Diary

Silverfish Pedicures

04 October 2014 | Diary

Dogs, cats, gerbils: all socially-acceptable fauna to share a home with.

There aren’t many people who have pet silverfish.

In fact, the only reason I’m able to pick out a silverfish in a lineup is that we used to get them in our outbuildings when I was little and Dad always insisted they be given the back of the shoe. Yes, snuffed out with the traditional method reserved for minibeasts: squishing.

Being a ridiculous greenie today and having far too much empathy for my own good, I’m reluctant to do anything about the silverfish currently occupying our bathroom.

It’s not like they’re using up all the hot water or leaving hairs on the soap.

Indeed, they don’t seem to be doing any harm at all. Silverfish, as I understand it, consume paper and while this would be an obvious threat to precious things like books or papier-mâché hats, the ones in our bathroom seem to be subsisting on the tissue-paper dust that snows down onto their home in the ventilator when somebody tears off a piece of toilet roll.

It’s a rather charming little ecosystem.

Not ones for venturing out during daylight hours (something I can very much relate to), the silverfish and I only cross paths in the event of a midnight pee.

Even then, they largely ignore the gigantic vertebrate in their midst (that’s me) and swim quite playfully around my bare feet (moving in a way evocative glistening little fish, hence their name).

If there are high-flying ladies out there paying good money for goldfish pedicures, I don’t see why I should be turning down silverfish pedicures for free.

Silverfish pedicures: the poor man’s indulgence.

Silver is only second prize, after all. I’m willing to accept that.

To tell you the truth, dear reader (and why wouldn’t I? I’ve already confessed to my shameful bathroom infestation), the silverfish are actually rather cute. The baby ones are the size of eraser rubbings. How can such a tiny form contain anything like a mind? It seems impossible, but there they are.

Yes, reader, there are baby ones. There were originally only two silverfish. We called them Silvia and Silvio on the rather heteronormative presumption that they were a male-female couple. Hasty, yes, but soon proven accurate, as their numbers began to increase.

You may be thinking: Kill them! Kill them now before it’s too late! and I agree it may be possible that the infestation is getting out of hand. But there’s the Montreal Agreement to consider.

You see, the silverfish and I have an unspoken agreement. If they stay in the bathroom, they can continue to live and to thrive.

After all, who am I so snuff our their tiny lives for no good reason? I’m no beastly Titan, you know.

But if I see one elsewhere in the apartment, I’ve given myself license to thwack it. Until that day, I’d allow them to live in peace rather than, as the case would be, pieces.

That day arrived today. I found a silverfish in the bedroom.

When I squashed the rogue animal with the spine of How to Be Idle (sorry Tom, it just happened to be to hand — it’s a testament to the book that it’s always so close by) it reduced to a barely-identifiable smudge, like a smattering of ash.

Needless to say, I felt terrible about this. A life smudged out. But them’s the rules, silverfish. You saw the agreement on the table. I must protect my books and any house guests who happen to wear papier-mâché hats.

I’m now thrown into a moral quandary. Do I make a preemptive strike by exterminating all of the silverfish–innocent babies and all–as they sleep? Or do you think they’ll get the message when none of their scouts ever seem to return from beyond the bathroom door?

Strike in advance to protect my books? Or punish only the offending parties? I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that this must be exactly how President Obama feels about ISIS.