Part I. Friend of the Pests
Fuchsia Pukash was not beloved among the humans of the neighborhood, and they were right to dislike her. She siphoned their WiFi and complained about their parties, even on Fridays. She smoked in her apartment and she didn’t give out Halloween candy. But the humans were forced to tolerate Fuchsia, because Fuchsia had dominion over the vermin.
The vermin in the neighborhood were strong creatures. Every morning, the pigeons lowered their plump bodies onto the spikes that were put out on windowsills to forestall them. The raccoons were diligent in making sure every compost bin was overturned every night. The silverfish in this neighborhood were quicker than water and the flies as big as peas.
The poisons did not work. The vermin were too strong for that. The only thing that worked was to have Fuchsia come over to your apartment, which she would do for $75. No one knew what it was that she did, but after she did it, the vermin would leave your apartment and never return. Fuchsia brought no supplies with her to do this work, and there was no chemical smell when she was done.
The obvious conclusion was that Fuchsia could talk to animals. But this was real life, and she couldn’t. And Fuchsia was despised and rejected by the handsome dogs who lived with her neighbors.
One day, a neighbor named Christine who ran a lively and comical blog about the neighborhood hired Fuchsia to deal with a quantity of slugs who had pasted themselves to the walls of her bathroom. She set up three hidden cameras in the bathroom and, after Fuchsia finished and left, claiming she couldn’t make any change for Christine’s four 20 dollar bills, Christine eagerly reviewed the tapes. But all the footage showed was Fuchsia meticulously chewing sticks of gum and pressing them with the pad of her thumb into the lens of each camera. How had she known? How had she spotted them? Had the slugs, themselves, told her? Christine watched the black, gum-filled image stir as, hours later, Fuchsia pried the wad away. She looked calm and happy, and the bathroom walls were spotless.
Part II. I Love Fuchsia
Fuchsia did not walk through life alone, as her neighbors wrongly assumed. A small, bald man named Ben, who lived across the street from her, was her husband. They each lived on the second floor above a business: Fuchsia above a restaurant, which required her help often, and Ben above a chiropractor. They left their curtains open so they could each dimly see what the other was doing, eat their meals in synchrony, and start getting ready for bed around the same time.
This was their arrangement. It had come about for valid reasons many years ago, and for many years it had suited them well. But things change. Lately, Fuchsia was more satisfied with it than Ben was. Ben had grown weary of the distance, and he dreaded watching his wife’s form recede into the gloom when she moved too far from the window.
Thornton Wilder tells us in The Bridge of San Luis Rey, in a passage that hurt me in 10th grade, that two people, even when they are wonderfully in love, never love each other an equal amount. This might have been part of the problem. But the core of it was simply that Fuchsia’s apartment faced south, and got natural light all day, and Ben’s apartment faced north, and got almost none. Fuchsia’s apartment could get very bright and hot, and she appreciated her space, and strived to keep the humidity low. Ben’s apartment stayed cold and dark, and so he felt his loneliness deeply.
Ben asked on the Internet, what could he do to seduce his wife back into cohabitation? The Internet said a grand romantic gesture was irresistible, so long as it was so grand that it escaped the gravitational field of corniness. Well, Ben did the best he could. One day while Fuchsia was working on some chipmunks in a ceiling, Ben filled his whole fire escape with fuchsias, the most beautiful flower in the world. The spray of them, an undulating wall of dazzling pink, seemed almost to sing out her name as it moved with the wind.
Fuchsia thought it was really nice. But it was slightly corny. The Fuchsia-name-fuchsia-flower connection had been paraded through her life many times. And the best vantage point for her to admire Ben’s gesture was, undeniably, her separate apartment across the street. So they each stayed where they were.
Because Ben’s apartment got so little direct sunlight, the fuchsias didn’t live long. Their shocking pink petals began to fall down through the grates of the fire escape, where they turned murky and creased with brown and were ground into the concrete by passersby. They formed a garish, stinking carpet of pink slime on the sidewalk outside the chiropractor.
This chiropractor specialized in the treatment of debatable neck injuries, allegedly obtained in minor car accidents, to create medical expenses that insurance companies could be sued about. So it was a suing type of person who came to get their adjustments in the office below Ben’s apartment and found a patch of slippery dead fuchsia petals. And so Ben was, naturally, sued. The Pukashes suffered financially, but they managed. It was easy to free up a bit of money when you were a married couple with two apartments. Ben moved in with Fuchsia, above the restaurant. Immediately he noticed that it was a little cramped and could get humid.
Part III. The Generous Benefactor
The worst day of everyone in the neighborhood’s life was when Fuchsia won $344 million in the Powerball. She tried to conceal it, but everyone could see her fuchsia hair sticking out from behind the Scream mask she wore to claim her winnings.
Fuchsia was next seen in the neighborhood driving a blindingly white, brand new, Mercedes Benz S 65 Cabriolet, with red leather interiors. Take this away from her, everyone demanded of God. Everything about this car is lost on her. And yet they had to admit that she herself had bought the car. She had even opted for Swarovski crystal detailing on the headlights. To be so close to that grotesque amount of money, and yet to be no closer to possessing any of it than you or I, people who had never heard of Fuchsia, was too much to accept, and so a rumor spread in the neighborhood that Fuchsia was going to give her favorite neighbors some of the money.
First, the neighbors tried to ingratiate themselves with Fuchsia. They changed the names of their WiFi networks to things like, “Shared network J” and “Boingo Hotspot.” They went to bed at sunset, so the streets were silent and still after nightfall. Everyone dyed their hair and the hair of their beautiful dogs fuchsia. A Fuchsia-centric predestination ideology took hold of the neighborhood, in which people tried to demonstrate that they were destined to get the money and in fact, spiritually, already had. White Mercedes Benzes proliferated. These were extremely unwise purchases. People’s whole financial futures fell apart.
Meanwhile, Fuchsia’s quality of life was decreasing. It was hard for her to find her car in the parallel-parked white fleet of Mercedes Benzes. She didn’t like these people, and until recently, they had been able to accept that. Now they bothered her all the time, and yet never asked her over to their houses anymore. In the end, Fuchsia and her husband used her ample windfall to move far away. Because she had been smoking cigarettes inside her apartment for nearly a decade, she lost her security deposit. But that didn’t matter at all.
It was months later that a pigeon was spotted eating French fries off the ground with a $100 bill crushed in its crusty fist. A week after that, Benjamin Franklin’s eye could be seen looking out from deep inside of a garbage disposal. The rumor had not been baseless: Fuchsia had given money to her favorite neighbors. The humans raged, but not for long. They took the screens off their windows, unplugged their refrigerators, poured white sugar over their floors, and begged the pests to come inside.