the kind of action that the Capital C Characters of civilization don’t believe are worth the price of their admission.

Needless to say, I liked her immediately.

I liked her in spite of the fact that she genuinely liked classic 80s action heroes like Steven Seagal and David Hasselhoff. I’m too much of a true believer in the greats like Sean Connery, Kurt Russel, and Dwayne Johnson to take would-be heroes like Night Rider seriously, but I admired her courage. It takes guts to say “I like David Hasselhoff” aloud and mean it. In some countries that aren’t as free as ours, they shame people for saying such things. I’m not saying we should tape our humans’ eyes open and administer legal drugs, and then make everyone watch appropriate 80s action movies like Silverado, Predator, Jedi, Mad Max 2, Wrath of Khan, and Big Trouble in Little China, but the world would be a better place if we were all running hot with Jack Burton on The Pork Chop Express.

“To the choppa!” we’d all cry in The Next Extraterrestrial Bedbug Invasion.

Sorry, that was an inappropriate departure from my narrative flow. I’m about to get to the part where I start lying to the humans.

After I bagged all the suspect bedding and clothes and prepped the home for the chemical spray, I spent about an hour steaming the couches. As it goes with the real-life action hero business of slaughtering bedbugs, it takes many forms. Steam is great for killing the bugs and eggs that are present during The Hunt, but it has a limited reach like chemicals. In other words, steam isn’t more magic than spraying neurotoxins. The steam can reach further into, let’s say, a couch, than chemicals, but it still can’t reach far or hot enough to kill a hoard living in the inner core of a mattress, couch, or chair. To get at a bedbug population that has grown below the surface of a sleeping or resting area, trickery is needed.

“I’m going to put these climb ups on your couches,” I said to Sophie a few moments before she left. “Is that ok?’

“Yes,” she replied. “We’re going to get rid of those anyway.”

Use the climb ups to cut them off from the baseboards, carpet, and the rest of the house. That was my plan as I applied neurotoxins around the base of the couches as I usually do. I was heartened by the low numbers of bugs in other rooms. Then again, I did find signs of activity in every sleeping room in the home. No doubt, this wasn’t going to be easy.

CHAPTER 2: The Second Hunt

In the time before The Second Hunt, the creature Thumbtack sent the following messages:

SOPHIE: New couches coming tomorrow. Not sure how best to proceed? Do we wait to open them or go ahead and move the old ones out

PREDATOR: The safe bet is to wait until we get the all clear to move new furniture in, but I get that life has its own pace. I have your back either way.

SOPHIE: 4 bugs on me from big couch last night. Blech! Can I at least get rid of that one and the new one in. I can put the trays on the new one. They all seemed like smaller bugs. I guess we need to schedule next treatment?

PREDATOR: Smaller bugs is good sign. As for the couch, I totally support whatever decision you make. Sounds to me like you’re ready for a new sofa 🙂 We can schedule the next treatment for sure, but I recommend we wait the full two weeks. I space the treatments out that way, because it saves us time, you money, and it’s more effective in long run.

SOPHIE: Ok! Do you want to throw me out a date/ time for treatment 2? Same time on 22nd would be great…

Good chance that’s where the lying began. Smaller bugs/nymphs are a sign of The End, but they’re also a sign of The Beginning. I suppose I should have mentioned that, but I was already asking a lot of our producers. It’s hard to look a human in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry, for the next three treatments you’re going to be my bait.”

In fact, I felt so bad about having to ask Sophie and her wonderful family to be my bait, I put one of my still untested prototypes into action. The Sunday night before I geared up for my second hunt, I spent an evening building a bedbug trap that, if successful, would solve the problem of bites during treatment. Not only that, it might also eliminate the need for chemicals in bedbug treatments all together.

The idea is simple enough. That thing fits in between the mattress and box spring of a queen sized bed (like the one in Sophie’s basement) with the lip facing down. Once installed, the lip is filled with a old pest control product called Tanglefoot. It’s a sticky, removable glue substance that would catch bedbugs like flies on flypaper.

And yes, I managed to fit that thing on my little Ford Transit van and drive to Vancouver. It was excited to test my new contraption, but I’m also what they call a “mission oriented” creature. After I arrived in scene, Sophie and I had a heart to heart chat about the new plastic wrapped furniture in the backyard. (a) Not only did I then realize that the only queen bed my new invention would fit on didn’t have a box spring, but Ikea slats (b) I realized Sophie was committed to tossing the couch and love seats that represented the bulk of the bug harborage in her home, and I knew, without a doubt, that would make my job easier. The only problem was disposal.

“I’m going to call Waste Management and ask them to pick it up,” she said after we moved the couch and love seats onto the driveway. “If they won’t do it, I’m sure they can recommend someone who can.”

“Sounds good,” was all I said, knowing well that the bedbug stigma was so troublesome to humans, even waste management professionals refused to touch a bed, or couch, if they knew it had bedbugs. While Sophie called Waste Management (and got the expected runaround) and I proceeded to steam, inspect, kill bugs, and prep the house, I stewed on the words that were already on the tip of our tongue.

After her call, Sophie went to church and left me to roll up my sleeves, blow my inner hunting bugle, and begin my ritual act of tracking the little devils down. Unlike other bedbug hunters who require their customers to pack all their belongings in bags and stack them floor to ceiling in the kitchen or bathroom, I prefer to rifle through the belongings of relative strangers like I was a prison guard, or at-risk teen social worker tossing bunks looking for inappropriate contraband in a detention center. I’m aware it’s super creepy, but I don’t trust chemicals. I want to look my prey in its eyes and know for certain I tracked and sent them to The Great Bedbug Beyond.

I’m often tempted to comment on what I find: “I see you like The National too!” But I keep a lid on it, because I don’t want to be any creeper than I already am. Humans never know exactly how to take me anyway. I’m half human, half fly, and Predator from the 80s movie The Predator.

By the end of my second hunt, I discovered 2 harborages I missed in my first hunt. The first was along the edge of the carpet that was under the couch. The second was a bug I found in the video gaming chair in the back bedroom. How could you be so stupid! I thought as I waited for Sophie to return from church. Always check the gaming chairs! They’re like Bedbug Disneyland. They all go there!

As soon as Sophie walked in, I stopped the ritual act of beating myself with branches like a medieval monk. Even though the general punishment and sacrifice of self is often highly encouraged (but seldom rewarded), I still think individual repression falls into creepy/borderline inappropriate behavior right along with hunting for bugs in other people’s private belongings.

Then again, I thought as I presented Sophie with the carpet, the fancy doctors on The Hill get away with borderline inappropriate/downright weird behavior all the time. I mean, for real, those guys get paid big bucks to rifle though more than your belongings looking for pestilence. They get paid big bucks to rifle through your BODIES looking for microscopic “bugs” everyday, and that’s somehow perfectly normal. Humans just nod and agree with those characters when do their inspections. Maybe that’s because they doctors are so great about putting on a good show, pretending they really know For Real what’s going on behind your walls. They interpret The Nature of your bodies with their well crafted stories same as any hustling pest control operator. It’s not like they really have what would be a genuine super power…to see inside and know your cellular soul intimately.

Sophie took one look at the rug, and decisively stated, “Toss it. I was going to replace that rug anyway.”

There was hope for the carpet, but I rolled it up anyway. I know all too well, that too much optimism always gets me in trouble.

The sudden need to say something about the removal of things hit me all at once. By choosing to replace the harborage, Sophie was unwittingly moving into my happy hunting ground like the time the bad guys took over the ship Steven Seagal was humbly cooking in…before shit hit the fan.

“I’m going to say something mean now,” I said with a smile as Sophie walked out in preparation for my chemical application. I framed it like that because I knew she was a super person social worker, who was used to higher degrees of conflict than the average clock punchers.

“Shoot,” she smiled back.

“I’ve already sunk my teeth in this one, so I don’t want you to tell me ‘no’ when I make this offer…”

“Well ok,” she almost looked interested. “What’s your offer?”

“Waste Management isn’t going to pick that up,” I explained. “Let me take it to the dump for you guys. I need to do it… It will satisfy my need to complete this hunt start to finish.”

I knew she knew I meant it. I’m not as they say “on the spectrum,” but I’m not fully human. I’m part alien hunter from out space, and the alien hunters in space take their sense of completion very seriously.

“Ok,” she said, torturing me. “But you should let me pay you something.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I smiled, secretly sighing with relief knowing my happy hunting ground was mine once again. “I wouldn’t charge you for the chemicals I kill the bugs with…It’s all part of the service.”

CHAPTER 3: The Dump Run

I decided it was a bad idea to let the furniture sit in the driveway any longer than necessary. I knew, from experience, that humans (like some pests) will take anything that’s not nailed down if they think it’s been abandoned.

It’s classic earthing behavior to explore, discover, and claim “undiscovered” countries, even ones infested with bedbugs.

I arrived early the next morning in our old pickup truck “Ranger Jane,” an old Autobot friend who has been with Farmer Emily and I on many of our adventures. When no humans are looking, Ranger Jane transforms into a being made of Pure Energy (Giver of Racial and Gender Equality, Economic Freedom, and Chocolate Milkshakes with Enough Straws for Everybody). If you look carefully at the periodic table of elements you’ll see that Pure Energy is listed beside kryptonite, the only material in the universe who can kill Superman. Everyone knows he really struggles when it comes to maintaining a normal, everyday relationship with Lois. She’s always so much easier to relate to when she’s tied to the tracks.

All that’s to say, Ranger Jane didn’t have any strange, socially sanctioned stigma about bedbugs. She hauled the infested harborage to the dump in three trips, “no oil spilt.” Which is Autobot for “no sweat.”

“Aside from some wild fictions about Pure Energy and such,” Ranger Jane said, using her radio not too unlike Bumblebee, “you haven’t really lied to any of the humans yet. What’s your deal? You know no one will ever read these service stories if you write them straight.”

I heard what the old clunker had to say, but I didn’t reply to her taunts until after our dump runs were done.

“I know,” I replied finally as I waved goodbye to Sophie and her husband smiling and waving back on their front lawn. “I’m warming up to it.”

“You know she’s going to ask, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know. The humans always do.”

“So what are you going to say?”

“I don’t know,” I replied honestly. “Where do bedbugs come from?”

And that’s that. I pressed play on my favorite song–The Pixies “Where is My Mind?”–and let my character fade to black on my drive home.

CHAPTER 4: The Third Hunt

A week later, the Thumbtack sent a very special message to my human’s phone. It read like this:

SOPHIE: We are winning! Home feels like it’s ours again, no pests since your last visit. Will we see you Nov 5 at 8?

PREDATOR: Awesome! Totally a team effort! November 5th at 8 works great.

Money is necessary for food and shelter, but victory is the true currency of any predator. And it can’t be bought.

I arrived on Nov 5th more fired up than usual. I flashed my light in every crack and crevice in every sleeping and resting area of the home. I didn’t want to find any bugs, but I didn’t want to stop looking either. To me, the scene where I missed one–and failed to claim total victory–was a lot more terrifying that the scene where I found one and had to tell Sophie we needed a 4th treatment. No doubt, it helped that all the furniture in the living room was new. And no doubt, that also upped the stakes. The new furniture was now under my protection too.

After an hour or two of inspection, I sighed a sigh of relief and put my mind to steaming the downstairs bed and prepping the house for what I hoped would be a final application of bug destroying neurotoxins.

When Sophie returned from church, we talked in the living room for a while. I shared my story about my autistic nephew stealing trinkets behind the prize counter at Chucky Cheese in front of everyone, and no one said a thing. He just reached behind the counter in full view of God and took what he wanted, and nobody cared to sound the alarm. He should have been dragged off to some kind of detention center for at-risk teens. Instead he went home with a lot of candy and useless toy garbage.

At first I thought that story about my autistic nephew had nothing to do with hunting bedbugs, but then I thought about it for a moment or two while I paced around the room, still looking for bugs.

I got it, I thought suddenly. I know where bedbugs come from. Now all I have to do is wait for Sophie to ask me again, or maybe I can prompt her to ask the question with some kind of social cue…

I was about to make my move when I happened to look up.

“Shit,” I said aloud. “I forgot to check the curtains.”

Sure enough, there was a small party of bedbugs still clinging to the ripples in the living room curtains. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Sophie to wash and dry it at high heat for 60 minutes, but I didn’t trust her.

“Don’t worry,” I said as I carefully bagged it up and puffed it with a few rounds of silica gel dust. “I’m still good with moving to final stage of the process. I’ll bring your curtains back in a month.”

And so began the long wait for The Final Inspection. In the long days that followed my mind raced: Did I get them all? Will we be able to finally claim our victory from The Heroes of Slumberland?

Chapter 4: Breaking The Fourth Wall

When the day of The Final Inspection finally arrived, Sophie and David greeted me at the door. I was feeling nervous, as always. What if I missed one? I thought, pacing like a caged animal. What if I inspect and give them the thumbs up, and then I miss one?

“I’m nervous,” I reported after a few moments of pacing.

“Why?” Sophie replied with her potent mix of indomitable optimism and skepticism. “I’m not worried at all. We haven’t seen a bug since our last treatment.”

Then I explained myself, a compulsive act often attributed to bedbug destroyers, while I began my routine of turning their home upside down like a truffle hunting pig.

“Did you bring our curtains back?”

“You bet,” I pointed to the bag I brought with me. “I washed and dried it last night.”

