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Dealing With the Little Things

by Charles C. Cole

I hate bugs. They’re damnably small and, therefore, inherently stealthy. Bugs bite. Bugs sting. Bugs invade. If only they would keep to themselves, they would be welcome to hang out on the far perimeters of my lawn. But I know that they’re in my walls and under my bed, probably in my bed.

Daddy Longlegs can stay. Many years ago, I crawled down a near-vertical cave filled with the things. They left me alone completely and thereby won my eternal respect.

One day, I awoke to an upside-down pseudoscorpion on the ceiling, directly over my face. If they’re unfamiliar to you, think of them as small spiders with large pincers but no whip-like tail. The same thing happened to my daughter the same week. It couldn’t have been a coincidence.

My wife says I overreact, that I need to let go. She says that there are enough things in life to worry about, like paying our bills and dealing with bullies at school. For her sake, I went to a hypnotherapist whom I’d first observed at a company party. I was looking for a way to deal with intrusive insects that didn’t include shrink-wrapping our home or moving.

The hypnotherapist and my wife decided I should try compassion. Not sympathy, which would have been a stretch, but empathy. If I felt their pain, maybe I would not react so aggressively and violently. He convinced me, somehow, that when they died by my hand, I would feel a brief headache, a literal twinge of guilt. To stop the mini-migraine, I only had to stop the killing. I went along with the novel strategy to show my willingness to change but, frankly, I didn’t believe he could undo my primal responses.

It didn’t take long for my first encounter, my test case. I took a walk in our woods, meant in part as a bonding event with my late father, on whose land I live. My father spent most days all summer cutting and collecting eight-foot lengths of hardwood for splitting in the fall.

When I returned, I discovered a tick crawling on my khaki work pants. My family physician told me that he had been seeing a consistent increase in Lyme disease among his patients. I carefully pulled the critter off, took it back outside, and ground it into the gravel like a discarded cigarette butt. Bam! I had an instant case of brain freeze, like from a generous mouthful of ice cream. I sat down on the side stoop until it passed. Cause and effect?

We have five cats, one for each of us. As a general rule, we don’t let them outside, because neighbors have seen foxes and fishers within two hundred feet of our house. My Maine coon cat, Rocky, is the exception. He sits beside me in the yard while I search for four-leaf clovers. He doesn’t chase squirrels or birds. My wife has warned me for years that fleas will discover him eventually. One did, I think. I found it on the tablecloth while I sat reading my online news feed. I dispatched it quickly and efficiently, between my two thumbnails. Consequently, I had a headache that showered blue sparks under my closed eyelids.

There was a wasp which began building a nest inside our loosely hung screen door. My kids taped perfumed dryer sheets to discourage visitations, but the wasp was undeterred. My wife tried to knock it out the door with a dish towel but knocked it inside instead.

While some of the cats were watching, I reacted instinctively, protecting them from their own self-destructive curiosity, by smacking the weaponized flyer with a magazine. My body responded with a brief stabbing pain around my temples, like from the hot mustard on my Chinese food.

In self-defense, I took another tack. I wrote an eco-friendly, if a tad disingenuous, story about finding a rare spider in the jungle. In the story, someone dispatches the nuisance unceremoniously. As the presumed narrator, I was displeased by the knee-jerk destruction.

Days later, I kid you not, I saw the pseudoscorpion on my ceiling. You make one kind gesture, and the creepy-crawlers move right inside, up close, daring you to relapse into old habits. After three headaches, I knew better than to destroy my micro-intruder. Instead, I enlisted my eldest child to perform a catch-and-release.

Outside, I let the lawn grow long. I started with just letting the wild daisies and black-eyed Susans grow. But then I ran over a grasshopper and had to quit altogether.

I called my wife’s bluff by going the next step into crazy-town. We ordered a mantid egg case over the internet and set up a terrarium in the cellar. We should have had four weeks before anything moved. I came home on the third day to 400 baby praying mantises.

They were smaller than the smallest ants I’d ever seen. You have to release them fast, or they’ll eat each other. My wife memorialized the moment by taking our photo as we released them. Our instructions dictated that we sprinkle them like parmesan cheese over the flower garden. We resisted weeding for a couple of weeks to give the little critters time to thrive.

My wife insisted I was overreacting, that she needed to weed and we needed to mow. A co-worker drove by and later cornered her in the teacher’s lunch room at work with embarrassing questions about our “science experiment.” My wife invited the hypnotherapist to return. He performed his mumbo-jumbo and undid his behavioral restraints.

I promised the children that I would, nonetheless, maintain the way of the peaceful warrior. Now, whenever I see a “wee beastie” in the house, I call my kids for an emergency extraction. They come running with a jar or tall glass to remove the unwanted guest. Our home is officially a kill-free zone. While a tad overdramatic, we have at last settled on a method for dealing with life’s littlest problems.

Copyright © 2015 by Charles C. Cole

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