Fat on Fresh BloodPosted January 31st, 2011 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
When Sharon described Richmond Great House, the former slave plantation in Tobago where we would spend two weeks writing together in January 2011, I had visions of paradise-in-a-rain-forest with amazing views, fresh fruit, fish, and warmth — a welcome retreat from the snow and ice we left behind in Oregon and New York.
But no description could possibly have done justice to the magical place we recently departed. Richmond House was indeed a place I needed to experience to fully appreciate.
And such inspiration! Sharon and I sat for hours on end at one of four dining tables in the main hall click-clacking away on dueling laptops; piles of books from Professor Lynch’s personal library surrounded us. Sharon and I dutifully wrote for several hours each day, passing chapter drafts back and forth; editing each other’s work.
What I wasn’t prepared for, what I don’t think anything could have prepared me for, were the ravenous, aggressive, nonstop-buzz-in-your-ear, sneaky, and never-give-up-till-the-needle-nose-is-deeply-inserted-in-that-succulent-skin mosquitoes! Sharon warned us about them, but as with her description of the island, these little blood-suckers must be experienced to fully appreciate their tenacity!
Also in abundance was a significant congregation of bats. There are nine different species of bats on Tobago. The windows and doors at Richmond House are left open so the tropical winds can blow through and refresh. The bats love it. We welcomed them as they flew quickly through the living room, kitchen, dining room, and our bedroom. The geckos are fat from insect casserole. But their appetites are clearly not up to the challenge.
We brought essential oils (citronella and eucalyptus) to mix with olive oil for natural repellent (no deet for us). We ate a ton of Vitamin B, which may be an urban myth but what the heck? Try everything, right? Sharon also packed netting for our beds. All were useful… to a degree. Yet each evening when they awaken from wherever they’ve been sleeping all day, new, red wounds swelled up from our feet, ankles and arms.
And each morning, my wife Lindi and I found at least a few of the little bastards resting on the inside of the net-tent that enclosed our bed. They were so fat on our blood that they couldn’t even move, let alone fly away! The SLAP of my hand! The SQUISH of a tiny, fat mosquito! Blood dripped from my hands as if I were cleaning chicken to barbecue for a family reunion in Kentucky. Seriously! The tiny, winged vampires must’ve been in hog heaven feasting on this fresh, white-folk blood…
Okay, I exaggerate (once we began utilizing those green-coiled-smoky-repellent-thingies we noticed a huge difference–ah, the sweet smell of creosote… it smells like… victory). But I do fantasize about writing a horror novel about these evil buggers! Like I said, Tobago is rich with inspiration.
Lest you think that these minions of Satan diminished in any way our enjoyment of every moment of our time in Tobago, the answer is almost not one bit. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer my tropical islands without mosquitoes. But tropical air and mosquitoes are long-term partners like love and marriage, horse and carriage… And I’m ready to fly back to Richmond Great House anytime for another lengthy writing retreat.
And as I write these words… I scratch… ;o)
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