I know Sophie and David said they were cool, but I could feel the tension in the room. We were all on pins and needles, waiting to see if I’d turn up any more bugs. In spite of what most people believe, even a lone bedbug in a 3 room home isn’t impossible to find. Life isn’t like Star Trek. They can be found; bedbugs don’t have cloaking devices. Usually, the logic goes, the longer I hunt for them, the better the chances are that I won’t find any.

Ten minutes rolled into thirty. I searched all the rooms, lifting every mattress and sofa in their home with my Herculean ant strength.

“I’m calling it!” I said, greeting the couple in their kitchen with a grin.

“All clear?” David asked hopefully.

“All clear!”

After a celebratory round of high fives, we enjoyed a nice, long chat in the kitchen. We talked about all the things I love to talk about (but rarely have the chance to exercise): social work, super powers vs. mental illness, fiction and story writing, and the everyday flow of The Action. In the back of my mind I was secretly hoping they had read this story…and knew what had to happen next in order for my title to make sense. Come on…please, I thought. Pop the question…

As the wonderful conversation wandered, I wanted to shake my head and yell, “Cut!” And then take my stars into my office and explain, “Don’t you see? This scene, right here and now, is our chance at The Big Time! Can you name one story in the history of the world where real, live action characters became aware enough of their own stories to break The Fourth Wall? All it will take is for you to be aware enough of our story to pop the question…and cue my reply!”

To this day, I don’t know if Sophie and David were aware enough of The Fourth Wall to break it, but I shit you not! It happened right there in that kitchen with no prompting from me!

The topic emerged naturally from our conversation: “So where do bedbugs come from?”

And I smiled and said, “I know I should tell you what I tell everyone else…and tell you that bedbugs are hitchhikers that you can pick up in motels, theaters, and video gaming conventions…but that wouldn’t be true. Not really. The truth is, bedbugs are the heroes of Slumberland. They’re the vanguards of a growing movement among the wilderness creatures of this planet who all believe the only way to cure the human infestation is to, well, rock you gently to sleep–like Snow White–in a digital world they’ve developed for you called Slumberland. This movement wants to put a spell on you that makes you forget all about The Action…forget about the pain and conflict of life. They want you to fall into your predictable work routines, watch TV in the evenings and weekends, never talk to strangers, and fear the wilderness outside your home, so their heroes can feed on you…and drink from your precious bodily fluids…so they can divide the humans from themselves, grow strong, and reclaim their wilderness homes from the humans like an invasion of brain-sucking vampire zombies.”

Sophie made a vomit face, and said, “Blech!”

“That sounds so awful,” David cringed.

“Oh it is,” I replied dramatically. “But that’s the truth. An army of Slumberlandian Heroes are now, as we speak, marching across the globe pacifying humans with generic work routines and screens. They are working hard to build marketable sleeping and resting areas, so they can feed on our flesh whenever they want…with popcorn and bowls of ice cream.”

It wasn’t right. I should have never told them. No human should have to bear the weight of so much truth, but they asked. That’s where bedbugs come from.

THE END

Service Story #38: The Unexcludable Homefront: Our First Live Action Novel.1

Service Story #38: The Unexcludable Homefront: Our First Live Action Novel.1

WELCOME TO STORYSOLD’S FIRST LIVE ACTION NOVEL. IT’S ABOUT BUILDING A NEW KIND OF HOMEFRONT.

Produced for Jennifer Y, Kevin B, and John D. in Lake Oswego beginning Nov 6th 2019

Chapter 1 (Nov 5th 2019): The Critter

I am Wilderness Security Guide, the Environmental Control Operator in charge of rodent services for Storysold: Pest Control. And this is the story of my service –

Over the centuries, you humans have been able to accomplish amazing feats in the expansion and defense of your home fronts. Humans built The Great Wall, constructed mighty castles to defend God, King, and Country, dug miles of trenches in the midst of bombs and gas attacks to mark The Front Line, and sailed to every corner of the earth to claim new ground for your Homelands, but humans still haven’t engineered a good way to keep rats from living under their kitchens and stinking up their Sunday brunch.

Ask your nearest human, “Where’s your Homefront?”

Is it our nation’s border with all its checkpoints? Or maybe it’s our front door? Or maybe its all those lines we drew far away in a distant lands? Even in wartime, The Homefront is a mercurial place like Camelot where the maidens in white uniforms are expected to gather in silence to dress, feed, and nurse their wounded soldiers.

Humans are funny creatures. Ask any of my wilderness creature friends to show you their home fronts. They know exactly where The Line between their burrows, nests, and dens end…and the civilized world begins.

Rats have always known where to find your homefronts.

That’s the difference between law enforcement, war, or preparations for war, and my job. Wilderness security isn’t interested in imaginary lines. My mission is clear. I mark and defend home territories from pests.

Wilderness security is about marking, defending, and maintaining a very real territorial line where the pesky critters who are not invited guests know…without a doubt…who owns that nice, dry, warm home they want to creep around and nest under.

Homes are sacred. It’s the unwritten law of nature. Most of my wilderness creature friends will respect The Line if it’s active, but they will claim it for The Queen like Columbus in a heartbeat if they’re led to believe it’s “undiscovered.” Like your neighbors undiscovered woodpile, rotting garden shed, or old car that’s been sitting in their yard for years.

And of course if the rats are hungry…and the territory control company you hired to build and defend your front stocks poisoned food around your home (that will drive them mad for days before they die)…then suddenly that water line it passed a hundred times on its way to its nest begins to look mighty refreshing. Years of routine peaceful cohabitation goes right out the window. All bets are off when the bait hits their bloodline and pumps their little brains full of the rat smack that sends them on a final Magical Mystery Tour filled with jangly guitars and jolly gurus offering them The Ultimate Unenhungerment of free peanut butter.

Humans aren’t the only ones with disorders. Environments as a whole can be extremely disordered as well. Our small team of industry rebels have begun to study what we call “environmental disorders” that effect the homes of humans and wild creatures alike.

We called our first enviro-disorder, “Entry Hole Disorder.”

The second disorder is the subject of this service story. It’s a deeply rooted environmental defect that effects homes, nations, and other land based identities. We call it: “Systemic Death Production Disorder.” In short, Systemic Death Production Disorder is an action plan undertaken by would-be home defending heroes (and other environmental control professionals like pest control operators) who believe the production of death is the best way to mark and defend their territories. The trouble is, as we know, you humans have been killing rats for centuries. And it has only made them stronger, more clever, and capable of invading human homes.

We’re new at this “science.” So new in fact we don’t even know where to classify the study of environmental disorders. I’m not big on science. I’ve always felt The Story has more explanatory power than, let’s say, running The Numbers. Who knows, maybe we’ll call it a literary exploration, or some shit like that.

In any case, forgive the ignorant jargon, we don’t have a “cure” or even a working “treatment” for Systemic Death Production Disorder yet. Not by a long shot. But we found a couple of humans named Jennifer and Kevin who own a beautiful old home in Lake Oswego who were tired of smelling death. The Thumbtack message came in early. We were on our way to our cast member Matt’s home, the producer of Scratcher

STORYSOLD: Hello Jennifer. I can come out and deal with it [the death smell], but I can’t be there until around 5 tonight. I’ll know better as my day progresses.

JENNIFER: Awesome, please keep me posted. I have an event here tomorrow and need to resolve

Fifteen minutes later, we sent the following message:

STORYSOLD: I can do some creative rerouting. Is noonish better?

JENNIFER: Omg!! Yes, I love you!!

STORYSOLD: I get it. Smell is bad. See you soon

Ten minutes later, we got the following message:

JENNIFER: I’m sorry I didn’t get your name? The guy from Critter Control just showed up at door, so I’m letting him take care of it. They are the service we’ve had for years, but told me they couldn’t come today. I’m sorry to cancel on you, as I do greatly appreciate your prompt response and willingness to come out.

STORYSOLD: Just a thought. If you have had to use them a lot, maybe your home isn’t excluded properly. I’d be happy to come out another day, inspect for entry points, and give you a quote for free

JENNIFER: Sure, if you’d like to give estimate, that would be great. We’ve used them a lot, had them barrier crawl space, and subscribed to their abatement system because they said they’d guarantee coming out if we had issues. But this morning, the office staff customer service was terrible. Acted as though I was a nuisance rather than a good customer.

And so it began. The next morning we introduced ourselves to Keven and Jennifer, popped down in the crawlspace defended by Critter Control (aka the Critter), and reappeared with a phone full of pictures documenting the many entry holes and clear runways through the exclusion work they paid the Critter a lot of money for.

In the Critter’s defense, their territory was a lot harder to exclude than almost any we’ve seen yet. Only half of it a U-shaped foundation, the other half was like a big porch with sheetrock sides fixed to pillars. The Critter had made an effort to bury some mouse friendly hardware cloth (about 6 inches down), but, as I will show, that was mostly for show. It was clear to me from the beginning, the rodents of Lake Oswego had their run of the crawlspace. Signs of activity were everywhere.

Not only did I find entry holes all along the Critter’s exclusion barrier, I also found a nice, fat, ripe dead rat (and a dried up old mouse)–which I fished out of the crawlspace. After I’d stripped my jumpsuit and dusted myself off, I met with Kevin and Jennifer for a few minutes. They were busy, getting ready for their gathering. I tried to escape gracefully many times (and leave them to their preparations), but they continued to ask questions and listen to my perspective on pest control.

“What dead thing did the Critter Control guy pull out when he was here yesterday?” I asked, a little curious.

“He said he couldn’t access the whole crawlspace…too tight,” Kevin replied as we poked around just inside the hatch. “He said he pulled out a dead rat and a mouse.”

“That’s funny,” I laughed. “I pulled out a dead rat and a mouse too.”

“That explains why we were still smelling something mid kitchen.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I found it right where Jennifer said she was still smelling the smell. It wasn’t hard to find…right in the middle of the path leading to the back corner.”

“Do you think the bait brings them in?” Kevin asked.

“Great question,” I said, trying to contain my excitement. I love it when the humans I work with get it. “Bait not only brings them in, it makes them crazy and more likely to cause trouble before they die. It also makes it harder for me to locate…that’s why I prefer using snap traps.”

Then I told him the service story of the business owner on Hawthorne who found a dead roof rat in her waiting room. After an hour of tracking The Action, I discovered that it must have eaten the bait in the stations a few feet outside her open windows, then died feeling trapped and confused because it couldn’t think straight.

“Bait poisons have their place,” I continued to explain, “but I personally don’t see the point of drawing in rats only to kill them. It’s sort of like building a castle with holes that lead directly to a treasure room…and becoming frustrated at the cost of paying soldiers to kill all the would-be thieves who discover the open doors to the treasure.”

“I like the way you think,” Kevin said as we made our way back to the house. I liked the fact we were were talking about it.

It gave me hope. And that’s a priceless thing.

Two days later, we called a team meeting and dedicated four hours to writing an action plan for this service story. The details of the original plan are important, but not as important as the spirit of the plan. In The End, I was proposing to build a new kind of Homefront that Kevin and Jennifer could see–and do it without producing the death smell that was invading their home. After all, what’s worse? A rat nesting under your kitchen, or having to live with dead rats stinking up your kitchen?

Answer: Who cares which is worse. They’re both wrong.

Chapter 1.5: The Original Action Plan

Dear Jennifer and Kevin, 

As promised, here’s my ACTION PLAN PROPOSAL:  

WORKING TITLE – Building a New Homefront: Excluding the Unexcludable Home  

INTRODUCTION: It was good to meet you guys yesterday. Don’t let my self-effacing nature fool you, I’m a steely eyed rat killer at heart. 

To begin, I’d like to tell you a little about my experience. I like to talk a lot about bait free trapping on my wife’s organic farm (it’s a good way to talk about the industry’s obsession with chemical insecticides and rodenticide poisons), but I’ve worked for two of the biggest names in Portland: Ecolab and Pioneer Pest Management, where I spent years learning how to trap and control rodents and wildlife as well. The exclusion-centered and or preventative based pest control service I’m now able to provide my customers has not risen from inspiration, but my bearing witness to the many ways The Industry fails their customers. 

THE OVERVIEW:

My action plan will have five acts: 

1) complete the exclusion work Critter Control began 

2) create a clear “DMZ,” or what I call a Homefront around the perimeter of your home: two to three feet of clean, open ground just inside the foundation and crawlspace areas. 

3) replace bait stations with five of my “Volehalla” rodent trapping boxes, which will be set around the exterior and used to trap, distract, and most importantly, to monitor activity around your new Homefront.  

4) monitor activity periodically using an on-going service story, which I will write for your Homefront. The service story will be used like medical records are used in the heathcare industry, a way of tracking activity for pest control professionals and homeowners alike. 

5) work together to reach The End. Theoretically, if the wild creatures of your neighborhood test your new Homefront enough times and don’t get the “open for business” sign of weakness, they will move into your neighbors open crawlspace, abandoned shed, or back into whatever wildspace they can find in the area, where they will have to work a lot harder to fend off natures pest control operators: hawks, owls, etc. 

 THE DETAILS OF ACT ONE

Aside from Critter Controls use of bait stations, notoriously horrible customer service, general inattentiveness, inability to fit in tight crawl spaces, their use of hardware cloth that’s has holes big enough for mice to enter, and all the entry points they left open—your money was well spent on the exclusion work they did do. 

