It’s springtime in the Wallas, and the lawn care has resumed in earnest. If winter is a time of hibernation, a lack of produce in the local grocery stores, and complaints about utility bills, then springtime, not summer, is its opposite. People can’t wait to burst outside, and daffodils thrust themselves through the crust of the ground. Echos of children bounce off of the houses up and down the street, so it sounds, from our living room, like there are hundreds of kids playing hide-and-seek in the afternoon sun.
I noticed that the small plots of grass in front of our neighbors’ houses were neatly trimmed by the middle of this week, so not wanting to stick out like a sore thumb as the unkempt home on the block, I dusted off the push mover in our garage and ran it over the lawn until everything was more or less manicured. Left uncut is a thin line of grass next to the large tree out front, so I need to get my hands on an edger or something else that will fix that. I cleaned out some of the leaves from under two tall, thin conifers, watered annuals in a couple of big containers, and put the mower back in the garage. A sudden need for water hit me so I clambered inside to the kitchen and poured myself a drink, aiming to rest on the couch for a short while before tackling my next task.
That’s when I saw the brown, humongous wasp on the left side of my back, making its way to the space between my shoulder blades. We all know that spot. It’s the place we can’t reach on our own bodies.
What emitted from me next, via my vocal chords, was the frilliest scream I have voiced since I was maybe 7 or 8. It’s a gross understatement to say that I don’t like bugs. I abhor insects, I want to be as far from insects as possible, which I already know is totally unrealistic. I don’t even like stuffed animal replications of insects, because THEY REMIND ME OF INSECTS. I certainly don’t want any bug of any kind, much less a wasp that can sting a person and infect it with poisonous venom AGAIN and AGAIN, crawling on my back, the only barrier between its painful weapon a thin t-shirt and a worn-out sweatshirt I bought online in 2003.
My mind raced; what could I do? First, get outside, it answered, because a wasp in someone’s living room seemed like a swarm of wasps in a tiny cell of bounce-instilling walls, where they could just thump into me, sting me, fly off, bounce back, and sting me again until I was a contaminated, screaming ball of puffy histamine response.
Okay, okay, I was on the porch. Outside. This was one wasp. I was tougher than this, for the love of Pete. I drew my phone out of my pocket. Looked at the time.
2:40. Susanne was in class. And what was she going to do anyway?
From my rear flank, I felt the tippy-toeing of the warrior wasp, making its way to some equally vulnerable portion of my body. I tried not to think of Star Wars II: Wrath of Khan, when Chekov gets that slimy bug in his ear that eats into his brain . . . .
I calmed myself down. Three houses away, a couple was replacing their front door. Ooh, humans. Homo sapiens. I looked the woman over. She didn’t seem particularly entomophobic. I told myself that step one was introducing myself in a reasonable manner. I have to be her neighbor tomorrow, after all.
“Hi, I’m your neighbor, Everett, and I have a wasp on my back.”
Remember kids, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
“Oh, hello. Do you want help with that?”
“Yes, please. Thanks.” Big smile. And now I looked totally bonkers, I was sure.
“Do you want me to just wave it away?”
Well now, this was a good question. That approach actually sounded a little dangerous. But before I could answer, she roundhouse slapped the thing, which flopped drunkenly onto the ground.
But not before I screamed like a terrified Liberace again.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I’m allergic to some stinging insects.” I wasn’t sure this helped my image at all.
She replied that she knew how to administer an EpiPen, which heck, is a good skill to have in a woman this proximate to one’s home. I thanked her and attempted to distract from my bug fear with a brief conversation about her new front door, which admittedly, was very handsome, with an arts and crafts style register of windows at the top. And then she revealed that she and her husband, neither of whose names I currently remember, lived in our house for 10 years. So all of the lovely trim and finish work I’ve been admiring? He installed it. I shook her hand again, met her skater son and rescued Chiuaua, and smiled as she pointed out who my other neighbors were.
Clearly she knows everyone at our corner of Walla Walla. The question is, when she tells them about the new couple who moved in, will she include the husband’s hilarious fear of wasps?