I like insects better than you #12

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

When I was 10 I spent most summer days in the woods directly across the street from my house in Metzger, Oregon. We would go and play in the abandoned tree house and Ash creek which had lots of frogs, crayfish, beavers, and even a colony of goldfish which seemed to do quite well.

I usually wore my favorite plaid, flannel shirt. I always took a stick to wave in front of me as I walked; otherwise it was a faceful of spider every five feet. Baby birds just hopping around, waiting to be picked up. The forgotten light gauge of an early railway from when the town’s future had still been city. Animals and artifacts in wait. Longing to be discovered.

My 10 year-old brain once pulled a monster crayfish from the deepest part of the creek with a stick while trying to fish out a soggy Nerf football. It was about 12 inches long and fat as a lobster. It disappeared with a single tail flip. As an adult the memory saddened me because I knew I’d made it up. Meaning I’d made up many other magical things I thought I remembered. There was no way crayfish got that big. My friend Sean recently saved half my childhood. He returned from a fly fishing trip at Mount St Helens—where no one had been for years on account of—to report a crayfish of identical stature.

One day I was blazing a new trail. The sun was stabbing through the trees in narrow spears. Suddenly I was surround by beautiful dancing motes of gold. The air alive with flashes in the narrow beams. I stopped, enchanted, to watch it. Then the pain started. The buzzing registering and decoded.

I ran. Passing my sister who was playing on the street. She tried to stop me to ask why I was screaming. She started crying. I didn’t stop running.

In a nice balance of fate one of my aunt Dotty’s ranch hands was staying with us. He knew what to do. He had flung me in the tub, got me in water with most of my clothes off quickly. Began killing the things. Though I don’t really remember a thing after running past my sister. I think his name was Tom. I owe him and anyone else who Knows What to Do.

Tallying later, it appeared 60-some yellow jackets had counted coup. It had been a warm day. One got up my shorts. Seeing little nests hanging from porches all the time I didn’t know they usually nest in the ground. I had stood right on it.

A week later I was feeling over it. Ready to get back on the Lewis and Clark trail. I put on my freshly laundered flannel shirt for a trip back to the woods. Buttoning it, I saw it was bangled with wasp heads. Their jaws clamped on for leverage to sting, the bodies came off in the wash but the heads remained like black-eyed, staring burrs. Telling me, “You thought it was over? Nothing’s over.”

I tore the shirt off. I don’t know if I screamed again. I couldn’t wear flannel or plaid or open my Time-Life books to any page with an illustration of a wasp for the rest of childhood.

I like insects better than you except for these bloodthirsty, rotten little motherfuckers. They can all burn in Hell.

yellow jackets eating a dead mouse

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