© 2008 KB Shaw


Except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews, the reproduction of this work in whole or in part in any form by electronic or mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including printing, faxing, eMail, or copying electronically, is forbidden without the permission of

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues in this book are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



IT WAS THURSDAY, July 1st, 1976. The bicentennial – the celebration of 200 years of independence – was just days away. By the looks of the quaint suburban Connecticut house, with its white picket fence, Cape Cod façade, and street side mailbox proclaiming it to be the home of Joe and Ann Dee, you would think all was right in the world.

But you’d be wrong.

Joe Dee was moving about the kitchen, preparing a breakfast of omelets, bacon, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. He opened a cupboard and, as he lifted a glass, a silverfish scampered toward the dark recesses of the cupboard. Joe jerked his hand back quickly, letting loose his grip on the glass, which fell to the floor and shattered at his feet.

“Damn.” Joe surveyed the wreckage and shook his head in anger and disgust – anger at the broken glass, and disgust with the vile little bug that caused the accident.

Joe retrieved a broom and dustpan from the mudroom off the back of the kitchen. He was able to sweep most of the shards into a tidy pile. He stooped to dislodge a large sliver of glass that was wedged under the baseboard of the kitchen cabinet. As he reached for the shard, a large roach darted along the baseboard and across his hand. He instinctively retracted his hand, cutting the tip of his index finger on the broken glass.


Putting his finger to his mouth, he went to the half-bath off the mudroom, where he ran cold water over his finger. He dried it carefully, swung open the medicine cabinet door, and reached for a can of bandages. He was just about to flip open the lid when he noticed a daddy longlegs crawling over the face of the can. Horrified, he smashed the can onto the sink counter. He timidly peeked under the can to make sure the spider was dead but it was nowhere to be seen.

Joe became aware of a strange buzzing sound. He sniffed the air – something was burning! He rushed to the kitchen. The toaster was jammed again. Joe grabbed a fork from the table and pried the top of a slice of bread that had jammed the toaster. Once freed, the toast slices popped up with such force that they flew from the toaster. Joe deftly caught one in mid-air, but the other landed on the floor.

A very frazzled Joe Dee bent over to pick up the toast and saw the dustpan of broken glass still lying on the floor. The shard, tipped with his blood, had become dislodged. So he used the toast to push the last piece of glass onto the dustpan and then he took the dustpan and broom back to the mudroom.

As he emptied the dustpan, his eyes focused on a small red ant crawling up the side of the wastebasket. Then he noticed a second ant on the way down – indeed, a whole caravan of tiny red ants were strung out in a ragged line leading to a small opening between the back door and the sill. Joe started to stomp on them with his feet.

“Damn. Damn. Damn!”

He swung the back door open, grabbed the broom, and began to sweep the ants out. A cat was crouched at the foot of the back stairs.

“Sissy! What is it?”

Sissy glanced up at Joe, then back at the foot of the door.

“What’s wrong, girl?

Sissy sprang to the back stairs landing. Joe recoiled when he saw the target of Sissy’s assault – a small gray mouse, which scurried through the open door and raced into the kitchen with Sissy in hot pursuit.

“Oh, my God, my God, my God!”

Joe chased the intruders with the broom.

“Sissy, you rat! I’ll kill you, unless you kill that mouse!”

The mouse, Sissy, and Joe did a lap around the breakfast table – Joe thrashing with the broom. An errant blow of the broom jarred the kitchen counter, causing the eggs to roll. They fell to the floor as the trio made a second lap. The eggs exploded like small bombs in front of the mouse, causing it to cut under the table and head toward parts unknown. Sissy and Joe dashed off toward the front of the house, close on its heels.

As the trio exited the kitchen, Ann Dee entered from the side hall. She was dressed in a smart business suit and carried a stylish leather briefcase in one hand. She glanced at her watch and the expression on her face told the usual story – she was running late.

“Joe. Joe, dear. I’m late.”

