Flags are set out this morning, all around the neighborhood where I am staying, red flags among the plantings and along the edges of the properties whose owners have asked that their names be added to the management company’s list for no pesticide applications. The grass and flowers are dry; we heard thunder last night, north and south, and high nimbuses bloomed into anvil tops in late sun, but here they parted without rain, and this morning underneath the castanets of the cicadas or cicada-like insects that crank to a frantic pitch and snap off, the August peepers have begun. It’s cooler than it’s been for the past ten mornings, maybe more than ten mornings, and the dog has a merry quick-quick to her step and suckles at my fingers when I hold out her treats.
The trucks are curbside at the trunk roads into the neighborhood, white cabs, outsized for the white tanks melded to the flatbeds behind them, oblong tanks, corners slightly rounded—white yogurt containers elongated to draw the eye from ordinary yogurts, on the shelves of a supermarket stocked from bio-hygienic labs. The company that owns the trucks has green in its name, in green type, a two-word name I half-notice, and then turn to pull the dog from the lawns where white flags have been placed, with a green leaf and green letters, PESTICIDE APPLICATION.
The dog ignores the truck. She notices the men before I do, and pulls toward them—two men per truck, sturdy, not young. They wear yellow rubber boots and hats with wide brims, and walk bent with the length of the hoses they haul behind them, a hundred and more feet of narrow hose, semi-translucent, clotted, blotched yellow on the inside.
The men do not wear breathing masks. I suppose a carpenter’s or surgeon’s mask might be insufficient to screen out the application’s particulates. I feel more than smell them—a sparkle on the tip of my tongue, back along it and on the roof of my mouth, and then numbness, the sense of the mass where I have lost feeling. I breathe shallowly, and trot, and the dog picks up on my pace and I’m running to keep up with her, and we’re past the sprayed lawns and there is no scent at all. A rabbit, a young one, hops under a juniper. It is the only one I see, the duration of our walk. I hear no children, no dogs, no cats. Two women walking, and a man on a mobile phone.
I have been forwarded an email with details of the application. In seventy-two hours, the email says, it will again be safe to let children play on the treated areas. There is no mention of pets, or description of what effects, within those seventy-two hours, are to be avoided.