Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bug

Sanur Beach, Bali

I was sitting on the patio this morning reading a book called The Sex Lives of Cannibals when I was interrupted by the sudden explosion of my son from the front door, his face contorted to a mask of terror and repulsion.

“There’s a giant bug in the house!”

I take this lightly, always have. Giant bug, right. I’ve heard this one before. For as long as I can remember, the boy has been terrified of bugs--the bee, the fly, the beetle, the mosquito. This was not even worth looking up from my page.

“Kill it then,” I mutter.

“You kill it,” he says.

“Ignore it then.”

“Ignore it? Ignore it? Have you even seen it?”

I continue on my page, though not really reading, of course. It’s hard enough for me to concentrate without background noise, let alone these exclamations of fear and loathing.

“Sorry, I don’t have my microscope with me,” I answer.

“Errrgggg,” he says. He’s frustrated. He’s angry. He shouts for his mom, who is presently on the toilet.

“Oh for God’s sake, can’t you just kill the bug,” she shouts back. But she is not addressing him, she is addressing me. I know by the tone of her voice. There is a pitch for me, and a pitch for the boy. This is mine.

“Shit.” Naturally this is uttered under the breath.

“Mom says kill it.”

I put down my book, crush out my cigarette, rise from the chair as if lifting two mules on my shoulders.

“This had better be good.”

The boy leads me to the door but does not go in. I enter and he slams the door behind. For me it is kill or be killed.

Jeeze, what a wuss, I’m thinking.

I look around, floor to wall, wall to curtain, corner to corner.

“So where is it?” I demand, as if to say See, there’s no damn bug here anyway.

“On the ceiling.”

And then I see it.

Oh my God! Good Christ! Holy shit!

Instantly I am filled with the same terror that had so recently caused my son’s violent expulsion from the house. This is not a bug, this is a monster, a horrifying freak of nature, a genetic experiment of some sort, a creature straight from the pit of hell.

“Louis!” I shout. “What the hell is this thing. Oh my God, what is it!”

My wife shouts something rather unfriendly in reply. I suffer the same lack of interest I had earlier shown my son, little suspecting that he had been perfectly justified.

“Well, it’s either a bug or a small dog,” I say. “With wings.”

She’s angry. I have interrupted something important. But under the circumstances . . . .

“It’s black--a black body-- with one red stripe on it’s neck and one yellow stripe on it’s ass.”

“Ok. It’s just a bee,” she says. “Just ignore it.”

“Ignore it? Ignore it? Did you even see it?”

“Only a million times or so. It’s a fucking bee. Just kill it.”

It was clear I would have to deal with this monster by myself. What to do though? How to approach such an adversary? I looked about for a broom. No broom. I looked about for a swatter. No swatter. I looked about for a gun.

“Is it gone?” my son calls through a small crack in the door.

“No! Stay where you are! Don’t move!”

Backing toward the doorway, I grab a large towel. This will be my weapon. I will whip the end of the towel swiftly at the bee, thus either killing or disabling the thing.

First I take a couple practice shots. Snap! Yeah, that’ll work. Say goodbye, hombre!

Now it was on the wall. Crawling. Looking the other way. Completely unaware. Stealthily, therefore, I position myself on a chair and climb onto the seat in order to provide myself with the cleanest shot.

One . . . two . . . three . . . .

Oh Christ, I missed! The towel end snapped nothing but air. I had succeeded only in waking a sleeping giant.

“What happened, what happened?” my son wants to know. “Is it dead?”

“No, not dead. But mad. Furious. Whatever you do, don’t open the door.”

As if he had intended to do so.

“Where is it now?”

Where indeed? New chills of panic race up my spine. Ah there, it’s back on the ceiling, just by the light. A difficult shot to be sure.

Leaving the chair, I mount the bed, towel at ready, and move forward slowly, inch by inch, for now the thing is ready, aware.



“It’s flying! It’s flying! It’s coming right at me!”

I run for the door. I try to get out, but my son is holding the door shut.

“Open the door, open the door, open the goddamn door!”

At last I’m out. Together we slam the door behind.

“Did you get it?”

“No, I didn’t get it.”

“Did you even hit it at all.”

“No, not at all--but I can tell you this, it’s mad as hell now. You should have seen the expression on the thing’s face.”

“You were that close?”

“Close enough to see its nose hairs, yeah.”

“Well what does it look like? It’s face, I mean.”

“Like a gargoyle. Like a demon. A little bit like Jack Palance.”

“Who is Jack Palance?”

The character of the bug in its fullest is lost on the boy. It’s probably all for the best.

“So what now?” he says. “Should we wait for mom to get off the can?”

“What now?” I answer. “I’ll tell you what now. I’m goin in again. And this time it’s me or him.”

It’s a good feeling to earn the respect of ones son. And more than respect--the sheer awe. I am filled with determination, with new found courage. I won’t be pushed any longer. I won’t be intimidated. I will not be afraid.

Here then is the end of the matter, minus the gory details. One man is alive, one bug is dead. The proof is in the pudding, I will say no more. I write, therefore I am.

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