The other day, while gamboling – all right, shuffling – around barefoot outside, a sharp pain below my big toe caused me to utter, “Gee, I think I’ve been stung by a bee,” (or words to that effect.)
After jerking my foot up and observing an angry yellow jacket writhing on the ground, I resisted the urge to stomp on the buzzing insect and gush it into guacamole. After all, the predatory wasp was only defending itself against a gargantuan lummox who should have been watching where he trod.
I felt much less charitable the next day when a whiteface hornet, completely unprovoked, landed on my wrist while I was carrying my kayak, and before I could brush it away stung me so viciously I took the lord’s name in vain.
Within minutes my entire arm swelled up so that it resembles Popeye’s after he has downed a can of spinach.
That completed my entomological trifecta, having just recovered from the beginnings of Lyme disease once again, after having been bitten by a deer tick for the umpteenth time.
I’ve lost track of my bouts with Lyme – it’s an avocational hazard if you enjoy the outdoors. About one out of every five or six bites begins to produce the telltale bulls eye rash. As soon as I see the skin around the bite redden I pop a few doxycycline tablets, and follow it up 12 hours later with one more dose. The rash disappears and I go about my business, rarely missing a beat.
Still, it’s a nuisance and I wish I could cut a deal with ticks, mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects. These would be my terms: I’ll gladly prick my finger with a needle and set out a saucer of blood for you, and even refill it as necessary, if you promise not to bite me.
Think it over: You don’t really want to enrage me by buzzing around my ears, or crawling toward my crotch, thereby risking a retaliatory swat. Look at me! I’m a million times bigger, stronger and more resourceful than you!
I can slam down my hand with lightning speed, or pluck you out with tweezers and flush you down the toilet, and you won’t even know what hit you. Is it worth the risk?
Of course, when such fanciful thoughts manifest I inevitably wind up feeling like Don Vito Corleone, shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head. That’s because even though I’ve just made an offer the bugs can’t refuse, they just won’t listen to reason.
This time of year, particularly on humid days, my friend Bob and I often carry branches on our morning runs because we inevitably encounter plagues of gnats, no-seeums and green-headed horse flies.
The tiny gnats are determined to fly into nostrils, ears or eyes and are relatively easy to disperse, but the flies are much more insidious, slipping behind for rear assaults between the shoulder blades, where even Houdini couldn’t reach with a defensive swipe of the hand.
Passing motorists must regard us as members of an obscure religious cult whose acolytes flay themselves with sticks.
Loyal readers may recall an account of one run a few years ago in which I felt something crawling between my sock and the sole.
I stopped, unlaced my shoe and shook it by the side of the road.
Out flopped a wolf spider, almost as big as the palm of my hand.
It staggered toward the gutter, and I figured it was done for. After all, if the pounding weren’t enough it surely should have succumbed to toxic fumes from my running socks.
But no, when I ran by almost an hour later on the return leg of my run the resilient arachnid was still alive and kicking. I brushed it away from the road. After surviving such an ordeal it would be a shame to be flattened by a semi.
You see, bugs – I’m a benevolent despot. A reasonable man.
It’s time we came to an understanding.