I can build off of what they began. Here’s photos of the entry points (not including the burrowing I found under Critter’s effort) I found in the short time I was down there: 

ENTRY #1 (where joists meet foundation = classic rat hole): 

ENTRY #2 (both the space where the open crawl meets the foundation have gaps that need to be excluded):

ENTRY #3 (no hardware cloth on other side):

ENTRY #4 (the siding there is very fragile, no effort was made to reinforce it or barricade the outside): 

ENTRY #5 (same areas as below): 

ENTRY #6 (more of same):

POSSIBLE ENTRY #7 (found in back of foundation area beyond the dead Norway rat I fished out): 

What will it take to finish the job?Answer: (a) trench the fragile unexcluded area (deeper than Critter’s effort), fix hardware cloth with holes small enough to exclude mice, and then cover it with dirt (b) foam gaps between joists and foundation (c) use hardware cloth, metal flashing, foam, and wood to exclude as needed. I always find more as I go. 

DETAILS OF ACT THREE

As you know, burrowing is an issue. Honestly, it would be better to remove all the work the Critter did, replace the hardware cloth, and bury the new wire deeper than 6 inches. It’s possible that the dirt becomes too hard to dig six inches from the surface, I don’t know. But, a full foot or two would be better. That would be expensive (but doable) undertaking, which I will assume you don’t wish to do. Instead, I propose Plan B…

(a) clean clear two to three feet of open ground just around the inside of the crawlspace. 

(b) fill the current tunnel runways and other weak spots in the Critter’s cloth with gravel, to make them at least work for it. The current tunnels are super easy pickings: an edge that gives and a short 6 inch dig. 

(c) pin back the black moisture barrier using farm stakes to made the inner edge of the new Homefront. 

(d) repair any rodent holes in moisture barrier with duct tape (take it from a farm husband: rodents LOVE to tunnel under black plastic) for purposes of monitoring the space. That way, if any new holes open…we’ll know we have activity we need to deal with. 

(e) leave any space not covered by black plastic open ground. 

(f) make an effort to do the same in foundation area, even though I know this will be hard. It gets tight in there, but I can fit. 

THE DETAILS OF ACT TWO

I believe you understand first hand why using bait along your home is not always the best plan, unless you’re fighting off a mass infestation of rabid zombie rats bent on gnawing their way into your home. It’s sort of like using a howitzer to do a sniper’s job. 

My Volehalla boxes are also good because: 

(a) they only have rat traps in them, so you don’t have to lock them. A simple screw can be used to keep pets out. 

(b) shelter is the attractant, so no food lures are needed…but can be used very effectively if the activity levels around home increase. 

(c) they draw the focus of the rodents in the neighborhood. The rats explore everything looking for food, water, and shelter, always looking for the same thing: “Is this a hole leading to shelter, no. Is this a hole, no. Is this a hole, yes.” Pest control guys like to talk about how neophobic rats are, but the flip side of all neophobic creatures is curiosity. Eventually, they will explore everything in their environment. The rub is, if they explore it and it fails their test (because it’s not new), they will avoid it forever. I’ve seen bait and traps rats have walked around in homes and especially restaurants for years. 

(d) they look cool. And you’re neighbors will be super jealous. I can paint them with rats, mice, or not paint them at all. 

Volahalla rodent system in action at an Airbandb, which is also a very difficult place to exclude. The activity has now flipped from activity inside to activity in boxes. I caught four in one box last month. 

I hunted “Momma Roof Rat” for a month. After I picked off her six teenagers, it was a Volehalla box that got her. 

DETAILS FOR ACT FOUR

I’m collecting a database of service stories I write for the customers who inspire me. In your case, a service story/report will really come in handy. Inspection and attention to detail is the most effective pest control tool at our disposal. If hired, I will write a chapter (with proof of work photos) for every service I perform for you. You will join the story as “producers,” and we will be able to both reference your service story (like doctors and nurses do) in order to track and know with more intamacy your local, urban wilderness.      

Your story will be yours. I am a writer (with an unpublished novel and one full page article sold to Willamette Week) and I would, of course, love to publish your story on my website, but that’s 100% up to you. 

Ecolab tries to do a log book and “partnership” with its commerical accounts, but no one takes the log book, because Ecolab undermines its own efforts by sending a new tech/writer out everytime. 

My long term business goal is to stay small. I believe is as hard as getting big, because nothing is geared for small scale business owners. In any case, what that means for you (and the future owner of the home) is, you get a long term commitment with only one person to deal with… 

DETAILS FOR ACT FIVE

I imagine, once I get your new Homefront up and operational, the regular monitoring services will begin every few weeks, at first, and then—once we become more confident in our terrirotial line—those services will be spaced further and further apart. Checking the Homefont once a year would be a great benchmark goal to set for a theoretical ending! That, or handing the whole system over to you, or the new homeowners to do yourself. 

[And then I listed the estimated costs for building their New Homefront. I excluded that from this story because it’s still a prototypical system]

Chapter 2: Act 1 and 2 – The Exclusion Work (Nov 11 and 13th)

My teammate Bookmaker Jake and I don’t always see eye to eye, but I like one of his classic lines. He says writing is like life, “Plans are great for kindling the courage that’s needed to face The Blank Page, but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry the moment The Action hits.” He always uses that quote to justify his appetite for chaos, but I’m not a mouse or a man. And I believe in plans, or more specifically I believe in the importance of drafts, especially when everything goes to shit.

After an hour of digging out the soft dirt around the perimeter of the porch side of the crawlspace, I discovered a tunnel that ran almost all the way under the Critter’s wire exclusion cloth. Intermittently, along this highway, runways popped up under the plastic inside the crawlspace.

It was then that I realized I was not going to be able to out dig the rats any more than trying to hold the line with endless trenching worked for you humans in World War I. Engaging wild creatures in an epic power/death struggle might make a great Marvel Avengers movie, but I’m half wild myself. I know what it that kind of engagement means to rats. All it tell them is, “Hey look. We built something here in this quiet, warm, inactive, undiscovered, unclaimed place…feel free to burrow under it.”

I built a homemade rodent nest trap device from buckets and plastic pipes once and buried it in Farmer Emily’s field once in hopes of encouraging the voles to nest in it. A few of them ate the free food I left in the buckets (warm with nesting material), but most of them just burrowed under it. The lesson learned: a bucket full of nesting material works just as good as a roof as it does a house, especially if the bucket has food to forage from…

“Ha!” Bookmaker laughed while I dug. “What are you going to do now Guide? Anything short of trenching deep enough for a new foundation is pointless…and you saw that drainage at the edge of the property with all those nice big rocks…It’s perfect rodent habitat. Sewer access, rock harborage, and plenty of neighborhood trash to forage from at night!”

“I’m not sure…” I replied, continuing to dig. “I wanted to drop a ton of gravel around the inside of the perimeter, but you’re right…I’m not prepared to build a castle wall deep enough to match this kind of activity.”

“Can you say that again?” Bookmaker sneered.

“What?”

“That part about me being right.”

“You are right,” I replied clinically from The 3rd Person/Bird’s Eye Perspective. “Now what are you prepared to do about it?”

“Cue the righteous revenge plot and kill em’ all?”

“Wrong,” I smiled inside. “We’re going to do what any proper wilderness predator would do. We’re going to get to know our prey.”

“What?” Bookmaker chuckled. “Like knock on the front door of their burrows with a plate full of Betty Crocker?”

“Not exactly. I’m thinking more like ‘learn the herd,’ so I don’t have to work as hard to hunt them when I’m hungry. Good predators waste all their time running around killing prey every time they’re hungry. They ration their stock of walking meat like you do beers in a fridge.”

“That’s a good one, Guide,” Bookmaker replied less boisterously. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m not drinking beer these days…”

“Oh I’ve noticed…” I smiled halfheartedly. “Now why don’t you shut your cake hole and help us cut this hardware cloth.”

In the span of two days and roughly nine hours of crawling around in the dirt and darkness, our team finished our exclusion work. Instead of burying the runways around the perimeter, we fixed hardware cloth over the edge of the inner perimeter (about 6 inches) to be like our open battlefield instead of a castle wall.

Next we filled all the structural, unburrowed entry holes the Critter missed with concrete, foam, metal, and hardware cloth. At the end of the second day, we inspected our exclusion work and found no entry points. Even the holes on either side of the side door had been found (thanks to Jennifer) and blocked off. Now the only way for the rats to enter was by dirt and tunnel under our very visible, knowable, new Homefront.

Even Bookmaker was satisfied with the work.

“Can I show it?” he asked like a mischievous kid.

“Why?” I replied, knowing all too well what he meant.

“Oh you know,” Bookmaker grinned. “In the future, humans won’t only measure their work scenes in time and money.”

“Don’t do it…”

“Too late,” Bookmaker laughed as he posted his proof of work photo. “This exclusion was a One Gallon Work Scene!”

“You’re disgusting,” I said, as I tried not to laugh. “Next time we need to make sure our human drinks more water.”

Chapter 3: Act 3 – The Action Tracking System (Nov 25 and 27)

Humans are so geared to win, they often miss the strategic value of losing sometimes. Especially if you mean to lose on purpose.

Rats are very good at hiding. In most cases, humans sleep mere feet away from rats and never know it, for years, until the rat population becomes infested and they loose control of their ability to be stealthy.

Yes, you read that right. Infestations are what happen when the rats lose control of their own governance. Free food and predator free shelter tends to do that to any earth creature, because it’s hard to stay wild, free, and responsible for one’s own actions when it’s so comforting to live large, cared for and secure under some kind human’s home.

Trouble is, humans aren’t being kind. A snap trap is the perfect metaphor for ungoverned rats. No wild, smart, neophobic rat would take free food from a cup. No matter how tasty. And I have plenty of great examples of wild rats who live a lot longer because they steer clear of free food. But I have a lot more examples of what awaits rats when they leave the wilderness, find open holes in human homes, and become fat and happy feeding off tasty crumbs, dropped popcorn, and the pet food of creatures who have long lost their ability to act independently.

All that’s to say, I want to know where and when those rats cross our New Homefront, so I can adjust, reenforce, and build a better system. All pests help us in that way. They show us our weaknesses.

To do that, we spent 2 days and about eight hours staking the hardware cloth DMZ down, pinning the plastic back, and placing ten Volehalla rodent boxes in and outside the Homefront.

We armed the Volehallas outside with rat traps. We stuffed newspaper in the holes of the ones inside, and then set them with unarmed rat traps and mice traps for monitors. But I did not put any bait, or any form of attractant, anywhere on the property. The plan was to limit the amount of “treasure” in hopes that our rodent friends living in the rocks and drainage have less of a reason to storm the castle. And besides, baiting the creatures we’re trying to keep away just doesn’t seem very honorable. We’re clearly the larger, more powerful species here. It wouldn’t hurt to act a little more like we’re not out to kill every wild thing that breathes air.

In the spirit of that last comment, at the end of our second day building The Action Tracking System, we unveiled our bright new idea.

“Gypsum,” I announced to our team proudly.

“Gypsum?” we all cringed, fearful of yet another untested plan.

“Yes,” I replied, standing my ground. “Use a bulb duster to blanket the Homefront in gypsum powder.”

Pest Predator had been quiet throughout much of this service story, but he’d been paying attention, as always, and doing his part to help.

“I get it,” he said without emotion. “It’s like snow…that we control.”

“Bingo,” I smiled. “As soon as they cross The Magic Line between wilderness and civilization we’ll be able to track them.”

“And kill them…” Pest Predator. “Speaking of which, I’m hungry.”

“Or,” I sighed. “We can use the information to build a better Homefront.” In a whisper I added, “And begin the quest to find a cure, or at least a treatment, for Systemic Death Production Disorder…”

“Finally, all the hard work is done!” Bookmaker beamed as we packed up our gear and headed for the truck and a hamburger. “Now it’s my turn to go to work, wave my magic pen, and make our story more real!”

“Yes,” I said, eyeing the crawlspace warily as I shut the hatch. “It’s the rats turn for sure. Now we wait and see.”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“Oh, I know.”

Chapter 4: Act 4 (A Dream Come True)

Merry Christmas guys, 


I had a big smile on my face after I inspected your new Homefront this morning. No signs of rodent activity anywhere! The chalk is amazing…I could even read where moisture was l dripping on it. 

No signs of activity in the boxes outside either. I took the last of the rat traps out of the crawl and added paper to monitor activity: 

And the best of all, I published and posted the world’s first “live action novel” (the story of your rodent service) in your crawlspace. It may seem like a small thing, but it was a dream come true for many reasons. Thank you so much for producing it! 

Best to you and yours this holiday season. I’ll check the Homefront in a month or so and add another chapter to your book! 


Warmest, Bookmaker Jake  

Chapter 5: The Mystery of the Drop Dead Rat

A month or so later, we scheduled and performed our first routine read of The New Homefront. After a nice long crawl around the crawlspace, it was clear that Jennifer’s Homefront was fully operational. No new signs of rodent or wildlife activity in the chalk, boxes, or outside traps. Everything looked great, so I dragged a few buckets of gravel in…to make it even greater.

It felt good to discover no new drama. Boring stories are good pest control stories, but in any other service story “boring” usually signaled The End was near. In this case, we’d implemented a new idea and it was going to need to be boring for a lot, lot longer before we reached The End.

For the time being, we were thankful for little victories. And that first routine read of Jennifer’s Homefront certainly nice and boring. We all drove away that day feeling victorious.

Little did we know, the rats of Lake Oswego were not going to fade from the scene gracefully.

A week or so later, our human host/receptionist received a text from Jennifer. Her gardener had found a dead rat next to the AC unit just outside our Homefront. She asked what he should do with it. Not fully understanding the need for a clear course of action, I advised many options.

As a result, I (Wilderness Security Guide) was called to save the day.