She surveyed the disaster area, then carefully waded through the pools of yolk and whites to the counter where she delicately picked up a piece of burnt toast with her forefinger and thumb. She looked at it with disgust and tossed it into the garbage disposal.

“Joe? I need to go.” Ann found the pitcher of fresh juice, reached into the cupboard, grabbed a glass and poured herself some.

Joe entered through the same door by which he had left. He was alone, a look of defeat etched on his face. He stopped just inside the doorway, one hand on his hip, the other gripping the broom, which dragged on the floor. “My God!” he gasped.

“C’mon Joe,” said Ann, taking no notice. “I’m running late. Do you need the car, or should I drive myself to the station?”

“And what about breakfast?”

Ann downed the last of her juice. “It was delicious, dear. Are you driving or not?” She smiled politely.

“Tch!” Joe clicked his tongue in disgust. He looked like he might cry. His eyelids fluttered as he talked, choking with emotion. “Well, isn’t that just like you. I may have just had the worst morning of my life, and all you think about is yourself.”

“I’m sorry, Joe, but I’ve got an important appointment this morn...”

“You, you, you! What about me, Ann? Huh? What about me? I work my fingers to the bone around here, for you, and what do you do for me? Huh, Ann? What do you do for me?”

“I’m sorry, Joe. I...”

“You’re sorry? I’m the one that’s sorry. I slave for you day and night! I don’t get weekends or holidays off, either! And what do I get in return? What, Ann? What? We hardly ever get out anymore. God knows how I’d like to get out once in awhile – a show or dinner, orsomething... anything.”

Ann crossed to Joe and offered him her hand. Joe looked down at his shoes, pouting...

“I know how hard you work around here. Maybe I should force myself to take a little more time from the office. Tell you what, next week I’ll have you meet me in the city. I’ll take an afternoon off, we’ll go for a nice dinner, and I’ll get a couple of tickets for A Chorus Line, okay?”
Joe lifted his eyes to meet Ann’s. She was still offering her hand.

“You would like that,” she continued. “Wouldn’t you? That is the show you wanted to see, isn’t it?”

Joe took her hand and nodded.

“Then turn that frown upside down and drive me to the station. Huh, darling?”

A half-smile widened across Joe’s face.


The Train

ANNE LOOKEDanxiously at her watch as Joe drove. Joe had been talking incessantly for the entire drive.

“...then Sissy chased a mouse right into the house! God, it was awful! Why me? Why-oh-why is it always me? You’re in the city all day, in your sparkling clean glass tower... I have to go back to that mess and the bugs and the rodents!”

“One mouse, Joe;” she replied. “It was a single little mouse.”

“One that we know of!” He glanced at Ann and raised a knowing eyebrow. “God only knows how many others have burrowed into the cellar or between our walls. The whole house is infested with pests...”

“I know.” Ann tried to interject, but Joe droned on.

“...rats, and roaches and spiders and ants...”

An image of Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion flashed into her mind and she recited under her breath, “Spiders and roaches and rats – oh my!”

“...and silverfish and heaven knows what else!” Joe concluded.

Ann protested, “I’ve tried all the sprays and “motels” and service companies I could think of, dear.”

“And nothing’s worked...” was Joe’s rebuke.

“I know.”

“You’ve never tried that stuff Paul Harvey talks about!”
Ann glanced at her watch again as she replied, “But that’s only for roaches, Joe; I’ve told you that before. I’m going to miss the train if you don’t step on it.”

“Independent university studies have proven that it works...” Joe was quoting the radio ad verbatim.

“I don’t doubt that...”

“They’ve used it on entire towns...”

Ann was exasperated. “That’s not the point...”

“It’s patented, for God’s sake!”

Ann bit her lip, trying to put an end to the conversation.

The Dees’ car pulled into a parking space some distance from the train station. Ann quickly got out of the car and started to walk briskly toward the train. The platform was nearly empty, for most of the commuters were already on board. Joe Dee followed a step behind Ann, jabbering and gesturing as he went.

