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Tales of Misfortune #1: A Plague of Locusts

When I was growing up, on the frequent occasion that I expressed any sort dissatisfaction to my mother, she would usually offer the cold comfort of suggesting that I be thankful for the limbs and blood and shelter that I have. As much as I would have preferred unconditional pity, her approach did teach me to have a healthy sense of humor about my life’s perceived inadequacies. With this series (which might be better titled “The Story of My Fucking Life”), I wish to extend that opportunity to you.

It Begins

One fateful day in June of 2004, I awoke at 5:00 AM to the pitter-patter of rainfall and an itch on my shirtless back. “Ah,” I thought, in exhausted bemusement, “an insect has alighted upon my back.” I groggily contorted my arm into the awkward position necessary to shoo the insect away. With great effort, I lifted my reluctant eyelids. “Ah,” I thought, no less bemused, “the refugee insect has now fled to my pillow. And a friend stands with him in solidarity.” My rubbery arm, still awkwardly contorted, obeyed orders to conduct a second deportation.

I sat up. The sun was finding its way through the cracks in my curtains, and consciousness began its slow descent. “That’s strange,” I thought. “It’s not raining outside; it’s raining inside.” (Such a thing is not actually strange at all, as you’ll learn in a future Tale of Misfortune.) The raindrops were whimsically bouncing off of my walls and richocheting back and forth inside my lamp shade like tiny, frenetic pinballs. A quiet hum accompanied their movements. “Oh! Duh! That’s not rain. It’s a bunch of flying insects.”

Consciousness was now complete. My entire body stiffened under the weight of my realization. “Oh. My. God.” I reached for the lightswitch, but hesitated, terrified of what its light would reveal. These were the parts of the Indiana Jones movies when you did not want to be Indy. On with the light.

Little black winged insects. Dozens (hundreds?) of them. Coating the walls, my lamp, my bed. I gaped in disbelief for a few seconds before grabbing some clothes and scrambling out the door in a whirlwind of limbs, stifling a series of womanly shrieks and slamming the door behind me. My mind raced as I stumbled upstairs to the kitchen. What were these things? Termites? Ants? Where did they come from? Why were they here? As terror gave way to rational thought, I formulated my simple, obvious plan: Bug Bomb.

I was in luck. My neighborhood’s average income ensured that the shelves of the local supermarket were well-prepared to deal with all manner of vermin infestation. From a massive selection of brightly-packaged poisons and snares, I decided on the Hot Shot® Fogger3, mostly because its slogan, “Kills fast! Keeps on killing!” was not only reassuring, but also totally badass.

Back at the house, I carefully read the Fogger3’s instructions and mentally prepared myself for reentry into The Nest. If you’ve never used a bug bomb before, it’s a pretty simple device. It’s basically an aerosol can with a locking mechanism to keep it in the “on” position while it expels the whole of its content (in noxious vapor form). Foodstuffs and dishes should be covered up or removed from the room, air conditioning and ignition sources should be turned off, and doors and windows should be closed. I did these things, and for an extra measure of safety, I taped some cardboard over my ceiling vent, speaking to the creatures as I did so:

“Ordinarily, I would say this is nothing personal, and ordinarily, it wouldn’t be. I’m not sure what makes this situation different, but I want you to know that I’m going to enjoy riding the train to work today, knowing that I’m choking the final breath out of each of you.”

I gently closed the door as the room filled with venomous aerosol fog, this time stifling maniacal laughter.

Epilogue

When all was said and done, I was able to determine that these were ants (not termites), and that they sometimes swarm indoors for no reason other than being able to find a way in. When I returned home that evening, I didn’t bother to stifle the maniacal laughter as I entered the carcass-strewn battlefield and turned on the vacuum.