None of my traps had been tripped, and there was no bait anywhere on the property. I concluded that the rat must have died of “natural causes.” My most natural leading cause was the family dog. That or a hawk with a finicky taste in rats.

Whatever the mystery, I delighted in the fact that I hadn’t killed it. I loved the idea that the rat had run around The New Homefront looking for entry holes, doing its routine Wilderness Security Test. Finding none, it fell easy prey for a neighborhood predator it never had to face until now.

Chapter 6 (March 25th 2020): Long is Wrong

After spending years, decades (or months in my case) building a mighty castle Homefront, what could possibly make the kings and queens of that castle suddenly abandon their post? I could see if the farms and fields in the surrounding peasantry were suddenly struck with a drought, or the wind suddenly began to blow the topsoil away after too many years of industrial farming practices, resulting in a famine that caused everyone to pack their bags and plod the open road in search of food. I could also see them abandoning their protective, rodent free Homefront if a wicked dragon began to roost on its roof and scorched everything in sight. So the right answers for deciding to move away were : A) famine B) dragon, or maybe C) pandemic. Yet Jennifer was still planning to sell and move from her home that had now finally become free of the death smell.

That reality became more real when Jennifer texted our human host (receptionist) asking if we’d be comfortable prepping her home for sale.

Apparently the home inspector had found evidence of rodent activity and advised Jennifer to “evaluate and remediate” the situation. Home inspectors always do that. They see droppings in a crawlspace and they advise things like that. My guess is that, because their authority of their Home Inspector role, is the only thing they do, in The Action of the urban wilds, to put food in their mouths–they dole out advice whenever (and as often) they can. I would blame them for not taking the proper classes in pest control to be that character capable of doing a pest inspection, but it’s not their fault. Even though pest control has been with us since The Beginning (like ancient Egypt), it’s still a joke science that doesn’t have any academic support. Not even an associates degree at the local community college.

As a result, Jennifer and I had to jump the hoop. The inspector indicated that she found signs of activity in the attic, storage space, and the crawl. I dropped by and followed her inspection. In the attic, I found no signs of nesting, droppings, or grooves (tracks) in the blown insulation made by animals who live in attic crawlspaces. Tracking animals in blown insulation is like tracking in the snow. It’s pretty obvious if they’re there, or not. I did, however, find the source of her worry. The Critter Control had also failed to inspect the attic property, and set a rat trap (in Lake Oswego…where I’ve never found roof rats) with no attractant just beyond the hatch. Why, I couldn’t tell you. The Critter strikes again!

Long story short, the storage space had some old evidence of mice from when the crawlspace was accessible to all God’s creation. There’s a rodent highway running from roughly mid crawl, around the chimney area, up through the house to the attic. Situation normal. It doesn’t matter, so long as there isn’t any entry holes around the exterior. If you’ve been reading this novel, you know what kind of activity I found in the crawlspace. Other than that, Jennifer reported an increase of activity around her wonderful garden. She suspected rats, I suspected voles or field mice.

A few weeks after my inspection, I returned to remediate. If I’d been a good hustler I would have advised Jennifer to do another full crawlspace clean out (she had the Critter do one recently), but that wasn’t needed. What was needed was a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the rodent activity that happened after the Critter failed to keep the wilderness out.

After I cleaned and disinfected the storage area, I dragged my Ghostbuster-style backpack vacuum down into the crawlspace and spent a few hours cleaning the hard-to-reach spaces in the back corner where the rats had set up shop.

Then I widened my read of the property, and went searching for rodent burrows. I found many along the nearby urban wild’s version of a babbling brook. In an attempt to remediate the rodent activity outside, I confidently pulled all my Volehalla boxes from the crawlspace and set them in strategic positions around the yard.

Any proper cliffhanger reintroduces The Action by reintroducing the villain. What will our soon-to-be errant hero’s boxes flesh out? Voles, field mice, or rats? Oh my.

In any case, we were thankful to Jennifer, once again, for her advice. She showed our human an example of the invoice report that the HVAC guys left, explaining (with great tact) that a novel length report wasn’t necessary. I immediately picked up what she was putting down.

“Long is wrong,” our human said, smiling when he got it. “That’s what my Editor and Chief Farmer Emily always says when she edits my writings.”

Maybe owning homes follows the same math. Long is wrong. Writing long jangled, conflict riddled live action stories about homeownership in one time and place just isn’t as profitable as keeping it short and sweet. Got to rush through this to get to that. There’s always a greener story that’s ripe for a new beginning somewhere…

Chapter 7 (June 18th): The New Beginning Begins

After a few email exchanges, John the new owner of our New Homefront agreed to give Storysold: Pest Control a shot. A week later, a day before their big move in, I met our live action novel’s newest character. Our first impressions of John were as following: A) Bookmaker liked him, because he seemed kind and controllable; B) Guide flew a little higher and realized that John’s character delivered a drumbeat of good, pointed questions, which meant (to her) that the friendly “weakness” her teammate was detecting was not the classic Labrador-style friendliness that would yield easy manipulations; C) Predator made note that he was willing to spend a lot of time and money reenforcing the structure of his new home to protect his children in case an earthquake ever struck, and that act of 2nd person perspective empathy impressed our teammate Predator greatly. By the end of our first chapter with him, it was our best collective guess that John’s main, workaday character was a vet, dentist, or some other kind of professional. We never asked him.

He could be a gumshoe detective for all we know. First impressions are fun…

In any case, after a brief intro we got to work. First on our list was an ant hunt, especially for carpenter ants. Here’s The Action from our first chapter with John:

A) Predator applied an ant-killing non-repellant around foundation. While he sprayed, he checked the siding for signs of carpenter ant activity. He didn’t find any trails coming out from under siding, but lots of carpenter ants climbing the house along the gutters and vines. He baited all the active trails he could find: vines in back, gutter line and above garage door in front, and along the back porch area. Plus he applied granular bait all around the perimeter, because he found wandering/scouting carpenter ants all around the house.

B) Guide checked her Volehalla rodent boxes. We kept telling John that it’d been a month since we checked, but later we realized it had been almost three (time flies when your catching rats). Speaking of which, the boxes next to the garden we set with the hope of catching voles…didn’t catch anything. It seems very clearly that the rodent (non mole) holes in yard are the work of rats. Guide filled 2 new rat holes in yard with home, and cleared one adult rat from her honey spot:

C) We checked our New Homefront. We didn’t find any signs of tunneling under The Line or tracks in our chalk, but John showed us a place where he found a new tunnel. That was not good, but Guide was quick to remind us that it was better that we could see any place in the Homefront were our work failed the wilderness security test, than not. So we added another layer of chalk, reset our Volehalla boxes outside, and geared up for new rat activity.

Strangely enough, three days later, we were reminded of what happens when we try to out-dig rats along a week, mostly indefensible, unexcludible front. Guide had to retrench her trench line after the rats of The Chicken Loving Neighbor, a service story in Woodstock, dug under her hardware cloth, concrete, and foam. That story has many insane variables The New Homefront doesn’t have, but it was still a good reminder. If rats have the motivation to dig deep, they can and will…and like it was in The Chicken Loving Neighbor, those tunnels can go undetected for days, weeks, months, without notice.

[ shots from The Chicken Loving Neighbor ]

So the big question still reminds to be answered: when faced with an unexcludible Homefront (like a mobile home or a home on pillars), is it better to gear it for visibility/the open field and information, or is it better to try to out dig the rats? And more to the point, if we try to out dig the rats in service stories of this kind, do we formally recommend that it’s better to hire a contractor to build a proper foundation? We don’t know.

What we do know is: we have some carpenter ants to kill. And it won’t hurt to add a few more buckets of gravel to our New Homefront next time we come to kill the ants.

That seems to be the story here: rats and carpenter ants have crossed The Magic Line between the wilderness and civilization and threatened the security of John’s new home.

Guide is quick to remind us that nature doesn’t work on our clocks, but we still think it would have been nice if the rat and ants gave John a few months to settle in before they started testing his Homefront. Great golly geez!

Chapter 8 (July 13th): Breach!

Universal truths, maxims, dictums, and other laws are great. They’re comforting constants in a chaotic world, and they make awesome bumperstickers. Bookmaker Jake especially likes universal truths because they make him sound like a real tweed loving, college lecturing Author. You know, a real whiskey sipping Asshole who says things like, “It’s not worth saying if it fits on a sticker.” Well anyway, here’s the one he wrote at The End of this service:

“For every King who gathers his army outside their enemy’s castle in search of a breech; there’s an army of mice back home who are already feasting on the King’s cheese.”

The compulsive need to find weakness to exploit is an action the wilderness and civilization can both agree on. Ask any playground bully, and then ask every now-grown bullied kid how to beat bullies in The Great Game. So long as you’re not a bully (from the bully class), they might sip their whiskey and tell you how it’s done.

This chapter began with an email to our receptionist:

Hi Jake,
We are having some work done at the house and the contractors found some rodent activity in the floor that they pulled up under the stairs (see attached) 

Resized-20200707-140151.jpeg

They found droppings in the area between the plywood and the insulation and on top of the plywood flooring. 
That said, I’ve no idea if this is new or old activity – but thought i would pass it along to see if you have any thoughts on how to best address this.


Many thanks in advance,
John

To which we replied:

Hi John, 

My usual plan of action for rodent activity is pretty straightforward: 

A) find any dime-sized or bigger entry holes into your home, especially around foundation/vents. Also check for any open holes along foundation that might lead under foundation. If you do find holes, then check to see if they continue into crawlspace. 

B) mark the holes temporarily with plastic bags

C) set some traps in the dark “wild spaces” of your home. If you kill some, keep killing them until your traps go quiet. 

D) seal up the holes…and presto your home is made safe again 

Hope that helps! 

🙂 STORYSOLD

A few moment after I sent that email, Guide cast her bird’s eye perspective on our human’s reply.

“Why did you write that?” Guide asked quizzically. “You know what he meant…”

“I know,” Jake replied sheepishly. “I get it NOW…but I…uh…”

“I…uh…what?” Bookmaker chimed in.

“I forgot who John Dwight was for a moment there…so I wrote a generic reply.”

“You! Receptionist and human host for Storysold: Pest Control,” Bookmaker thundered, “wrote a generic reply to one of our supporting cast members!”

Guide pulled Bookmaker aside and whispered something in his “ear.” Bookmaker returned and said, “Yeah ok. Guide says memory loss, insomnia, and mania are all signs of chronic exposure to neurotoxins.”

“Wait a minute!?” Jake replied in shocked. “Are you saying its ‘ok’ because I’m losing my mind?”

“We knew you wouldn’t last forever…” Bookmaker said, trying to sound reassuring. “After all you’re only human.”

“You’re not losing your mind,” Guide added, “but you should write John back and give him a proper reply.”

“But that’s embarrassing,” Jake whined. “Can’t I just cover it up my mistake…like old people do?”

“Do what you like,” Guide smiled. “You’re our human host, not our employee. We can’t really fire you.”

Here’s the email our receptionist sent instead of confessing the truth:

Hello again John, 

I just realized that maybe you’re asking a different question then how I address rodent issues. 

I think the answer to your question is, “No, there’s no new mice activity in your home.” 

If you’re worried, I can test the exclusion work again by putting out a bunch of attractants and traps in crawlspace. I know it would be a good idea to do another carpenter ant hunt in the next week or so, I could do both and check the outside rat traps. 

🙂 STORYSOLD 

A week later we performed The Action of Chapter 8 and Jake wrote the following report:

Hi John, 
I spend over an hour and half: 1) checking and resetting the rat traps outside; 2) moving 3 stations inside and loading them with 5 mouse traps each; 3) checking the entire inner perimeter for breaches and reenforcing the few I found; 4) inspecting property for Carpenter ants and using my new brand of carpenter ant bait in hot spots and around exterior. 
Here’s what I found: 
1) MICE: Yes I ate my words, there’s some activity. I found a few mice tunnels and one freshly dead mouse in my trap in the far back of the crawlspace near where you did the remodeling work. 


2) MOLES: I found and blocked one mole tunnel running a few inches under my wire. It was the same area you showed me last time 
3) RATS: I didn’t find any new burrows or tunnels. I had a few tripped traps in stations, but I didn’t find the rat in my honey spot. Did you clear it for me? 
4) ANTS: I was amazed. I didn’t find any carpenter ants and only a few house ants on my hunt. I don’t believe them, so I baited the exterior anyway. 
I placed a lot of mouse traps in the crawl, so if I find a bunch of dead mice in there next time then I know it wasn’t just a few slipping through.

[ that makes a total of 4 boxes and 20 traps in crawl now ]


I also put your last chapter in the book, and I’m fully planning to write you a proper chapter (complete with crazy theories to explain why) sometime this week. 
If you have time to answer this, I’m curious about the remodel…if I understand right…you’re planning to construct a proper foundation for the weak side of the house to keep the house secure in case of an earthquake? 
In any case, I hope you’re enjoying the sun! It looks like it might actually stick around for a while! 

That evening John replied with this email:

Hi Jake,Thanks for the thorough update. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain everything you found during your visit. My wife insisted I clear the rat at the honey pot for ya because it started to smell. Hopefully we can get new mice issue under control. 😬 I’ll let you know if we notice and new activity. Yes we’re going to reinforce the foundation on the south side of the house so its seismically more secure. That project won’t break ground for a few more weeks. Please let me know what I owe you for this service and I’ll send you a payment via Venmo or PayPal (whichever you prefer). Thanks again.