AAA Pest Control

TWO MEN and a woman were looking out of the train. One man checked his watch and was saying something to the others when the woman, Beth, suddenly pointed out the window in the direction of Joe and Ann.

“Here she comes now,” she said.

Harry, the man looking at his watch, held it out for the others to see and tapped the dial as he spoke. “Andy was sure cutting it close this time.”

The three commuters craned their necks to watch Joe and Ann as they approached.

“It looks like Jody’s really on her tail again today!” commented the second man, Marv.

AAA Pest Control

JOE WAS still on his tirade, “...well, something has to be done about these pests, Ann.”

Ann made a quick stop at the newsstand and bought her usual copy of the Wall Street Journal, which she tucked under her arm.

“Yes, Ann, something needs to be done. I don’t know what, but I can’t keep on like this.”

Neither can I, thought Ann.

“You don’t realize how much time it takes to keep a household running – to keep your clothes looking good, and to have dinner ready and waiting for you. The list goes on and on...”

“And on and on and on...” Ann mumbled.

Much to her relief, they reached Ann’s train car.

“So I can’t be expected to do everything. All I ask for is some cooperation.”

Ann gave Joe a quick peck on the cheek and ascended into the train.

“I want something done about these pests, Ann,” Joe shouted as the train lurched forward. “TODAY, ANN!”

Ann waved wearily from the platform between coaches as the train pulled away. “Yes, dear,” she called before entering the coach where she knew her friends would be holding a seat. As it was on most mornings, the commuter train was crowded.

Marv was waving his hand above the heads of the crowd. He gave a short whistle and called, “Andy, over here!”

Ann made her way down the aisle to her three friends. Beth patted the empty seat next to her, into which Ann slumped like a sack of potatoes.

Harry pointedly tapped his watch. “Thought you’d missed it for sure this time!”

“What was Jody’s gripe today, Ann?” Beth probed. Then, half singing, “You don’t send me flowers, anymore?”

Ann flushed with embarrassment.

“No, no, no, Beth! It wasn’t that at all,” offered Marv. “You’re not married, so you don’t have the experience that enables a person to read a situation like this. That was definitely a ‘you’re never home – I sacrifice my whole life for you – we never go out any more’ tirade.” He looked at Ann with a visage of good humor. “Am I right, or what?”

Ann rolled her eyes, “Among other things.”

Harry rubbed his hands together eagerly. “Other things?” he said. “You mean that Jody’s come up with something new?” He turned to the others and stated matter-of-factly, “Maggie hasn’t come up with a new line in twelve years!”

Marv was delighted too, “Knowing ol’ Jody, this ought to be good.”

The trio looked with anticipation to Ann, who remained silent.

“Well?” Harry prompted.

Ann looked at each of the three in turn before saying simply, “Well, what?”

“Aren’t you going to tell us Joe’s new gripe?” Beth demanded.

Ann snapped open her newspaper. “Shouldn’t you be reading your paper?” she said before raising her Journal and blocking the three from her sight. She read a moment, then slowly lowered the paper and peeked over the top. She saw that they were still waiting. Ann quickly raised the paper again. The trio retained their focus on Ann, practically piercing the paper with their gaze. Ann tried desperately to resist their prying.

“Pests...” she uttered from behind the paper. She lowered the paper to her lap and gave in. “Okay, it was about pests! Are you satisfied?”

In unison the trio responded, “Pests?”

Beth was repulsed by the thought. “What do you mean – bugs, and stuff?”

Marv attempted to gross Beth out, “You know, Beth, those creepy-crawly things you find slinking around the bathtub drain when you get home at night and the only thing you had wanted to do all day was to have a nice, long, warm, soothing soak?” He succeeded. Beth’s nose wrinkled and her mouth scrunched up.

“Cut it out, Marv!” She kicked him in the shin.

Turning his attention to Ann, Marv said, somewhat loudly, “So Andy, you’ve got roaches!”

