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When people talk about scents they associate with the cottage, there is frequent mention of “that musty smell,” mothballs, cedar, or sizzling bacon. By contrast, our cottage’s signature perfume was the protective incense of smouldering mosquito coils.
For no particular reason, the PiC brand (it stands for Pyrethrum Insecticide Coil) was our mossie killer of choice, and my dad always kept a whopping supply. This was a necessity: Our cottage backs on to a series of beaver swamps roughly the size of P.E.I., and in the sweaty doldrums of summer, the bloodsucking hordes would descend upon our encampment in numbers unseen since the digging of the Panama Canal. The only defence was PiC.
As a child, I love PiC. I loved the way you had to carefully separate the nested pairs from the package, I loved the nifty metal holder that had to be bent into shape. I loved the perfect geometry of a new coil and the way it looked just like the kitchen stove burner. Like most kids, I also hated mosquitoes, so it was a marriage made in heaven.
Apparently, these coils are never supposed to be burned indoors—it says so right on the package—but we routinely ignored this advice. Playing Hearts at the kitchen table, we would be enveloped in the acrid smudge of multiple PiC coils. One on the woodstove, one on the counter, one by the toaster, and a couple on the table right by the pop and cheesies, safely resting on chipped metal ashtrays.
When enough smoke built up, the hovering mosquitoes would start to vibrate with imminent nervous system collapse, then wheel and plummet to the table like downed fighters in the Battle of Britain. To be doubly sure they were dead, greasy orange cheesie fingers would seek out and squash every last one. It was barbaric and I loved it.
While I try not to actively inhale the smoke anymore, I still get a childish glee out of fumigating a mosquito-filled room with PiC. Yes, it’s a bit sadistic, but they are mosquitoes, after all. My new routine is to close the doors and windows, then let the coils do their deadliest while I sit in another room. After an hour or so, I’ll air things out and review the PiC’s handiwork: a blanket of mosquitoes, dead to the last female. And the smell of victory.
Originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Cottage Life magazine.