And so it goes. The Wilderness exploits the weaknesses in our Homefronts forcing us to build them stronger.

Hopefully, in The End, we’ll be stronger for our efforts.

Chapter 9 (Aug 3rd): The Death Smell Returns

JOHN (via email): Hope this note finds you well. I wanted to see if you could come by sooner than later to do another service.  We’re currently not home, but our contractor found 50+ carpenter (or what appears to be carpenter) ants in our master bedroom. Yikes! In addition he mentioned there is a smell permeating throughout the house, which I’m assuming is a decomposing rat or mouse. He said he could give you access to the interior if need be. Let me know what you think.

STORYSOLD (via phone from annual backpacking trip): We will be there Monday for sure!

JOHN (via email): Great, thanks! Here’s some pics of where the ants were spotted:

[ Exterior of master ]

[ Interior Master ]

STORYSOLD (via phone from Mt. Hood wilderness): Well we found the route for sure, from wisteria to some yet to be determined spot. Do you have any qualms about me doing some cutting to see that area better?

JOHN (via email): Its a good place to check first for sure. I cut it back quite a bit this afternoon and would prefer not to cut much more per wife’s request. But if you need extra clearance when you’re there, call me and we can chat about it.

STORYSOLD (via phone from Mt. Hood): Ok I won’t cut it. I should be able to find the entry without cutting. I’ll give you a full report on Monday 🙂

JOHN (via email): Sounds great! Your current view isn’t too shabby. Is that a hawk flying by??

[ And that’s when we lost power to my phone ]

STORYSOLD (via email from civilization): I had to take another look at that photo. How cool, I somehow managed to get a bird in the shot too! I’m guessing it was one of the yellow hooded guys who kept me company Sat night. How’s this for a sunset shot? So beautiful! 

Today’s service went well. I spent a solid 2.5 hours producing the following service story: 

I met the painter guys and Eric. We had a nice long chat about lots of things, but we touched on the exclusion situation. Honestly I still don’t know if doing the classic trench with hardware cloth and gravel lined like a J is better than the open field/monitoring exclusion idea where we make it hard for them to get in, but don’t encourage them to dig deep tunnels by digging deep tunnels for them to dig under. For me, the debate continues…I’m still fighting the Digging Rats of Woodstock and Vancouver in 2 similarly hard, “unexcludable” homefronts like yours. 


Speaking of rodents, if there was a decaying rat big enough to stink up the house I couldn’t find it. I inspected the entire crawlspace and it smelled as normal. I did, however, find 2 shrews and 1 small mouse in my traps. No new signs of big tunnels (from moles or otherwise), but I found a few very small gaps that could be used by small mice. I marked them. I also reset the traps and set out more equipment in the spirt of making sure your home is rodent free. Outside, I reset the traps with new attractant and moved one closer to the rocks, but I didn’t have any new signs of our neighborhood rats.  

[ Hard to see, but the point is that it’s very small ]

On the carpenter ant front, Eric explained that he suddenly saw the ants about a week after I set the bait around their trail area. He also confirmed what I saw when I was there (without prompting) that they looked “lethargic” and “not doing so well.” I found a number of non-squished dead ones, which leads me to believe that my bait had an effect. 


Since you guys weren’t home (and the painters were done for the day) I took the opportunity to do a baseboard spray upstairs. I also baited the roof area around the chimney inside and out, did another full foundation/exterior application, and did a heavy sugar and granular bait under the wisteria. I didn’t find any trails outside…which is a good sign. Oh and I also treated the shed and that gnarled dead tree behind it. No activity was found there either. 

Chapter 10 (Dec 2020) – Our Holiday Email Montage

After a long break and the holidays on the way, I contacted John with one horrifying image in mind. It was still 2020, and if I knew that vile wind (and I think I did!)…it would wait until Christmas or New Year Day to release the next chapter of its master plan to subvert all things civilized. The goose would be cut, the gifts would be unwrapped, the holiday cheer would be bright and merry, and then The Death Smell would loft in from the rat that died under the home.

All because the rat catcher didn’t do his job. Ha, if only we were that important!

Anyway, here’s Our Holiday Email Montage >

STORYSOLD: Happy holidays! The rain sucks (and so does 2020), but we’re doing our best not to let it get us down. 

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How’s the Homefront? Any signs of the rats? Or carpenter ants? 

JOHN: Happy holidays to you as well. Appreciate you reaching out – I was actually going to contact you next week to see if you could pop by for a rat service. In the last week I have cleared a few boxes and filled multiple tunnels, so needless to say, they are active. 

Our foundation project has been completed for a couple months and the contractor appears to have done decent job resealing the crawl space, but I would love for you to inspect it and ensure it’s critter free and that the perimeter is as secure as possible. 


On another note, I’m happy to announce there have been no signs of carpenter ants! The areas that you treated have held up, only bummer is the spray poison stained the siding. Hopefully it will wash off over time. 
Let me know what your schedule looks like in the upcoming week.

STORYSOLD: I’m curious to see what your Homefront looks like now! I’ll definitely do a full inspection!  As for the stain, where is it? I’ll check it out. The only outdoor application I did other than the classic foundation treatment (a product called Termador, which everyone uses) was a heavy dose of granular and liquid bait. The liquid bait is Tarro (like the stuff you can buy at Safeway). It’s a mix of sugar/syrup and boric acid, and the acid is supposed to be non-staining. 
All that’s to say, there’s a good chance I can simply wash off the crusty old syrup. Which I’ll gladly do.

After the service was complete, we sent John a report which we titled, “It’s a 2 Parter!

STORYSOLD: Overall the Homefront looks good. Meaning, I only found a few signs of activity: 

A) one very small dead shrew caught in a trap, but only one. All the other traps were still set. B) had some signs of feeding from my monitors C) one rat hole was found near the new wall  There a few spots where I’m going to patch, but overall my Homefront is still in tact. I marked the rat hole and added fresh attractant to my traps. I’d like to return before Christmas to do more scrubbing (the bait comes off with effort), patch up the Homefront, and see if the rat hole is active, or just a rat who wandered in during construction and dug his way out. I’m going to count these 2 services as one, because I didn’t schedule enough time to get all the scrubbing and patchwork done. 

JOHN: Sounds good. We’re not home at the moment, so please take your time. Thanks Jake! 

STORYSOLD: Good news. That entry hole I found doesn’t appear to be active (no new digging on inside or out). My guess is that something got trapped in there during construction, and then dug its way out. The traps outside were ALL tripped after adding the attractant. That tells me…you’re in squirrel territory (only very large rats can do that). So I reset the traps again in the hope that the squirrels learned their lesson. All in all, I’m feeling good about your Homefront. I took a nice long break, and even with the construction it’s looking solid…a little action, but not a lot. 


Here’s a list of today’s actions: 
A) I spent another hour scrubbing my sugar bait marks off your home B) reset traps inside and outside. Inside traps are geared for mice. Outside traps are geared for rats. C) inspected for entry holes inside and outside crawlspace D) repaired a few new weak spots with foam and wire.


I’m really sorry about the marks on your home. This Chapter’s on me. I hope you guys have a very Merry Christmas! 

JOHN: Sincerely appreciate the thorough inspection and follow up report. Your word that things are looking sound means a lot to us. Curious, do you have a Venmo account? My wife and I would like to send you a little something for helping us out this year. Hope you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Many thanks, John and Kyleen 

We had a moment there where we felt so bad about the bait stains that we wanted, very much, to punish our human host for his blunder and deny his reward of payment. You know, whatever the equivalent of “making him eat beans” is for a human who loves his wife’s beans. Maybe “make him eat factory processed hot dogs?” or those got-damned flavorless frozen peas Big Ag keeps cranking out. In The End, we accepted John and Kyleen’s offer. It was a good lesson. Sometimes it’s harder to accept a gift we don’t feel we deserve, than give one.

Chapter 11 (2/10/2021) – The Mid Winter Rat Hole

2020 was the year of The Rat, and The Rat was supposed to concede its reign over our fortunes to The Ox, but (not too unlike our former President) The Rats of Portland were making it clear that they weren’t going to humbly huddle in their burrows and make room for the bellowing, endless feeding and shitting, and social herding order of The Ox. At least not without a fight.

Most days it seemed like I was living in rat infested crawlspaces, attics, and backyards. “Paranoia” would be a good word to describe the feeling I had as I emailed John to schedule a mid winter trap check. Then again, in the words of the immortal Joseph Heller, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

Days later, an hour or so after I bagged my ninth baby rat of The Birthing Center at Jackie’s NE Portland home, I was wedging myself through the guts of John’s crawlspace checking my traps for signs of activity.

And do you know what?

We didn’t find any. No tripped traps or signs of feeding from the many free rat food piles in the crawlspace; no new tunnels inside or out, and only a few tripped traps in Volehalla boxes on the periphery of the property.

And just like that…my fears of rats breaching John’s Homefront cooled, and I felt a little more confident in our team’s ability to engage The Action as we ventured further into our mid-winter rat hole.

Chapter 12 (6/4/2021) – Anticipating The Villains

Four months later, I felt it would be a good time to check in. I was worried about the rats, as always, but I was also worried about going on my annual backpacking trip in July…and leaving John and his family without support again.

Professional villains always wait to strike until the hero goes on vacation. Which, in John’s case, would look something like a rat (or a team of rats) tunneling under his Homefront like The Great Escape, or a resurgence of carpenter ants.

I arrived mid route in the middle of a gorgeous day. After a brief greeting, John filled me in on The Action. He showed me five or so new holes in bushes along front walkway as well as a few holes near the chicken coop, which now had a live chicken in it. He also reported that he’d cleared a few rats from the outside stations since February, including one in my honey hole behind the AC unit. Then he returned to his business and left me to mine.

Foam gun in hand, I checked and filled all the holes. The holes along the shrubbery lined walkway and sidewalk were all shallow like “starter holes” made by exploring rats or food hoarding squirrels. They didn’t appear to be worn, or used more than once or twice. The hole next to the chicken coop was deeper. It may have been a new burrow, or a new attempt at digging a new burrow, but it was hard to say. In any case, I foamed it.

“No, no here,” the foam says to the rats. “Even if you redig this hole, I will know…and if I know…you will not be safe.”

I know it’s a little woo-woo, but I believe that rats (like humans) generally prefer to maintain 100% percent control over their homes. And they can’t feel like they have 100% control of their homes if I foam, or fill in, their burrows every time I see them. Can you imagine waking up every morning to find that some villain had left a Big Mac wrapper in your backyard? For some, it would be a call for alarm if it only happened once. If it happened a dozen times, or more, most homeowners would be horrified…and likely want to put a plan in action to catch the Mystery Midnight Burger Eater.

After I added some fresh attractant (peanut butter and my rat food mix) to all my traps, I suited up for the main event. It’d been 4 months, and I was curious to see what if anything had breached John’s Homefront.

Fifteen minutes later I had my answer. None of the 4 food monitors had been touched, none of the mouse or rat traps in the 4 stations had been tripped, none of the traps I set along the inner walls had been tripped, and I found no signs of tunnels anywhere along the perimeter, but ALACK! two of the world’s cutest (and smallest) shrews were caught in traps in the back corner of the crawl. How they got in, I have no idea.

Then I did a funny thing. Instead of simply being happy with the news that John’s Homefront was secure, I added 4 more rat food monitors (little zip lock baggies) to my lineup.

After I gave John some ant bait on my way out, our team debriefed on the drive to our next Homefront. “The inactivity only means they’re rebuilding their forces for a major strike on John’s Homefront,” Bookmaker said. “Villains always wait until the heroes have their guard down…take a day off, or go on vacation.”

“Why can’t you accept the win?” I countered. “And enjoy the victory?”

“What, and rest on our laurels?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a horrible idea,” Bookmaker laughed. “If we let our guard down, for even a moment, we’ll open the door for another infestation.”

I thought about that one for a few moments while our human cranked his playlist in an attempt to drown us out. And then I said, “Infestations are natural. We can’t kill every rat in Lake Oswego. That’s no way to spend our lives, even for rat catchers.”

“We should try,” Bookmaker laughed again. “Just think of all the fun we could have methodically inspecting every Homefront in the city…no doubt The Mother of All Rats is lurking in her Super Mega Burrow somewhere very near to John’s Homefront.”

“Why are all your arch villains women?”

“They aren’t! I’m simply acknowledging the fact that mother rats are smarter and harder to catch than the dumb males. Even if they eat their young sometimes.”

“You’re so full of shit,” I laughed and turned to the 3rd character on our team. “What do you think about all this Pest Predator?”

There was a long silence. Then Predator said, “I think we should dump five bags of dog food around John’s Homefront, and then spend the rest of the summer destroying the infestation we created. Creating the infestation is the only way to truly control it.”

By that time we were nearing our next customer’s Homefront. “Can we please table this very interesting conversation for later?” Jake asked almost nicely.

The characters on his team didn’t listen. They continue to discuss the best way to prevent an infestation. “Should we offer to close and secure all the garbage cans, in all the homes, in all the restaurants, in all the businesses in Lake Oswego?”

“That sounds like an amazing waste of life,” Predator replied. “Maybe it makes more sense to enjoy our victory…and wait for The Urban Wild to trigger the next hunt.”

“Classically,” Bookmaker nodded, “the only difference between the hero and villain, however similar, is the simple fact that the hero didn’t throw the first punch…”

“So we should wait to do something until the rats tunnel under John’s Homefront?!”

“I said, shut it!!!!” Jake screamed finally. “My God, these meetings suck!”