Ann slapped him with her paper. “Jeez, Marv, why not take an ad out in the paper! Sometimes I could just wring your neck!”

Marv leaned in closer and took a more confidential tact,

“Well, do you?”

Ann looked around to see if anyone had overheard, then nodded.

“Have you tried that stuff Paul Harvey is always talking about?” asked Beth.

“That wouldn’t solve our problem.” Ann answered.

“They’ve cleaned out...” Beth started, but Ann chimed in as she said “entire towns...”

“Yes, I’ve heard it all before. What do you think Joe was harping about all morning? That stuff just wouldn’t be of much help. What I need is some sort of total pest control. We’ve got more than roaches – jeez, we’ve got more than just bugs!”

“Rats?” asked Harry

“Mice – or rather, a mouse.”

“Have you called...”

Ann stopped Harry with a gesture of her hand.

“Come on, will you? You guys are bigger pests than Joe. I’ll take care of it at the office, okay?” With that, Ann straightened out her paper and again cut herself off from the group.


The Office

HALVERSON, Smith, Berglund, and Associates had their offices in a building on the island of Manhattan. Two company receptionists sat behind a great semicircular desk where they efficiently greeted clients and answered the phone. Both were women. The older one, Hannah, was a company veteran while the younger woman was new to the job.

The phone rang. Hannah answered, “Hello. Halverson, Smith, Berglund, and Associates. Oh, Mr. Dee. Yes, she’s in. I’ll put you through.” She put the line on hold and punched up a number. “Ms. Dee?” she said in a pleasant tone, “Your husband on Line 4.”

Hannah hung up and turned to her trainee. She leaned in close and spoke in a gossipy tone, “It’s only ten past nine and Jody has already called twice. That woman is a saint to put up with a nag like that!”

The younger woman hung on every word and nodded sympathetically.

AAA Pest Control

THE SIGN on Ann’s office door read: Ms. Ann Dee, Project Manager. She was an important person at Halverson, Smith, Berglund, and Associates. Her desk was littered with files and reports.

“I’ve been busy this morning, Joe.” She had picked up line four to talk with Joe. “No, I haven’t been able to take care of the problem.

“Look dear, Mark Holt and I have a major presentation to deliver this afternoon with Mr. Halverson, and if I don’t get cracking, I’m going to have a rough time of it... yes... that’s right... I should be home on time... yes, I’ll try to call if I get hung up.


Ann hung up and shook her head sadly, then sighed deeply before returning to her papers. She had work to do before the big meeting.

AAA Pest Control

IT WAS night before Mark, Ann, and Mr. Halverson stepped off the elevator into the lobby of their offices. Mr. Halverson was smiling broadly as he gave Ann a congratulatory slap on the back.

“Good work, Andy!” he said. Then he addressed Ann’s assistant. “That’s how you handle old Steinbach, Mark – firm but gentle, eh, Andy? Build a strong presentation and back it up with talent and conviction, that’s what Andy does. You watch her, Mark – learn from her!”

They were standing before the door to Ann’s office.

“I sure will, Mr. Halverson,” said Mark. “You can count on it.” He watched Mr. Halverson walk away, the happy bounce of success in his step. “Anything else, Ann?”

“No, nothing. You did great, Mark. Thanks. Now shoo! Get on home.” After dismissing her assistant, Ann quickly entered her office. I’ll never make the train, she thought. She was starting to throw papers in her briefcase when she noticed a stack of pink “While you were out” memos on her desk. She picked them up and shuffled through them.

2:15 – Joe called, said to remind you about the pest problem.

2:47 – Joe called back.

3:09 – T. Howell III called. Please return call tomorrow, a.m

3:34 – Joe again – 4:10, 4:41, 5:12.

Ann sighed and seated herself at her desk. She picked up the phone and punched in a number. After a few rings, Joe answered. “Hello dear,” she began, “I’m... I was just going to tell you – I’m still at the office... I know I missed the train... yes dear... I am calling now... No dear, I couldn’t call sooner... but I didn’t know that the presentation would take so long!

