Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Animal Instinct

I am a peaceful inhabitant of this world. I bear no ill-will towards any other creature with whom I share our earthly dwelling. One might say of me (and be very nearly correct) that I wouldn't even hurt a fly. As it happens, I have recently been cohabiting with a cricket of somewhat questionable character. Despite having never solicited my orthopteric room-mate, I made a sincere effort to accommodate him; even as he chirped endlessly through six straight nights. Even, in fact, as he mercilessly kept me awake in a week when I was stricken both with illness and with an abundance early morning appointments. I left him in peace, not once seeking him out, but rather allowing him to enjoy the warmth and safety of my home--it is, after all, in my nature to be hospitable to a stranger in need, and also not to kill bugs because I don't want to get their slimy guts on my shoes. I am somewhat ashamed to admit, though, that on one particular night, my tiny house-guest got the better of my patience. He had decided to make a home of the space beneath my dresser (which sits immediately to one side of my bed). Not only had he violated my personal sleeping space, but he also made a shockingly loud job of it with a countdown to less than five hours before I had to be up for work. As soon as the lights were out and sleep was nigh upon me, my insect friend began to whir--it was a whir akin to that of a gas-powered, professional-grade chainsaw. I knew in that moment that he had gone too far, and I was up in an instant (the instant after I waited twenty minutes to see if he would stop). I dashed towards the lights and flipped them on, turning towards the dresser in a blind rage. I began to tear out the drawers in a what can only be called a righteous and justified fury. I stalked my query with the stealth and determination of a jungle cat. As I ripped out the last drawer I paused, tense with anticipation, my ears ringing with the pounding of my heart and the echo of his battle-cry. The air was stagnant and as quiet as a bedroom at three o'clock in the morning where no cricket lives.

For a moment I wondered--could this really be right? He was only a defenseless animal seeking shelter from the cold...and I didn't see him. Perhaps this was a sign that I was meant to leave the poor creature in peace? In the stillness of the moment it had taken me to return to my pacifistic philosophical roots the cricket chirped again and my skin crawled with the indignity of it; the knave was taunting me. He was here. I could sense him--I flung aside an errant sock and came face-to-face with the brutish monster who had so flippantly violated my home and terrorized my sleepless nights, haunting the visions of my half-awake mind. "You!" I croaked, hoarse with the cold from which I had been totally unable to recover thanks to a seven-night-concert-series featuring the illustrious Jiminy. He was so very small. Half the size of the eraser you might find at the end of a number-two pencil. The tiniest little black bug you might ever see. As our eyes met across the field of battle I knew in that moment that I had won my triumph. I raised my arm up with all of the deliberateness of well-earned vindication and rained swift justice down upon him. In other words I smashed him with a tissue box. Such was the blow that neither the bug nor the box survived.

I left his tiny smushed corpse exactly where he had expired; I proposed to myself that it would be a monument to my victory as well as to all peace-loving humans who seek only to protect their own homes against ruthless invaders. I left it also as a warning to any future would-be hostile cricket-colonists. I am optimistic that the very kind Ms. Eleanor J. Greene McBean (master poop-smeller, shoe-chewer, and bug-eater extraordinaire) will dispose of the remains promptly and discreetly as is her usual way.

That being said, isn't it amazing how loud a cricket can be despite it's itty-bitty size? If you're interested in learning the mechanics of that phenomenon, you might look into the numerous books in the library's collection which detail the physiology of insects. The 500's section on the fourth floor includes books on a plethora of different members of the animal kingdom from poop-smellers like Ellie to fiends like Jimminy to natural-born hunters like me (or panthers or mountain lions if you prefer).

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

Claire - love your post! I too am of the "be kind to bugs" family, but mainly because of the "icky" shoe factor. My mother-in-law used to make needlepoint fly swatters - try killing a cricket with one of those! (I have to think they were for show on the wall, not for actual use?) Anyway, I have found that a cat is the best method of cornering, torturing, and dispatching a cricket, or any bug for that matter. Toozer, a greatly beloved, furry black cat, who even had a PlainTalk blog devoted to his memory, (check out the January 2010 posts) once took a flying leap from the floor over my head while I was sitting on the couch, killed a giant spider on the wall behind me, and lightly landed back on the couch next to me. Now Eleanor looks like she could put a big hole in said wall, so maybe it's best if she just remains a bug eater, rather than a bug killer. Good girl Eleanor!

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