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Waiting for the Bed Bugs

Bug close upBrendan Bernhard

It is said, on one of the many Web sites dealing with the subject, that bed bugs, when they attack their sleeping victims, leave a trail of “dark fecal spots (which are partly digested blood) on their host, mattresses, clothes, bedding, walls, ceiling, and every place you can imagine in a room.”

Except, it seems, when they don’t. Except when you are preyed upon by bed bugs who come equipped with their own federally funded clean-up crew — bugs which don’t feed but tidy up after the other bugs — ensuring that the dawn will reveal absolutely no sign of their vampiric brethren except for the clusters of hideous, madly itching welts on your legs and arms and torso.

This is the situation as I lie awake in bed at three in the morning, a copy of George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” propped up on a small cushion in front of me. I’m about 420 pages in, with about 420 pages to go, but it’s a challenge to concentrate. I keep swiveling around thinking I’ll catch a bug scooting purposefully toward me on the pristine sheet. I turn a flashlight on the curls of peeling paint behind the heating pipe and under the window sill, looking for anything that scurries…. Surely there must be something moving somewhere. After all, it’s feeding time.
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