“No, I didn’t take care of that yet... How could I? I was busy all day... I know that I said I would... Now just calm down, dear... Okay, okay! I’ll find something on my way back! Yes dear, I promise – cross my heart... That’s right, I’ll catch the next train... Don’t bother picking me up... No... I said no, Joe... I’ll get a cab... Yes, dear... Good-bye.”

Ann checked her watch again. Then she pulled open a desk drawer, retrieved a Yellow Pages book, and flipped through it to “Pest Control.” She dialed a number and let it ring. No answer. Ann scratched through the name in the book with a red felt tip marker. She dialed another – again, no answer. She repeated this process until she had scratched through “X-pert Pest Removal,” the last listing in the book. She leaned back dejectedly in her chair and tossed the marker onto her desk.


The Night Coach

RANDOM FLASHES from the passing lights illuminated Ann’s face as she sat in the nearly empty commuter train. The rhythmic rattle of the tracks lulled her senses. She stared through the window, with heavy eyelids, at the blurred abstractions of the night that streamed past.

“Excuse me...” came the gentle sound of a man’s voice.

Ann’s trance was broken and her eyes refocused from the scene outside the train to the reflection of the interior of the car in the glass. She saw the face of an old man looking back at her. She turned quickly.

The man looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Ann saw that he was a pleasant old gent who appeared to be the last of the old-fashioned traveling salesmen, complete with rumpled suit, bow-tie, hat, and two large, plain black sample cases. He reminded Ann of Clarence, the angel, from her favorite old movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

“Would you mind if I sat down?”

Ann shook her head. The man slid his cases on the seat across from Ann and sat down next to them. Ann began to look out the window again.

After a few moments, the man broke the silence. “I love trains at night, don’t you? The rattle of the rails, the throbbing, pulsating light of countless passing lives – it’s positively hypnotic. Don’t you agree?”

Ann smiled slightly and nodded.

“A person could lose himself in the train’s vibrating rhythm.” he continued. “It makes one almost forget one’s troubles, doesn’t it?”

Ann nodded again.

The man reached into his breast pocket and removed a business card. He leaned forward and handed it to Ann.

Ann politely took the card, flipping from the blank back to the front. The card read simply: Phinneas Fenster, Salesman.

“Phinneas Fenster at your service, ma’am.”

“A traveling salesman? In this day and age?”

“There are a few of us left, miss...?”

“Dee. Ann Dee – but most people call me Andy.”

“That’s nice. I like that – Andy!

“And what is it that you sell, Mr. Fenster?”

“Phinneas, please call me Phinneas. Well you see, Andy, the traveling salesman today just can’t compete in the mass market place, so those of us left on the road have specialized. We offer very specific products for very specific needs. What is it that you need, Andy?”

Ann was hesitant about replying.

“Come on, Andy! Everybody needs something,” he prodded.

“Really, I’m sure you wouldn’t have what I need to take care of my problem.”

“And what sort of problem would that be, Andy?

“Pests, Mr. Fenster, pests!”

Phinneas Fenster let out a hearty laugh. “Why Andy, didn’t you look at my card?”

Ann looked at the card again. It read simply: Phinneas Fenster, Salesman.

“On the back, Andy. On the back.”

“But I...” she started to protest as she flipped the card over again. Her eyes widened. In bold letters it read:


Ann looked at Phinneas with amazement.

“How fortunate we bumped into each other,” he said in response to her look.

“Uh, yes... but I don’t understand...”

Phinneas waved his hand dismissively. “We specialize in what people need – it’s that simple. So Andy, what do you have? Roaches? Spiders? Ants? Rodents?”

“All of the above!”

The old man arched a shaggy gray eyebrow. “My, my! You don’t say!” He reached into his breast pocket again and withdrew a pair of reading glasses and a small black book. He rested the glasses well down toward the end of his nose and began to flip through the book. “What a nasty combination of pests! Let’s see... Roaches and spiders... uh-huh... so far, so good! Ants, you said?” Phinneas peered over the top of his glasses at Ann.

