Saul Mattis accepted a copy of Fun Facts about Fleas stale-faced and slipped the volume into his bag. “I’m sorry for its tone, but this really is all we have on fleas,” said the doctor avoiding Saul’s eye “it’s actually quite incredible what they, or rather you, are capable of”
“I’m not a flea,” said Saul bluntly.
There was a knock at the door and a nurse waggled a bundle of children’s shoes through the gap in the door.
“Thank you, Mr Mattis can collect them on his way out…”
“I’m not a flea.”
“Not entirely, no, but the skin tests and swabs we took yesterday from your buttocks and thighs came back as a… No, quite right, I wouldn’t be able to speak with a flea, your… transformation is merely physical and by no means entire, your upper body appears completely untouched… You must get in contact if that changes”
“Is that it?”
“I’m afraid while your case is not wholly unprecedented, but we haven’t even the faintest idea of how to reverse it… my advice to you is to try to begin to come to terms with this… consult the book and find out what the new you is capable of”
Saul slumped down on the friendliest looking bench in the park. The walk back from the doctors had proved harder going than he had imagined. His new legs, though greater in number, were thin and needed an aptitude for even weight distribution he had not yet mastered. He had left the studio with the nurse waving the bag of children’s shoes.
Fun Facts about Fleas stared woefully at him out the top of his bag. The long coat he had taken to cover his new limbs was drawn up by his sitting down, exposing his six jagged legs. There was no hiding them now.
Saul pressed the volume down in the folds of his coat, annoyed at his own embarrassment, and opened.
Fact 1: The world's biggest flea is the beaver flea, averaging a size of 11mm
Fact 2: Fleas can lay up to 1,500 eggs in their lifetime
Fact 3: Just one flea can become 1,000 on your pet and in your home in only 21 days.
Saul looked down at the oddly shaped bump in his coat and groaned, but before he was able to begin to indulge himself a cat emerged through the undergrowth. It trotted out lazily onto the path towards a patch of afternoon sun. Within moments a second cat emerged from the bush and made its way out into that same smear of sunlight.
Fact 4: A flea can jump 30,000 times without stopping.
He tried at the maths, but it seemed the answer would invariably be for a period much longer than he would ever need to.
Fact 5: Fleas can jump over 150 times …
A scrabble drew Saul’s eyes back to the path. The still patch of afternoon sun was no longer so, its edges roiling over the furry backs of what must have been near 35 cats. He started aback, losing his balance on the bench slightly and kicking his new legs out completely from under his coat. The cats turned in unison and hissed.
Saul brushed down his coat and tried to regain himself. Cats, strangely enough, had been a constant source of nuisance in the life of Saul Mattis. He had never owned a cat himself and sometimes thought maybe they understood this about him, that he was unwilling to house and feed them. Saul never took the time to coo or flatter the steady flow of cats that lulled about his neighbourhood. They merely came to defecate in his building’s communal garden and left, so to feel such collective anger towards him felt almost logical.
He made to return Fun Facts about Fleas to his bag, but the gang hissed again and began to advance. A noise came from his back. More cats circling in. Saul scrabbled onto the bench, now a tiny island in the sea of cats. The hissing had grown to an unbearable volume, savage mouthfuls of yellowed teeth and drawn claws pulsed about him.
An elderly couple, come to feed the pigeons, stood mouths agape. “Help,” stammered Saul, his voice cracking at being used at such a volume, “help, call…”. But there was no hearing what came next as Saul Mattis, without intent, flew straight upwards and was gone leaving the rabble of cats hissing at the empty space.
Fun Facts about Fleas lay open beside the bench.
Fact 5: Fleas can jump over 150 times their own size (approximately 30cm high) - which is like you jumping the length of a football field.
A puff of dust from the shingle cleared to reveal Saul, poised and alert. He could barely make out the cats from the other side of the park. His legs felt less awkward, more a part of him now. This must have been what the doctor was driving at. What he was capable of.
Saul flexed his legs a little and wobbled. He should head home and think this through: be practical. Try to iron out what it meant to be… a flea. Without much thought he leapt back up into the air, feeling the motion this time, aware of himself as he hadn’t been last time. He was moving at such a pace the air and park around him seemed like little more than a billowing sail.
He landed with a crash battering half a dozen cats with his fall. Saul was returned to the thick of the gang he had just escaped.
Fact 6: Fleas reverse direction with every jump.
The cats pounced on him, snarling and biting at his coat. It was as much as he could do to stay standing, to keep them away from his neck and arms. There were now at least two cats firmly fixed to each leg as an oversized tabby came in for the kill. Hurling itself at him from the rear, dangerously high, bowling through the air, claws drawn and projected towards his throat.
The auburn monster of a cat landed deftly of Saul’s chest, tilted its head a touch, and began to savage his neck. Choking, Saul made to grab at its tail…
Fact 7: Fleas can pull 160,000 times their own weight, which is the same as you pulling 2,679 double-decker buses.
The ginger tabby disappeared with such grace that it took a second or so for the rest of the gang to realise that their most formidable member had been sent sailing neatly off out of the park, clearing the roofs of the nearest houses by hundreds of metres. The gang of cats loosened their grip and slunk away into the undergrowth.
Saul returned to the bench and opened his book.