A few weeks ago, I was in a beergarden with my friend Tony, and a ladybird (US: ladybug, DE: Marienkäfer) landed on the table. We discussed it for a moment, and ended up wondering if other insects might take a cue from ladybirds being pretty much the only insect nobody hates and evolve to be prettier. Would a spider see that nobody is crushing ladybirds with a rolled-up newspaper and evolve to have seven useful legs and one to hold a really cute mini handbag spun from its thread?
Last night I was kept awake by a mosquito. I went to bed at twenty past two, and drifted several times, each time being woken by the little fucker buzzing around head. I’d pull my limbs back under the duvet, and hope to get to sleep. But being wrapped up like a mummy was too hot, and eventually a leg or arm would sneak out, and sooner rather than later, I’d be bitten by the mosquito. An hour and a half later, annoyed that I could’ve just spent this awake time watching the Yankees-Blue Jays game rather than being continually annoyed by a mosquito, I got out of bed, drank some water, washed my face and turned the pillow to the cold side and tried again.
You know in the movies when a cop is following a bad guy for ages – perhaps one who has made it personal – and when the climactic confrontation arrives, he can’t pull the trigger (Keanu Reeves shooting into the air rather than at Patrick Swayze comes to mind). I had a moment a bit like that in a cafe at lunch. A wasp had been pestering my orange juice for a minute or so. He (or she, I guess) landed on the rim, then fell into the juice, and was all flappy-flappy I-can’t-swim.
I watched him for about 30 seconds. You’ve ruined my orange juice, but it’s 1-0 to the humans, waspkind. He kept on flapping, getting more and more waterlogged. The flapping and struggling slowed down, and I began to feel guilty: the wasp’s life was in my hands. So I fished him out with a teaspoon and set him down on the table. He dragged himself along the edge of the table, leaving an opaque orange streak in his wake.
He kept going until he ran out of table, tried to turn the corner, but lost his balance and fell onto the chair tucked in underneath the table. He sat still for a while, then walked up the back of the chair where he paused for ten seconds or so to flap the moisture off his wings. He then walked to the top of the chair and rested for a while. He did a couple of short test flights in small bagel-sized circles before landing again. He walked around for a bit, then set off again, this time flying around the room in big loops. For a moment he looked like he might once again decide that that sticky orange stuff looks mighty fine. But he didn’t, he flew out of the cafe window, and I felt like, not just a good man for saving his life, but like a father, watching the boy he nurtured (for less than a minute) go off into the big wide world where he’d have fun, meet a girl, and probably sting someone who deserves a good stinging.