“And silverfish,” she added.

“Oh my, you didn’t mention those pesky little devils before!” He flipped through several more pages of the little black book. “And rodents, you said. Rats?”

“Mice, actually – well, really only one mouse.”

Phinneas shook his head solemnly, “Where there is one rat...”

“Mouse,” Ann corrected.

“Whatever... Can others be far behind?” He flipped through yet more pages. “Ah-hah! Yes, I think that this is the only answer – Triple A’s Riddit! Yes, yes, that will certainly do the trick!” Phinneas snapped the book shut and slid it back into his coat pocket. “Riddit” is our very best product. Indeed, it is the best product available anywhere! It is the Cadillac of pest control – and I assure you that you can’t buy a product like this in a store. No sirree, you wont find the likes of it at your K-marts or hardware stores! Here, let me show you!”

Phinneas reached over and slid one of the sample cases onto his lap. The lid was inscribed with the same notation that Ann found on the back of the card: AAA PEST CONTROL, Guaranteed! Phinneas rummaged through the case, whose contents were hidden from Ann by the raised lid.

“Ah, yes! Here it is!

Phinneas held up a small container not much larger than a box of stick matches. In fact, it looked very much like a cellophane-wrapped box of stick matches. He peered over his glasses and noted the look of skepticism on Ann’s face.

“Guaranteed! All of Triple-A’s products are guaranteed!

Riddit will rid your house of every known type of household pest – guaranteed!

“Everything? Spiders, ants...”

“Large and small, we rid them all!” he assured her.

“And how many boxes will I need to buy?”

“Just the one.”

Ann looked doubtful. “We have a rather large house.”

“I’m a salesman, Andy. I’ll sell you as many as you might want – but you only need one.” He paused a second before adding, “Guaranteed!”

“Well, how much?”

“How much is your satisfaction worth? You tell me.” He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a sheet of paper. “Here, take the box and read these instructions. If you want to try it, take it home with you. If you’re absolutely, 100%, completely satisfied with its performance, just send a check or money order for the amount you feel is fair to the address listed below. If you are unhappy with Riddit, just return it to us, no questions asked. Satisfaction guaranteed!”

Ann took the box and the paper, which she unfolded and began to read. Her eyes widened as she read. She looked up at the old man. The seat opposite her was empty. Ann leaned out into the aisle but no one was stirring in the dimly lit night coach. She sat back and lifted the small container to examine it.


Independence Day

THE BOX of Riddit was lying on the desk in the Dees’ den.

“And that little box is supposed to clean the whole house? Jeez, Ann! Can’t you do anything right?”

“But it’s guaranteed, Joe! And we don’t pay a cent if it doesn’t work!”

“My God, Ann! How can you believe...”

“Forget it, Joe. Don’t give it a second thought. I’ll take care of it myself Saturday morning – just leave it on my desk until Saturday. Then you’ll see if I’m right or not, okay?”

“Saturday? You mean you’re going to wait until then? I have to put up with all these bugs for two more days?”

“Look, I’m tired and I have some work to do. I’m going to take a quick shower, grab something to eat, and then I’m going to go over some notes until I fall asleep. I have absolutely no time nor inclination to de-bug our house until Saturday.”


“No buts!” said Ann decisively. With that, she turned on her heel, exited the den through the double sliding doors, and climbed the hall stairs.

“Tch!” Joe clicked his tongue in disgust, turned to the desk, and grabbed the Riddit. He marched to the kitchen, the box firmly in hand, a determined set to his jaw.

Joe seated himself at the kitchen table and examined the box. On the bottom was written: Warning! Read instructions carefully before using. Joe clicked his tongue again in a display of disregard for the warning. He peeled the cellophane wrapper from the box and pushed it open from one end, just like a matchbox. A dingy yellow glow appeared in the widening crack. As Joe pushed the Riddit open further, the light changed to a brilliant blue-white ball of energy that domed up from the box. Joe dropped the box in surprise and slid his chair back from the table.