“Our human is right,” I smiled. “We shouldn’t get bogged down in What Ifs. We have another very real infestation that needs our attention.”

What good can come from trying to anticipate what the villains will do next?

Chapter 13 (11/2/2021) – The Relentless Wilderness

The backpacking trip in July was a wildly successful 260 mile thru hike of The John Muir Trail in California. What better way for a rat catcher to study rodent infestations than standing at the edge of an alpine meadow…snow capped mountains in the distance, canteen cup full of coffee in hand…watching the “good rats” dart to and from their burrows knowing well that the “infestation” I was watching was natural?

[ That’s my wilderness creature friend from Donahue Pass ]

Five months later Jake was running off to The Wilderness again, this time our human was adventuring to Death Valley (and the wilds of Hollywood to visit Brother Steve) with Farmer Emily. That fact, combined with abnormally high rat activity around the city ever since the first freeze, prompted us to send a “Fall Check In” email to John.

Days later I was suiting up for another inspection of The Unexcludable Homefront. At first glance I was encouraged by the untouched marker I set near the main hatch…

That feeling of encouragement continued as I checked the untripped traps along the right side of the crawlspace (facing in from the main hatch). The bag of birdseed I set in the center of John’s home and the traps I set around the new wall next to the sump pump were all also untouched. And then I reached the bag of birdseed I set next to the new hatch…

[“To the choppa!”]

There was a very small mouse sized hole in the bag.

I crushed the bag in my fist and cried, “Cut me do I not bleed?!” through our human’s respirator. “How dare you breach this Homefront!”

I thought about following that classic line with “Fe, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood of a very small mouse (and or a very large shrew)!” but I didn’t. Instead I ventured onward to the tightest most adventurous part of the Homefront. There I was presented with 2 mummified very small mice caught in my traps. Two feet from their remains, I found my marker (birdseed and bait in a zip lock bag) untouched.

I’m no Columbo, but the signs were telling me there was a breach in The Homefront somewhere very near. I found no evidence of tunneling, so I turned off my headlamp and performed “the light test” to see if I was missing something. Sure enough I saw light pouring through a gap in the new crawlspace door.

The first thought that entered my mind was, “If you want something done, do it yourself.” I cruised by that door before without much inspection because I assumed that the builder would have made the same effort I would have to make it fit right. A quarter of an inch gap doesn’t mean much in construction world, but any rat catcher worth their pay knows that a quarter inch gap in a Homefront located within a few inches of the ground = possible mouse infestation. I can’t count how many of the mouse infestations I’ve cleared and excluded began with a quarter inch gap in a broken vent or section of foundation.

My pest control solution to the construction problem was a piece of metal flashing I fixed to the door to block the gap. After I did that, I moved all the traps in the crawlspace to the area near the breach just in case there were more very small mice my traps hadn’t already killed off. And then I cleaned out the cobwebs in the outside stations and added a little peanut butter to the traps, just to see how smart squirrels really are…

All in all, I’d have to say that I was pleased. John’s Homefront resembled what I expect to find when we adventure to Death Valley. But who knows?

I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next…

Chapter 14 (1/17/2022) – “Making Them Work for It!”

After a few months of snow and heavy rains in Portland, John contacted us with ill tidings of more mice in the crawlspace.

After my usual spin around The Inexcludable Homefront, I found 6 mice caught in the traps around the sump pump. I also found two mouse sized holes. One was next to the sump pump and the hole Joe showed me outside. The other was also under the foundation in back, coming in from the street side of the home.

“After all this time,” I wondered, “is this the first real tunnel breach?”

I tried to remember if I’d seen a tunnel under foundation before as I dug out the hole next to the sump pump.

The hole didn’t lead directly under the foundation. In fact, I dug out at least three feet of it and it didn’t seem to lead anywhere…but along the side of the foundation. It’s possible that our mouse friends were trying to dig their way out?

There was no ambiguity about the hole on the other side of the home. It was clearly a tunnel.

In both cases I packed the tunnel/holes with hardware cloth and foamed them. And then I reset my traps and added a few just in case.

Any breach in a Homefront is bad news, but I was heartened by the fact that all the activity I tracked told a plausible story. The traps in the very back were untouched. The traps in the middle were untouched, and the monitor near the main hatch was also untouched…

If I read the signs right, the mice tunneled under the foundation from the street-side, got lost (or couldn’t find their hole again), tried and failed to dig their way out, and then, after suffering extreme hunger, they went for the attractant in my traps.

Either that, or they’re both tunnels and my traps did their job.

Service Story #14: Predator’s First Full Complex Bedbug Hunt

Service Story #14: Predator’s First Full Complex Bedbug Hunt

Produced on August 16, 26; Sept 5, 9, 21, 24; Oct 8; Nov 7, 2019  

by Brenda and special guest stars Joe, Kathy, James, Doug, and “T.”

Chapter 1: An Intro to The Bedbug Hunt

Predator calls his method for eliminating bedbugs a hunt, or sometimes simply “the method.” His big coming-to-Jesus moment for hunting bedbugs (versus the traditional chemical heavy/prep intensive model) happened before I was his human host, when he was only a generic pest control character working for a local Mom and Pop Pest Control Company in NE Portland. The Mom and Pop sold cheap no guarantee, single shot bedbug treatments. They sold a lot of these treatments to property management corporations and other kinds of landlords who managed massive low income, high turnover housing complexes. I never understood why the landlords didn’t spend the money to do it right, but I get it. They were the ones paying the high cost of these treatments, and I’m sure it felt good to report to The Boss they were getting a deal.

The coming-to-Jesus moment didn’t happen like pop! (epiphany), it was a realization that rose to a boil slowly over time. Predator had already been working on techniques for hunting them directly when he quit his “sports applicator” job at the Mom and Pop, and then I went to work for the best bedbug hunters in town. The Best Company learned their method from an organization that calls itself, “Bed Bug University” or www.bedbugcentral.com.  

The University’s method taught that bed bugs should be treated in their natural habitat without “pushing them” with needless prep work, excessive cleaning, self-treatments, or non-targeted use of our own professional chemicals. Predator took to this philosophy immediately, because he had seen the effects of pushed bugs first hand.

“I have bedbugs falling from my ceiling!” customers would often say. At first he thought they were nuts. Then he realized that they were so afraid of the bugs, they’d been Raiding their homes with cans of over-the-counter “bedbug products,” which are all repellants.

Predator was already sold, but it didn’t hurt to discover that pest control companies who adopted this new no prep method—that uses inspection, steam, and targeted use of chemicals—reported that treatments that normally took 5 to 8 services were reduced to 2 or 3. 

While working for The Best Company, Predator (still in generic form) was averaging 3 treatments (and one final inspection) per elimination with average activity, and that was what I expected our team to achieve at Brenda’s complex. Especially since my teammate read and reported the overall activity in the complex as “light to medium.”

During the first treatment service at the building with 7 units, Pest Predator spent most of his time zeroing in and finding exactly where the bugs were hiding: 

He found no signs of activity in the downstairs. Both bedrooms + living room were all clear >  

The main floor was clear and so was the back right upstairs room >

As expected, both vacant rooms checked out: 

Predator did, however, find activity in the other two upstairs rooms > 

Specifically the dresser and nightstand in that room >

I supervised while Predator steamed the nightstand and dresser, treated it with a non-repellant, and then propped it up on climb ups > 

In the other room he discovered a “starter set” on the edge of the mattress and a few eggs along the tag, which he hunted with steam as well > 

[Warning: the next photo may not be suitable for dinnertime]

All in all, the first serve in the 7 unit building went well. The reason why our team has decided to wait 2 weeks between bedbug services is (a) it’s good to let any eggs that we happened to miss a chance to hatch and show themselves (b) it gives any bugs that might have been pushed into cracks by bad over-the-counter chemicals, excessive cleaning, or the removal/change in sleeping or resting areas more opportunity to feel comfortable enough to emerge from the cracks and begin to feed again (b) on the flip side, waiting any more than two weeks is not good, because it gives the population time to bounce back and grow, especially in fully infested homes. 

We drove off that night feeling good about our first service. That feeling faded when I got a call from Brenda the next day. She’d found a tenant moving bed bug infested furniture out of his apartment. 

We scheduled a time for an inspection that Saturday morning. And sure enough, it didn’t take Predator long to zero in and find the activity. The large family who lived there had the bugs that bite at night too. 

Chapter 2: The Townhouse Unit – August 26th

One of the many tenants who lived there, Joe, was there to meet me when I arrived. After I checked the Townhouse, I thanked him for being ready and we talked about the furniture. I told him that I couldn’t “declare control” (and move on to the 30 day waiting period before The Final Inspection) if any untreated/infested furniture was still on the property. He assured me he was planning to take it to the dump that week. 

He also said he wanted to keep the love seat upstairs, and Predator always makes a point to never miss an opportunity to hunt. He won’t tell our customers to throw something out, unless it’s 100% hopeless.

So the service began. The first thing Predator did was stalk every corner of Joe’s home–flashlight in hand, headlamp on–searching for his prey. The thing he noticed was spotting along the baseboard. That means that (a) the unit was infested before he moved in (at some point), or (b) the bugs had been there for a lot longer than a “few weeks.”

As it goes with hunting bedbugs, Predator took the signs to heart and hit his his prey in three ways: (a) we steamed (b) we dusted the wall void, and (c) we treated all the baseboards in the unit with a non-repellant.

Upstairs, to my surprise, Predator found no activity in the master bedroom. But he reminded me (from experience), “We should treat the inactive rooms in the building like they were active,” so we steamed, dusted underside of the chair, treated the bed, and sprayed the baseboards. 

Then Predator spent about 45 minutes in the back room steaming the love seat and plucking live bugs with duct tape. When the love seat stopped moving, we treated it and asked Joe not to move it until next service. That way, any bugs Predator might have missed would feel safe, come out of their hiding holes, and cross our chemical traps.  

Overall, the townhouse had more signs of activity and live activity than the 7 Room Building as a whole, but I’d still classify it somewhere between light and medium activity. That means there’s a good chance that we will return in two weeks, find a few stragglers, and need to treat again without declaring control. It’s hard to say. We’ll see in a few weeks. 

Chapter 3: Round Two in The 7 Building – Sept. 4th

Soon after you left that day, Kathy arrived and locked the front door. We had a long conversation while I inspected and prepped for treatment. 

In spite of Predator’s grumblings, I asked Kathy if she wanted to join me when I inspected her bed. Predator is all about The Hunt. The only way he believes its possible to calm our customers’ fears is killing the bedbugs as quickly as possible. I don’t agree. I’ve met way too many bedbug phobic humans. I believe people can’t fully recover from their experiences with bedbug infestations until they understand enough about the creatures to feel empowered and in control when they face them.

So really, I’m saying it’s more important to help the tenants and landlords control their irrational fear of bedbugs, than the bugs themselves.

So I talked while I worked with Kathy. She was surprised when I told her I found a harborage of eggs and a gathering of adults on her bed during the last treatment. After our inspection, I was glad that Pest Predator didn’t find any new signs of activity: no nymphs! But he did find a few adults hanging around, right under the lip of the mattress. Usually, that means they were hanging out somewhere strange and then they gravitated to the bed when they finally felt the coast was clear. 

As before, the only other room with activity was James’s. I was pleased when we found that my treatment of the nightstand worked. No new activity there, or the dresser. I was pleased, but Predator was not. He smelled bugs, but wasn’t sure where. Then he “got nosy” and started to search through James’s belongings. I was surprised when I looked in his shoebox…and we found signs of a larger infestation. 

I say larger, because you don’t find spotting like that in weird places like shoeboxes unless the box had been in a large infestation. You’d think it’d be easy to find a large infestation, or the history of a large infestation, but that isn’t always the case. Especially if someone has removed furniture, or tried to self treat, or removed the bed completely. It’s possible that James had (a) bought the shoebox from a person who lived in an infested home, or (b) he lived in an infested home at some point, or (c) the bedbugs really liked his shoebox after he removed the bed and they all scattered around his room: to the nightstand, to the dresser, etc…

Predator reminded me of James’s comment about how “they live in the carpet.” The more likely situation is, they now have to crawl through the carpet to feed on him now that he’s sleeping on the floor. 

Bedbugs services are funny. There’s the stories I get from the tenants and then there’s the evidence I uncover as I treat…

And it’s not James’s fault. He was only trying to help, do something in the face of infestation. Tragically, often all the things people do to “treat” often make the infestation a lot harder to eliminate. So if we want to go looking for someone to blame, it’s The Chemical Industry (the same hustlers who push pills and pharmaceuticals in healthcare) who feed magic potions and chemical witchdoctory to folks who want to sleep at night. That, and professionals who charge too much for their treatments, which is also another problem we share with the healthcare industry.

In any case, that treatment is going well. No activity was found anywhere else but those two rooms. The apartment, now vacant, can be cut out of the plan as long as no one new moves in before I’m done. 

Chapter 4: Round Two in Joe’s Townhouse – Sept. 10

It was clear from the moment I knocked on the door and I saw the sleepy eyes of the younger guy “T” who lived there, they weren’t ready. 

It was 2:30 pm. Maybe they all worked the night shift? 

I didn’t know, but I was thankful to Joe for his willingness to wake up and move the family out while I treated his home. 

While he was getting ready, Predator noticed he was bagging things up again. I did my best to explain, like before, that bagging wasn’t necessary. I even tried to understand where that idea came from, asking if he’d ever prepped for a classic bug treatment (which is what he was doing). I’m not sure why he has been bagging things with plastic, but it didn’t take long to find two new mattresses this time with a number of nymphs under their covers. I made excuses for Joe, while Predator fumed.

