Being a yankee transplant living in the South is an adventure. Many a redneck has given me grief over my New England-ish ways. I take flak for not pronouncing the word “aunt” as “ant.” I actuallly drink hot tea. I had never heard of tornado season and I didn’t know what a “fraidy hole” was until I tried to dig my way under a house during a violent thunderstorm. For years people told me to speak slower because they couldn’t understand what..I..was..saying. Huh. My northern friends have no problem understanding me because they speak fast and we can finish each others’ sentences. I have many wonderful friends here and I’m not insulting anyone’s intelligence, just sharing my own experiences.
After twenty three years of exposure, I’ve made a few observations and more than a few adjustments. One thing I’ll never adjust to is the size of the bugs. I must be living near a leaking nuclear reactor, seeing as how some of the bugs are big enough to talk back to me. It’s like they marinate in a nuclear waste cocktail until they quadruple in size. I figure the government knows something I don’t. Wouldn’t be the first time.
The bugs in question go by several aliases, such as water bugs or sometimes wood roaches, depending on geography. I think in Florida they’re called palmetto bugs, probably because they are the size of a small palm frond. I first encountered one of these bugs in Texas. Having lived in New England, it scared me to death. I think it had a dog in its mouth. I was a teenager at the time and found my first gray hair shortly after that fateful night.
Not only are the mutant bugs plus-sized pests, they attend training camps where they become marathon runners. They always seem to know where to run for shelter, as if they’ve studied the floor plans ahead of time. Every once in a while I’ll see one fly from a curtain rod. Touting a four inch wingspan enables them to glide in for a landing anywhere in the house. The shock of seeing this renders the homeowner temporarily paralyzed, thus affording the bug a few more precious moments of life. At this point, it’s easier just to shoot them.
For years I suffered anxiety attacks if I had to kill one. It never failed. Every time a mutant bug showed itself, inevitably I was home alone. I dreaded the chase I knew would ultimately end with a crunch. Sometimes I just dropped heavy books on them and ran away until help arrived. All that changed after I became a mother.
One night I heard my daughter yelling from the other end of the house.
Daughter: Mom! Quick! Come here! There’s one of those big bugs in here! It’s climbing up the wall! Hurry!
Me: Just pick up a shoe and smash it!(trying to sound brave) I know you’re not asking me to come kill it! Whose room is it in?
Armed with a broom and a can of industrial strength bug killer, I made my way down the hall. My daughter and oldest son stood whimpering in my room. I requested the exact location of the offending creature. The master bathroom. Great. I couldn’t see it on the wall and I wasn’t about to poke my naked head through the doorway only to have this beast fall in my hair, or worse, on my face.
I crept around to the other doorway to gain a better vantage point. And there it was. The thing was as big as a hummingbird and it was laughing at me. I think I saw it give me the finger. Taking aim with my can of killer spray, I imagined the bug in the crosshairs. The sound of my kids cheering me on gave me strength. I sprayed. This stuff has a 20 foot knockdown range. We’re talking serious killing power. He dropped like a stone. Mustering bravado, I smacked him one with the broom for good measure. You can never be too sure. Ha! Who’s laughing now? I swept the remains into a dustpan then tossed the carcass outside. Whew. The only downside was the oily mess left on the floor from the spray. Not an easy cleanup. I hoped I wouldn’t break my neck when I get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. I’m not getting any younger and I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
I am the bug slayer. Please, people, no hate email from PETA or those in favor of gun control.