Fingers of energy started reaching out from the enlarging mass of energy. The whole room filled with light and started to vibrate noticeably. A cupboard door flew open abruptly and Joe jumped to his feet.

The plates and glasses in the cupboard rattled noisily as a silverfish ran for shelter. But its attempt to escape was an exercise in futility. The silverfish was sucked into the air and whisked across the room where it was absorbed by the glowing mass.

By one’s, two’s, and more, the cupboard doors flew open. Joe could see the tiny bodies of bugs whizzing through the air, being drawn into the ball of light. He looked around at a room, which was seemingly in total motion, yet only the bugs were sucked into the light. A spider crawling over a paper napkin was pulled to oblivion, but the napkin remained fluttering on the counter.

It was dark in the mudroom, but blue-white fingers of light begin to probe under the door. Then, suddenly, the door burst open and the room was flooded with light. One-by-one the ants were sucked into the air and hurtled into the kitchen. Next, the door to the half-bath off the mudroom swung open and the medicine cabinet door followed suit. Two daddy longlegs were whisked to their doom.

Throughout the house – spiders on lampshades, crickets under carpets, flies on windows – every pest was sought out by the Riddit glow. Around corners, through doorways, even among the delicate treasures in the china cabinet, the pests were eliminated, one by one. The ever-probing fingers of energy started to climb the stairs, tread by tread, entwining the banisters, creeping up the walls – searching. The mouse ran, frightened, just ahead of the advancing light, but it was not fast enough. It clawed at the stairway carpet, managing to keep hold a moment. But the outcome was inevitable – eventually the mouse tired and plummeted through the air, down the stairwell, into the living room, around a corner into the dining room, and on into the kitchen, where it was able to grasp the tablecloth for an instant. Joe gazed dumbly at the spectacle, until the mouse lost its grip and disappeared into the light.

Upstairs, Ann was in the shower. She didn’t notice the glow in the bedroom, advancing toward the bath. Closets and drawers slid open. The fingers of energy glided across the floor, some going under the bed skirt and others over the bed and up the walls. Finally, the bathroom began to glow with the blue-white energy of Riddit.

Several roaches were pulled from the drain of the sink and spiraled in the basin a second before whizzing into the air. The shower stall door flung open with a crash, startling Ann. There was a strange sound like a vacuum on the surface of the water. Ann looked down at the drain, which was exuding a writhing, brown mass of wet bodies and legs. Ann cowered into a corner of the stall as the aggregate of life was pulled from the drain and splattered into the air on the way to its waiting doom.

Then, just as suddenly, the light began to subside. The shower door swung shut, drawers slid back into place.

Down in the kitchen, Joe was still frozen in awe, as the Riddit’s quarry whooshed past. Now, often they seemed to be hitting him. His hair began to blow toward the table and his clothes seemed to strain in the same direction. His shirt billowed out in the front from the force. Joe was pulled slowly toward the light. He desperately tried to brace himself against the edge of the table, holding himself back from the ball of energy, but his feet lifted up from under him and he found himself doing a somersault through the air and landed, feet first, in the blue-white mass.

The light subsided, falling like a waterfall down the stairwell, with Ann, wrapped in a towel, trailing a couple of steps behind. Room by room, the house came back to order. Ann followed its ebbing tide into the kitchen. The glow finally contracted into the box with a slight “pop,” which then quietly slid itself shut. Ann looked around the room silently for a few moments.

“Joe?” No answer. “JOE!” Still no answer. Ann crossed to the table, lifted the box and examined it before heading to the den.

She placed the box on the desk, sat down, opened the center desk drawer and removed a checkbook. With a smile of absolutely, 100% total satisfaction on her face, Ann Dee took a pen from the holder and began to write a four-figure check to AAA Pest Control.

For Ann Dee, Independence Day had come early.

AAA Pest Control