Fleas, fleas, fleas

These fleas, the bane of urban man, are abominable.  The only way to find relief is to sit so hard by the fire that the heat drives them to hop off. 

It is reported that Frederick the Wise rules mostly from such a seat in the fire.  I roast myself nightly until my legs are broiled to a pied color that never fades and the skin feels like leather.

Of late, the vermin are even worse, due, I suspect, to the three peasants encamped in the room beside me.  My Midas landlady has devised yet another way to squeeze a few guilders from this sty.  She is dividing the room next to mine into two.   The peasant “carpenters” are continually hammering and sawing, and the racket makes study impossible.

I see these fellows as I come and go, and I have sorted them out.  Two are amiable, and their names are Clovis and Ergot.  Clovis is huge, hairy, and speaks a Niederdeutsch dialect.  Ergot is a meek mouse with a squeak of a voice.  The third, Fedor, is also thin, but thin as a knife blade and keen.  Half his face is covered by a thick white scar, and there is always an edge in his voice.   

They dress in typical brown goods and ragged bundshuh.  Whenever I see them, at least one is scratching his crotch or pulling up his shirt to catch a flea, which he rolls in his strong fingers. 

Yesterday, I met my cousin at the cathedral.  She has grown into a charming young woman, radiating devotion and virtue.  Appropriately, she was wearing a new zibellino with a head and front paws of jet.  When I commented upon it, she lowered her voice and said, “Uncle, do you think it’s possible the merciless fleas will go to it?”

“Foolish child.  Why would a flea choose a dead and bloodless pelt?”

“Oh Uncle!”  She sighed.  “It’s not the biting I mind, so much as the crawling.” 

French Zibellino--1563


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Published in: on February 12, 2011 at 12:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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