art by Shannon N. Kelly
by Patricia Duffy Novak
Oops, tactical error. Marla gave an internal grimace as she looked up from her salad-making to see her husband bustling down the hall with the latest issue of Woman's Journal in his hands. After the incident with the security system she'd vowed to stash her magazines where he couldn't find them. Looked like she'd gotten careless. Again.
Tom, on one of his tangents, was the last thing she wanted to deal with today, with a head cold coming on. All she wanted to do was get supper over and go to bed.
"Here, look at this." He thrust the magazine under her eyes, forefinger stabbing at the two-page "Health Roundup" spread.
"What?" She sliced the last bit of cucumber into the bowl.
"Dust mites." He pronounced the two syllables deliberately, in an almost oracular fashion.
She didn't remember anything about dust mites. "What about them?"
"It says here that a lot of people are allergic to them. What they think are head colds are really mite allergies." He held her in a speculative gaze, his thoughts clearly turning in diagnostic circles. It drove her crazy when he did that. He was an economics professor, not a medical doctor.
Tom laid the magazine on the Formica counter, and held up one hand, finger extended, lecture style. "This is your second so-called cold in a month. And this house--" He turned and gestured toward the back door, and then to the beige-carpeted den. "So drafty. Dust is always seeping in under the door, and all these carpets are a breeding ground for the critters. You probably have allergies."
She ground her teeth. "It's a cold."
"Hmmm." Tom's face muscles went slack, which meant, Marla knew, that his mind was casting into the great beyond.
"Here." She thrust the salad bowl into his hands, hoping to reel him back. "Put this on the table and call Vic." Vic, their sixteen-year-old son, six-foot-two and two hundred pounds. Tom had installed a security system so that no one would break in and steal him, an obsession he'd developed the last time she'd been careless about where she left her magazines.
She didn't want to think about the cost of that security system. And the inconvenience. Two days of having her house pulled apart as the security team put in the infrared beams. And the false alarms every time the cat got into the living room. At least mites offered no expensive, high-tech solution. At worst, they would need to vacuum more often.
Marla woke from a deep sleep to the sound of Tom's chortling. He was standing beside the bed in his underwear, a pile of papers in his hands. "I have the answer," he said, grinning like a lunatic.
"Good." Marla rolled over. Tom had turned on every light. She loved the way he sneaked into bed late. The man was as subtle as a bazooka. "Tell me about it in the morning."
"Nanomites," he said, ignoring her request. "That'll clear up our problem."
"What are you babbling about, Tom?" Marla sat up, pressing a hand to her painfully full sinuses. "We don't have any problems." Other than a husband who woke his sick wife at--she glanced at the clock--two a.m.
"The dust mites!" Tom gestured with the papers. "I've found the answer. Nanos. Specially designed to chew up mites. Only approved last month."