The loveseat was active again as well. After talking with Joe I realized that he’d been sleeping in it. That explained why I found the bugs just hanging around, seemingly frustrated, unwilling to cross the chemical Pest Predator put on it last time. It’s not normal bedbug behavior to hang outside of a crack or crevice, especially when no host is present.

“Fish in a barrel!” Predator smiled at the bugs just waiting around for him to pluck off. In other words, our plan worked: the adults that were hiding during the last treatment were now herded in one place in the hope of feeding on Joe at night. 

Treatments always go more smoothly when I can count on the sleeping and resting areas not changing locations… 

I know it’s hard to see, but that one is flatter than normal. It’s because it’s sick, slow moving, and dying from exposure to my chemical. I found a few of those dying guys in the crack of couch as well. 

If that loveseat is a measure of the level of activity found in the furniture Joe took to the dump, I think we can safely rule out Aaron’s (the furniture store) as a possible source. Like the shoebox, that loveseat had been in an infested home with other things that had the same level of activity. 

Finding a lone loaded piece of furniture in a home that’s generally free of bugs is like finding a dinosaur bone. It’s a sign of an older infestation with an older story I/we will likely never know. 

Predator’s guess was (a) either Joe’s family brought the infestation with them, or the apartment was already infested when they moved in. The classic storyline for that one goes, the previous pest control company who treated did not wait long enough to ensure complete elimination–so they missed the bugs they pushed under the carpet and baseboards in a seemingly vacant, bug free apartment.

The good news is, the downstairs (with the spotting) and the master bed are both looking good. I asked Joe twice to dry the stuff I bagged for him. At first he thought I wanted him to throw it out…but I explained, again, all he had to do was put it on dry for 60 minutes to kill the bugs. 

Chapter 5: Round Three in The Six Building– Sept 21st

The downstairs tenants were now gone, which meant that it was no longer The Seven Building. It was The Six

James and Kathy were the two tenants who have been experiencing the most activity, and (par for the course) they both had a lot to say about the bugs that bite at night. And we listened. James’s comment from the last service–“They’re in the carpet”–was still ringing in our ears.

Predator has now convinced that we were experiencing the “scatter bomb effect,” which happens in homes when an infested sleeping/resting area is suddenly taken from the usually lazy, slow moving creatures. Last service, I found signs in the shoebox. This time, I spied two live bugs through the slits of his radios. Hunting bedbugs in groups is so much easier…

I’m a music lover, and I don’t want to be the guy who sprayed insecticide on the radio The Day the Music Died. I also could let the bugs live in the radios, so I evoked an old trick. I covered the radios with bags and dusted them with the silica gel Cymexia. With the dust in there, it won’t take the radio lovers long to die. As soon as they start moving, looking for a host in the dark, they will cross the dust and meet their ends. 

The other big move (outside of the routine) Predator made in James’s unit was take all the belongings out of the dresser drawers, put them in the bathroom, treat the drawers, and put his dresser back together.

“I think getting these drawers up off the floor will eliminate harborage near his sleeping area,” Predator said, explaining his plan.

Kathy’s room was looking good. Predator didn’t find any live bugs or eggs. As was our protocol, I spent a half hour steaming her box spring and nearby baseboards like they were infested anyway. 

The rest of the service was routine. Predator inspected and treated the baseboards in the vacant rooms, Doug’s room, and the downstairs common areas. Doug’s room was a mess as usual, but cleanliness has nothing to do with it. We still found no activity there. 

Predator never feels optimistic, but I felt like were getting close. Hopefully, one more service will allow us to move to The Next Stage.  

Chapter 6: Round Three in Townhouse– Sept 24

I was sad to hear that Joe left Portland yesterday. In his place, the younger guy “T” stayed throughout my prep-time to help. 

I was glad he stayed. We had a nice long chat while I unbagged everything they bagged, and had him stage and start loading the linens, blankets, and clothing in the dryer. I feel that he understood the importance of doing that and I’m 50% sure they followed through after I left. 

I asked “T” where they futon and love seat had gone. He informed me that they put it in their family members red truck, which they promised to take to the dump (off property) tomorrow. 

Like I told Joe, Predator won’t tell anyone to throw something out…but if they choose to toss it…it has to be gone, off property, before I call all clear. Or it has to be treated with everything else in the unit. 

As “T” ate Oreos and ramen, Predator inspected and steamed the baseboards and bed. I found a lot of dead bugs along the baseboard in the most active room upstairs. But they were dead! and I didn’t spend too long entertaining conspiracy theories about The Origin of The Bugs.

After I was done with the service, I was happy to inform your tenants that we would be back in a month for The Final Inspection

No new signs. No live bugs. No reported bites. I say we’re ready to move the townhouse forward to The Final Stage.  

Chapter 7: Round Four in The Six Building – Oct 8th

Pest Predator isn’t a hippie. He doesn’t have any wishy washy beliefs about saving the planet from humans. In fact, he’s looking forward to that long awaited day when living characters (make of pure light and energy) will have the earth to theirselves again.

His distaste of chemicals is more elemental. He can taste the chemicals in his food, even after it’s been processed from soil, to plant, to animal, and then to hamburger–and it doesn’t like the way chemicals taste. The other big one is, he’s a hunter who hates becoming dependent on “sneaky chemical traps.” Liquid non-repellant residuals and dusts work great, so long as Predator’s prey creep and crawl across it. If they don’t cross it (and pause at the edge of the treatment because they detect something foreign), then Predator’s chemical trap will fail.

And the answer is yes, bugs are smart enough to avoid supposedly non-repellant chemicals and dusts. Predator has spent countless hours just watching them, and it happens…Bedbugs avoid his chemicals if they can find a path of less resistance. I mean, wouldn’t you pause for thought if the moisture of your exoskeleton began to suddenly dry out? Would you take the long way home to your next juicy blood meal if your mind suddenly went cloudy–imbalanced due to neurotoxin exposure–and you became confused every time you went your usual route around the body?

Bugs can’t read, but all creatures sensed danger. And the ability to sense danger and adapt is why we creatures have the ability to sense danger in the first place. What good would it be to sense danger–and feel panic and fear when we saw a poisonous snake–if we couldn’t overcome it? Same goes for bugs. We’re not living in The Dark Ages. We can spray chemicals like pixie dust and hope to kill dumb, spell bound bugs like magic.

But damn Cymexa dust works well when the bugs are trapped inside a plastic bag with nowhere to go!

After Predator inspected James’s room and only found one half dead bug in his dresser, he treated it thoroughly again. And then set James’s radio back in place for him.

Before he was able to inspect the other rooms and do his treatment, Kathy made an unexpected entrance on the set.

She said she was sick and needed to sleep, but she smelled of booze. And she suddenly became more alert when Jake (not Predator mind you) told her it was OK if she slept on the downstairs sofa while he worked upstairs. The chemical–Alpine WSG–was the same chemical he used many times before (in accordance with the label) when he treated restaurants during business hours with employees and customers present.

“That was a bad move, human,” Predator said as I felt his character began to entrench itself in my mind.

“What do you want me to do?” I fought back. “Kick her out?”

“Have Wilderness Security Guide do it, or that Passive Aggressive Asshole/ Social Worker character you played for years…”

“One of the reasons I started Storysold: Pest Control was so I wouldn’t have to be an Asshole Social Worker any more!”

“Too bad champ,” Predator stated firmly. “Go down there…talk it out with her…I can’t hunt properly with another human in here.”

So I went downstairs and inspected the inactive furniture for the fourth time. Kathy had crashed on the couch, until she saw I was there.

Five minutes of conversation later, I looked up and saw Kathy approaching with her hand held up for a high five. I hadn’t been paying all that much attention to what we were talking about, but she looked excited about a big high five, so I gave her a big high five.

Then she wrapped her hand around mine, took a step closer, smiled big (wide eyed), and I knew Predator was right. Kathy had to go.

“Listen,” I said as I tapped my Asshole Social Worker character. “I like talking with you, but I have a job to do. And I don’t want to tell Brenda that I was unable to complete the service, because you weren’t able to vacate the building as instructed. You could have called Brenda in advance, and we could have cancelled before I arrived today, but now I would have to charge her a rescheduling fee.”

I had learned from my year of “teaching” at Timberlake Job Corps that it’s best not to wait around for a reply after delivering lines like that, so I continued to inspect the furniture to emphasize my point.

I felt Kathy’s upbeat mood drop.

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to be in your way,” she said genuinely. “Do you want me to wait outside?”

We locked eyes, and I said, “Yes, that would be best.”

Then she walked outside and sat on the front porch, hood over her face, and waited as we completed the service.

I can’t lie. Predator was a little nervous about the half dead bug I found in James’s dresser, but he was convinced enough it was time to move to The Next Stage. It was supposed to be our great moment of victory, but it sure didn’t feel that way. Combat tends to be like that. Once The Conflict at the heart of all service stories takes hold of your mind and body, it’s not easily forgotten, or forgiven. The strong feeling that “The bad guys are still out there, somewhere in the world, lurking in their lairs” dies much, much slower than real bad guys…and bedbugs.

“Even if we missed one or two,” Pest Predator stated coldly. “If there’s still an active female alive, we’ll know if for sure by the time The Final Inspection rolls around in a month.”

“For sure,” I said, shaking my head as Brenda rolled into the driveway. “But that doesn’t satisfy my need to know they’ve been totally eliminated.”

“You mean your civilized need for order and perfection…”

“Can it, Predator. I’m wild…I’m working with you, aren’t I?.”

“You also work with that Asshole Bookmaker…”

I was still arguing with myself when Brenda arrived with the keys. It felt a little like a lie–only because I suspected the bugs weren’t all gone–but I also knew it was the right thing to do. In The End, if I don’t achieve total elimination of Brenda’s bedbugs, then it’s on me. I will have to eat the cost of eliminating any bugs James, Kathy, Doug, or T find after your Complex passes their final inspections.

“I found one half dead bug, but I’m calling it,” I said when you entered the scene. “I’ll text to schedule The Final Inspection in about a month.”

And that was that. Hunting bugs is always a waiting game.

Chapter Broken Mirror: The Final Inspection – Nov 7th

Brenda and I met for The Final Inspection at 5:30. It was already dark, a reminder that the short, cold days of winter were on their way.

We started with the Townhouse. It was clean, ready for the inspection, and eerily quiet. Ever since Joe left, all the stuff in the unit (and the stuff in the plastic bags) had vanished Somewhere. And so did the many people who had poured from the rooms when I arrived for the service.

I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. I inspected the unit to my satisfaction.

I walked down the stairs to face the eager eyes of my audience. “I found something,” I said dramatically.

Then I smiled, pulled something from my pocket, and said, “I found this granola bar tucked back in the recliner!”

The unit was clear. Even the bedbugs I found in the cracks of the closet had gone away. From there we moved onto The Six Unit Complex.

Doug and James were watching The Nightly News in the common area. I greeted James with a warm handshake. Doug launched into his usual parade of defenses. He told us about the work he did, and gave very understandable excuses about the work he didn’t do.

“My room is kind of messy…”

“Yeah,” I smiled. “I know that about you.”

It took him a few moments to realize I meant always messy, not just the mess he left for that day. I liked that he laughed when he got my joke.

With the greetings out of the way, I inspected Doug’s room, and then moved onto Kathy’s and James’s rooms.

After a half an hour of searching everything I could think to search (and a lot of live scares from dead bugs) I turned to Brenda and winced like I’d just been punched in the eye.

“Yeah, ok,” I said with my usual measure of doubt. “We’re good.”

Then, as I walked to the door, I accidentally kicked one of James’s mirrors. It broke in two, and I saw a vision of The Future.

I was doomed to return for sure. There was nothing I could do. I’d broke a mirror in the room with the most activity. It’s not superstition. It’s just the way it is. Good poker players have skills too.

“I have a very important question to ask you…” I said, facing James in the common area. “What’s the retail value of your mirror?”

We settled on all the cash in my truck: $22.

Billy B.

Service Story #10: Your Not So Friendly Neighborhood Bald Faced Hornets

Service Story #10: Your Not So Friendly Neighborhood Bald Faced Hornets

Produced on August 06, 2019 in Happy Valley, OR

by Anonymous

The nest in your tree was started by a single queen who overwintered with her workers, until mid-May when The Action began…

The nest takes shape, and soon the workers emerge in mid-July. Even though they’re helpful predators that feed on flies, catepillars, and spiders, the hornet (which is actually a species of yellow jacket wasp) are not good neighbors. They defend their queen and colony like a band of insane ninja warriors: stinging invaders repeatedly and launching their secret weapon…shooting venom in the eyes of any vertebrates who dare wander too close to their lair.

That’s where Jake from Storysold: Pest Control entered the scene. Using a ladder, a bucket, pruners, and his bee suit, Jake lopped the nest from the tree—and quickly contained it in the bucket.

“Now what?” Jake thought to himself. “What do you do with a bucket full of hundreds of bald faced hornets?”

He liked the idea of releasing them upon one of his unsuspecting enemies, but he didn’t have any that he knew of…so he tried something novel…

The still water created by Jake’s neighbor the beaver made for spiders everywhere. It may be a bad trade in The End, but he released the nest of hornets in the natural area that bordered his home. Spiders beware!

The little voice in Jake’s head said, “Don’t worry. You can outrun them.”

Not so. Those suckers are fast! And Jake cried, “Ah _____!” all the way home.

