I must have been about eight years old because I was old enough to be out in the yard playing by myself, and at the same young enough to frolic in the grass. I rolled my body down a small hill while basking in the blazing summer sun. I came to a rest on my back at the bottom of the hill staring up at the sky and the few clouds that were barely wisps over the brilliant blue. It was then I heard a faint crunching noise in my left ear. I turned my head and found that my face was inches away from an enormous praying mantis. Its strange beady eyes appeared to stare directly into mine. Clutched in its raptorial forelegs, as a human would grasp corn on the cob, was none other than a bumble bee. It stood there completely un-bemused by my presence, chewing its lunch and turning the bee round and round for a bigger and better bite. My scream was loud enough to bring my neighbors to their windows, but by the time they looked outside there was no one there. I had already retreated to safety of my home where bugs did not eat other bugs, and more importantly I did not have to bear witness. Thus ended my grass frolicking.
It is present day and springtime here in New England. Our rose bushes are starting to bud, the grass is finally growing, and soon a yellow dusty film will cover every inch of our roof, siding, deck, and vehicles. While others are running out to greet the sun, this is when I retreat inward, seeking the solace of the recycled air within my own home. Nature and I still do not get along very well, you see. It is not only the things that fly and lurk in the grass; the pollen gives me a good excuse to hide away from the mocking presence of nature’s rebirth. At this time I prefer to bunch my tissues and watch from the closed windows.
When I am hiding inside my home in the early weeks of spring, the last thing I expect is for nature to come to me. Yet find me it does, and not so lucky for me its preferential form presents itself in the way of those creepy little six to eight legged monsters. Bugs. I remain petrified of bugs, and my adult home seems to be a breeding ground for the weirdest mutants from which I have ever had the pleasure of running away. I know one thing for certain; this is karma rearing its angry head at me for past wrong doings. My greatest offense: my ninth grade Biology insect project.
Our task which kept me awake many a night was to collect, kill, identify, label, and present at least fifteen different species of insects. We were actually given tips on the best ways to kill our specimens without compromising their features for the Styrofoam and push pin presentation format. At the time I felt that freezing them as opposed to drowning them in rubbing alcohol would be the best method; at least that was what I thought I could stomach without having to touch them as much. I knew that handling the bugs was going to be a big problem for me, despite my generous stock of rubber gloves.
The first bug I caught was a fly. How complex could that be, right? It was unbelievably difficult to catch a fly without smashing its little bits off. Once I finally had one cornered and shut away in a Tupperware I stuck it unceremoniously into the freezer. Bye-bye fly! I came back a while later to retrieve the container, shook it lightly, and watched the fly slide involuntarily about the bottom of the dish. Success! Keeping it shut I set the container aside and went about my search for more life I would soon have to snuff out.
Yet when I came back later that afternoon with more quarry, I heard a violent tapping sound coming from the table. The fly had rejuvenated. It was ramming itself against the lid of the Tupperware, intent on escape; intent on revenge. As I did throughout the project of total-damage-to-my-psyche torture, I screamed and ran away. What did I learn? Skip the freezing and bring on the rubbing alcohol.
Then there was the beetle. Don’t ask me which family of beetle because I have surely blocked that little factoid out. What I am unable to block out is the moment in which I tried to secure my already dead beetle onto the Styrofoam with a pin. Apparently this particular beetle had a defiantly strong exoskeleton. I tried and tried to push the pin through the little bug, but it simply would not break though. Finally, with one last thrust the pin found its passage, but not before I heard a large popping sound and out of the corner of my eye spied something small and black fly across the room. I looked down at the beetle and saw that a rather important feature was missing. The pressure of the pin had popped its head off. It was the night before the project was due and I didn’t have time to go searching for another species. Gently I got down on all fours and searched the rug for over twenty minutes before I finally found its tiny head. With the miracle of superglue I was back in business, but the emotional damage had taken its toll. To this day, if it is not as small as a fruit fly or something that I can wad up with a half a roll of paper towels, I cannot kill a bug.
And this is the problem I face en masse every spring. In my house, thanks in part to the lovely conservation area abutting my property (what the hell was I thinking buying this house) we get bugs like this:
I can get close enough to take a picture before I run away. We get beetles, millipedes, ants, things I cannot even attempt to name, and the spiders; oh my god the spiders. These things get large enough to have shadows, and enough mass that they make little thud sounds when they land on things. It doesn’t matter where they are the house, my eyes will automatically gravitate to them. When I can get someone else to kill them, they make crunching noises beneath newpapers that ring in my ears for hours. This is karma. This is payback from that voodoo fly that had it out for me, spitting out its last curses with its compound eyes trained on mine; swearing never ending unrest at all 800 of my features before finding blackness beneath the alcohol saturated waters. With my inability to get close enough to kill them, I find myself banished from rooms until my husband can come home and make them go away. In the mean time:
“Mommy, there’s a huge ant!”
“An ant? Heh, heh. That’s ok honey, it will go away. Let’s go in the other room!”
“No, that’s OK, I got it. It’s in the trash.”
At least my fear hasn’t impressed itself upon my four year old daughter yet. She seems to handle the disposing of insects quite swimmingly. Oh look, another spider! I’ll just be in the other room…