THE SOUTH BEACH MOTHBALL POISONER
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
“What is that awful smell?” I asked my next door neighbor when I reached the outdoor landing to our apartments on the second floor.
“I put mothballs on the ground around my motor scooter,” she said, pointing to her scooter next to the mailboxes downstairs.
“Why? It is nauseating.”
“So the cats will go away. The manager of the building over there said it is a good idea. She will do it too.”
“I thought you liked cats. You were feeding them up here by your door.”
“They peed here,” she motioned to her doorway, “and they peed on the cover of my motor scooter downstairs, so I put the mothballs all over.”
“What kind of mothballs? Some are poison to humans.”
“I don’t care.”
“I don’t care. I have to protect myself. They peed on my cover and I got a rash when I handled it.”
“I am getting a headache,” I declared, and went inside, where I did a little research, and texted her.
“I shall see if I can find another way so the landlord does not get fined and people don’t get sick. There must be something else.”
“Find something good because I need to take care of myself with the cat urine.”
“I shall try. There could be big fines and you might get sick too.”
“I’m already sick with cat urine.”
“Should I have Animal Control call you?”
“You call them and tell them about the cat. I do not want to be involved. Please.”
“See if your mothballs are marked SAFE for humans.”
She did not reply to that text, so I linked her to Florida’s animal cruelty statute Section 828.08 providing up to a year in jail for putting poison out in public areas, and informed her that I did not want to call Animal Control because the police might be called in to arrest her.
I also linked her to an article on mothballs and how they can harm children—a little girl often visited her father in the apartment right above the area she had poisoned.
“I feel like you are mad at me. I just try to protect myself.”
“I’m not mad. I am trying to protect you. It is a crime.”
“Whatever. Everything is a crime. If you care you call Animal Control and deal with that. My life is busy. I have no time for that.”
I then linked her to an article on using cayenne pepper to keep cats out of gardens.
“Cats HATE cayenne powder,” I texted. “Cayenne makes them sneeze, run away. I tried black pepper once. Only cayenne works.”
I went to the Publix grocery store and purchased some cayenne for her to use.
“I put cayenne bottle on your door, I texted. “If it works we can buy big bottle. Put some also around door landing.”
When I went outside, I found she had thrown the bottle on my doorstep.
“You don’t want it? I can make soup,” I texted. I did, and I felt like a pressure cooker as blood rushed to my head.
The horrible odor diminished. The cats were still around, including the black-and-white cat I call Sylvester because he is a very smart cat, careful to avoid strangers, especially anyone carrying a cage.
The cats walked right by the mothballed area, but eventually stopped coming around so often. The neighbors in the downstairs area said the cat excrement and urine around their doors was indeed a nuisance.
I sent the poisoner an image of a pregnant tawny cat perched on a window air conditioner—the no-maintenance landlord refuses to fix the central air conditioners. I joked that Castro might drop mothballs from planes onto her homeland.
Landlord refused to fix central air conditioners and replace appliances
I was watching my favorite cop show, Da Vinci’s Inquest, a month later. I became nauseated, and not at the sight of the bodies. I had my window open because the landlord had refused to fix the ground air conditioner that serves my studio.
I stood up, was dizzy on my feet, and then I realized that mothball fumes were wafting in my window. I went outside. The smell was such that it might knock a man down if he stayed a few minutes. White mothballs were all around the poisoner’s scooter and the mailbox area.
Not realizing that the poisoner was at home because at that hour she usually works at the health center nearby, and my taps on her door went unanswered, I texted her as follows:
“Too much poison making me sick. I have no AC and need windows open.”
I waited, and I received no reply. She had been warned, and she obviously did not care about anyone but herself. For some people there is only one number, Number One, around which the world turns, and all the other numbers are of no consequence if they do not serve Number One.
I called the police, informing the operator of the situation, and saying that I was reluctant to call because the landlord might evict me if he is fined, but the poison is dangerous and making me sick.
I evacuated the premises. Several men drinking beer out front scrambled when I told them the police were on the way to deal with the poison.
“Whew, I can smell it out here,” said Officer Garcia, Badge 705, as she stepped out of her patrol car. “You are lucky. I happen to be the department’s only animal cruelty officer.”
“I was watching my favorite cop show and was poisoned.”
“Now you can watch real cops.”
A towering cop, a quiet and very serious looking fellow, got out of another squad car to accompany her. He agreed that Da Vinci’s Inquest is a very realistic cop show.
I showed her my texts to the cat poisoning woman.
“You know your stuff,” she said.
I stayed on the street, nearly vomiting as the officers went and repeatedly banged on the poisoner’s door. She was indeed at home. A loud conversation ensued. She lied, and said she had not put the mothballs out before, and that she put them out because raccoons with rabies were around, and that no children lived on the premises.
A neighbor from a back unit happened to come by, and said that she had been sickened by the moth balls a month prior, and had to visit the doctor.
The officers made the poisoner pick up every mothball. Officer Garcia gave her a thorough education on the law, and made arrangements for Animal Control to come out and care for the cats. The neighbor in back promised to care for the pregnant tawny cat.
The fumes lingered after the mothballs were removed. When you smell the fumes, your lungs are actually being poisoned. I asked Officer Garcia if the fire department should come over and wash the yard down. She said that should not be done because the poison would stay in the soil. She said she had a headache from being near the poison.
Officer Garcia noticed the broken lock on the front gate, and I mentioned that neighbors bring their dogs onto our yard to defecate.
I stayed in front for quite awhile, then went inside and kept my windows shut although it was very warm due to the unusual winter heat wave in South Florida this year.
Three days after the police visitation, the neighbors got together and fixed the locks on the gates at our expense because the landlord had refused to do it for several years hence the yard is overrun by undesirables.
I advanced the poisoner’s share for the keys because she was not home, and is not liked by the neighbors because she calls the police on everyone for making the slightest noise, which is fine by me because I like peace and quiet although I offered to speak with them so she would not have to call the police.
She did not repay me for the keys, and I said nothing, just smiled and greeted her pleasantly when I saw her. But she is not speaking, and passes me by stone-faced without a glance. I supposed that her ex-husband was correct when he told me that she loves to make enemies.
I am an understanding fellow, bear her no malice, and would prefer to be a friendly neighbor, which is rather untraditional in this old crackhood in chic South Beach. But what can one do? I warned her four times, she had made two people sick, she actually asked me to call the authorities, we refused to bring criminal charges against her, and now she treats me like poison.