I’ve never known any operators who’ve tried this. Who knows how the relocated nest will take to their new spot? It’s an experiment for sure.

THE END

Read Our Reviews

Story Sold Pest Control is rated 5 out of 5.0 stars based on 83 review(s).

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- Jake is great! He was referred to me by a friend and he was thorough, very knowledgeable and put my mind at ease! Thanks for all the help!

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- I contacted Storysold Pest control for mice/rat problems for a rental property. I was very impressed with their website about the process they use to keep out rodents not just catching them and calling it good. They are very professional, explained the process in detail and showed up on time for our appointment. It’s been a week or so since he came out and my tenant hasn’t heard or seen any mice/rats. Jake, the owner is passionate about helping people and very knowledgeable in all aspects of pest control! Don’t waste your time on any other company call him first. Teri C

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- Keith B

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- Abby and Dave

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- Paige and Kris

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- Kammie James

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- Ed Robertson

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Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.

-  Shelly A.

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Very good

- Larry A

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Jake actually arrived early. He did a good job of removing a large hornet's nest of very aggressive hornets. He will definitely be our first choice on any future pest removal we might need.

- Barbara B.

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Jake went above and beyond of what was asked of him! Will not use anyone else!

-  Ted M

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Jake was extremely respectful and responsive. Came promptly and did a thorough inspection. He gave us options and his honest opinion about what we needed to do. He was very helpful in solving the problem simply and cost effectively! Will definitely call again.

- Michelle C. 

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Came to our home right away and set live traps in our chimneys and made screens for the tops. Returned the next day to find a squirrel in one of the traps. We were very pleased with our results and appreciated the great customer service

- Kathleen

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Friendly, fast and efficient. Very pleased with the service Jake provided

- Joli P.

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Refreshing to work with Jake. He is collaborative and communicative. Great improvement since his visit.

- Seth W

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He's friendly, professional, punctual & extremely affordable. Would hire again & recommend to my friends.

- Max K

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We had a great experience and highly recommend Jake. He is responsive, effective and thoughtful.

-  Eddie B

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Jake at Storysold Pest Control is knowledgeable and professional. He is quick to respond and reasonably priced. I find him to be trustworthy and ethical, he does not sell unnecessary services and he works with customers that are willing to do some of the work themselves as well as with customers who just want the whole service done without being involved themselves. While other companies told me I needed to replace all my insulation and do massive crawl space renovations, he offered several affordable options. With his help we no longer have a mouse problem and it was done at a fraction of what other companies quoted us. I appreciate his flexibility and fun, friendly personality. If I ever have another pest control issue, he will be my first call.

- Darian C.

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- Joyce R

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Jake has been helping me trap rodents at my farm with his Volehalla rodent boxes. He's friendly, knowledgeable, and effective: we've trapped a lot of rodents!

-  Emily C

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Jake was fantastic! Fast response. Reliable and honest. Great rates. Hope not to have any more rodent problems, but if I do I will be calling Jake again. I would recommend him to anybody that needs help with Pest Control.

- Janet D.

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Truly, I can t say enough about this team! They are so professional, trustworthy, and for the very first time in a long time I feel that they aren t here for 1/2 hour only to run off to the next job site! Jake (I believe the owner) told me that their company prefers to have 2 home visits per day over 10!!! I can t say enough them!!!!

- Lori T.

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Working with Storysold was a dream. We had a huge undertaking with almost 40,000 sq ft between two properties! With both buildings being over 100 years old keeping critters out is difficult and the previous tenants of the building allowed a huge infestation to occur. Jake was able to not only eradicate the unwanted pests he also filled holes and cracks and has stopped them from having easy access. Communication was great and the pricing was fair and manageable for our small nonprofit! I will continue to work with Storysold and recommend them for any pest control needs, big or small!

-  Jamie C

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Mouse in the house!!!! I texted Sunday morning after having chased a mouse through the house Saturday all day and Sunday at 3am... they came out to the house by 12:30 that Sunday. Jake got in the crawl space and checked the outside of the house for entry points. While there was no evidence of a major problem, I opt ed for the full attack. He came in with an Arsenal of traps that he placed in the kitchen and crawl space. He didn t hard sell and his prices were very affordable! He was also very honest with potential outcomes which I appreciate. He literally just left and I haven t heard any traps go off but just based on his customer service, I would totes recommend him! He s coming back in a week to check traps. I ve read some horror stories about other companies but I feel very confident that I m working with an upstanding professional. And he s dog friendly!

-  Taaj A.

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Great company.

- Ed S

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A pro. Showed on time. Knew what to do

-  Mike B.

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Jake of StorySold is proficient, affordable, and punctual. He took his time with carefully evaluating my problem, fixed my issue, and did extras like helping me fix my mattress which he treated for bed bugs. Can't recommend him enough and will use him and his company in the future. Got two other quotes which were much higher each quoting at least $1,000 without a guarantee.

- James J. 

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Jake is prompt, skilled, authentic and friendly! I couldn't be happier. I'm so glad that I talked to all three bidders before choosing. Even before he got here, I knew he was the best choice!

-  Linda B. 

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- We’ve struggled with mice in our home for years. Stoysold came out in February of 2020, found the access spots, blocked them, and we haven’t had a single mouse inside in over a year. I highly recommend their service. KH in Sandy, OR

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- Jake was professional, friendly, educational on the process. I would recommend his services to anyone needing a exterminator for insects or rodents.

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- Boann

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- We are so happy with the work Storysold did to fortify our house against unwelcome creatures! They were courteous, efficient, and communicative throughout the process.

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- Jake took care of our unwanted guest (roof rat!) and identified and took care of entry points to prevent future problems. We have been paying for a pest control service for years that we are going to be able to cancel thanks to Jake’s work. He’s very professional and responsive and we highly recommend him! – Mary

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- Dustin

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- Dani Rathke

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- Thorough, effective and reliable. I’ve used other exterminator services that seem more concerned with signing you up for annual contracts than actually solving the rodent issue. This company is the opposite. They care the most about solving the problem, billing customers comes second. I’d highly recommend.

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- Paul

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- Kristy L

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- Darlene Warren

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- Erika Glancy

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Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.

- Shelly A.

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Jake actually arrived early. He did a good job of removing a large hornet's nest of very aggressive hornets. He will definitely be our first choice on any future pest removal we might need.

- Barbara B.

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Jake went above and beyond of what was asked of him! Will not use anyone else!

- Ted M.

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Jake was extremely respectful and responsive. Came promptly and did a thorough inspection. He gave us options and his honest opinion about what we needed to do. He was very helpful in solving the problem simply and cost effectively! Will definitely call again.

- Michelle C.

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Friendly, fast and efficient. Very pleased with the service Jake provided

- Joli P.

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He's friendly, professional, punctual & extremely affordable. Would hire again & recommend to my friends.

- Max K.

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Jake at Storysold Pest Control is knowledgeable and professional. He is quick to respond and reasonably priced. I find him to be trustworthy and ethical, he does not sell unnecessary services and he works with customers that are willing to do some of the work themselves as well as with customers who just want the whole service done without being involved themselves. While other companies told me I needed to replace all my insulation and do massive crawl space renovations, he offered several affordable options. With his help we no longer have a mouse problem and it was done at a fraction of what other companies quoted us. I appreciate his flexibility and fun, friendly personality. If I ever have another pest control issue, he will be my first call.

- Darian C.

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Jake has been helping me trap rodents at my farm with his Volehalla rodent boxes. He's friendly, knowledgeable, and effective: we've trapped a lot of rodents!

- Emily C.

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Truly, I can t say enough about this team! They are so professional, trustworthy, and for the very first time in a long time I feel that they aren t here for 1/2 hour only to run off to the next job site! Jake (I believe the owner) told me that their company prefers to have 2 home visits per day over 10!!! I can t say enough them!!!!

- Lori T.

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Amazing! Jake is amazing! He came out because I had a squirrel in my attic. He has a vent he can put in so they can get out but not back in! Theres no trauma to the animal by trapping it and you will save yourself hearing it scream and cry in a trap! He walked around my entire house and attic looking for all entry points. He is very knowledgable and kind and looking to help you exist w wildlife w the option of not euthanizing. Years of experience. I was so pleased q his company I would highly highly recommend him for any of your critter/pest? needs! Thank you Jake!

- Susan K.

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- Loa H.

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We knew we had several openings to our crawl space where rodents were coming in. To come out and give us a quote, Jake was flexible with making an appointment at our convenience. He is personable and professional. We accepted his quote on the spot and he did the work at that time. He was thorough and gave us an excellent report with pictures after he was done. I highly recommend him and will use him again should the need arise.

- Larry a.

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- Paige L.

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Jake was a huge help with our recent rodent adventure. He was a great communicator and his work and knowledge were superb. He was thorough with his assessment of our property and honest with his recommendations. There was no attempt to unnecessarily sell us on any packages, in fact Jake gave us resources to get our situation under control and to maintain that going forward. Will absolutely be calling Jake in the future if the situation arises.

- Graham H.

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Great service and very affordable pricing.

- Humberto Z.

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- Deanna M.

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- Michelle H.

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Jake was very quick, informative. He not only took care of the rodent, but spent time helping to prevent it happening again.

- Em W.

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Excellent job! Jake was wonderful to work with.

- Kathy M.

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Jake went above and beyond. I had tiny ants in my cupboards and on my kitchen floor. He went outside the property and went underneath my condo. Not only did he take care of the ants but took care of a small rodent issue. Charged me exactly what he quoted me. All the extra work he did I thought for sure it would cost more but he stuck to his quote and was very polite, kind and quick.

- Brenda H.

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Jake was great to work with. He responded quickly to my request. He was able to do the job by being creative. He sent a follow up email to let me know when he would check back. His rate was very reasonable.

- Kelly A.

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Jake is really a 10/10 person and it shows in his work. Thankfully we did not have an infestation but his thoroughness, promptness, and overall attitude towards his profession was something that stuck out to me. I will be recommending him to everyone for pest control. I know who I'm calling when I need one!

- Samantha A.

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Amazing! Jake is amazing! He came out because I had a squirrel in my attic. He has a vent he can put in so they can get out but not back in! Theres no trauma to the animal by trapping it and you will save yourself hearing it scream and cry in a trap! He walked around my entire house and attic looking for all entry points. He is very knowledgable and kind and looking to help you exist w wildlife w the option of not euthanizing. Years of experience. I was so pleased q his company I would highly highly recommend him for any of your critter/pest? needs! Thank you Jake!

- Suzan K.

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Went above and beyond my expectations! Would recommend to anyone, knowledgeable and experienced. Thanks again!!

- Jaimie D.

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Jake will give you friendly, personalized, and timely service, and you get the story of the service at the end!

- Emily C.

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Very honest, friendly and informative. Excellent work.

- Terry B.

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Refreshing to work with Jake. He is collaborative and communicative. Great improvement since his visit.

- Seth W

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- Zack C.

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We had a great experience and highly recommend Jake. He is responsive, effective and thoughtful.

- Eddie B.

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Very honest, identified the problem in a remote corner of the property, operated quickly, provided photos of the work done and is coming back to verify the problem has been solved.

- Matteo V.

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Jake was fantastic! Fast response. Reliable and honest. Great rates. Hope not to have any more rodent problems, but if I do I will be calling Jake again. I would recommend him to anybody that needs help with Pest Control.

- Janet D.

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- Taney R.

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Working with Storysold was a dream. We had a huge undertaking with almost 40,000 sq ft between two properties! With both buildings being over 100 years old keeping critters out is difficult and the previous tenants of the building allowed a huge infestation to occur. Jake was able to not only eradicate the unwanted pests he also filled holes and cracks and has stopped them from having easy access. Communication was great and the pricing was fair and manageable for our small nonprofit! I will continue to work with Storysold and recommend them for any pest control needs, big or small!

- Jamie C.

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Came out next day and took care of our wasp nest! Easy to schedule and very responsive. Thank you!

- Jacoba G.

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Mouse in the house!!!! I texted Sunday morning after having chased a mouse through the house Saturday all day and Sunday at 3am... they came out to the house by 12:30 that Sunday. Jake got in the crawl space and checked the outside of the house for entry points. While there was no evidence of a major problem, I opt ed for the full attack. He came in with an Arsenal of traps that he placed in the kitchen and crawl space. He didn t hard sell and his prices were very affordable! He was also very honest with potential outcomes which I appreciate. He literally just left and I haven t heard any traps go off but just based on his customer service, I would totes recommend him! He s coming back in a week to check traps. I ve read some horror stories about other companies but I feel very confident that I m working with an upstanding professional. And he s dog friendly!

- Taaj A.

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Jake was straight forward and was happy to answer all questions. Thank you!

- April B.

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A pro. Showed on time. Knew what to do

- Mike B.

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Did an amazing job fixing some visitors to my crawl space. Sanitized, cleaned, and locked down from future uninvited guests!

- Stephen I.

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Jake of StorySold is proficient, affordable, and punctual. He took his time with carefully evaluating my problem, fixed my issue, and did extras like helping me fix my mattress which he treated for bed bugs. Can't recommend him enough and will use him and his company in the future. Got two other quotes which were much higher each quoting at least $1,000 without a guarantee.

- James J.

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He arrived on time, knew precisely what to do to resolve my problem and completed the job.

- Jeff J.

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Jake is prompt, skilled, authentic and friendly! I couldn't be happier. I'm so glad that I talked to all three bidders before choosing. Even before he got here, I knew he was the best choice!

- Linda B.

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- Jake is amazing

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- Stacie Benefield