Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Insecticide 911

When I was in high school, I had to write an autobiographical incident for an English assignment. I edited it a little bit, but this is the story I wrote...

Every day during the summer, until I was in seventh grade, was spent at my grandparents' house in South San Francisco.  My mother would drop me off in the morning, and my dad would pick me up on his way home from work. My grandfather did not have to work on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so on those days he would do chores around the house or play with me.

It was a Tuesday in the middle of August. My face was flushed as I flitted about the small one-story house.  Their tiny home on Franklin Avenue had been theirs since my father was seven years old. Needless to say, the house had been through quite a great deal.  Like all older homes with cracks and crevices that increase over time, my grandparents' house tended to have problems with ants.  The miniature, black workers always found some way to get inside, past all of the poison, and on to their numerous counters traveling in long, wavy trails.  Whenever they found their way to the table or kitchen counter, my grandmother had always taken an old piece of tissue from her pocket, and was able to wipe them all away with a few swishes of her hand. She would then proceed to nag my grandfather to put out more poison or replace what was already there.

I ran about in my light-weight cotton shorts and T-shirt, restlessly searching for something to do in my impatient and quickly bored, six-year-old body.  I made my way into the kitchen, looking for my grandfather to see if he wanted to take me to the park or play some games with me.  I heard him in the garage, so I strolled barefoot into the kitchen.  I took extra care in making slapping sounds with my feet on the linoleum floor to alert him of my presence on my way towards the door leading to the garage.  The old door, a bit sticky with years of exposure to the cooking of countless Chinese dishes, was propped open by a rubber stopper.

I was about to walk through the doorway into the garage when I noticed a trail of small, black creatures trekking up, down, and around the doorway's perimeter.  Dutifully, I walked back into the living room and snatched up a single, pink tissue from the full box on the dining room table. I did not tell my grandmother, who was sitting at the same table doing her daily crossword puzzles, about the grown-up task I was about to execute.

I walked proudly into the kitchen and back to the infested doorway, the smell of victory, and a great step toward adulthood, already hanging pungently in the muggy, summer air.  My face aglow, I brushed back some soft, stray hairs from my face, which had stood up and curled as always in humid weather.  I approached the great moving mass of them, poised and ready to strike.  I took a deep breath of excitement and began.  At first, I picked a small grouping of them, ending the short lives of two or three.  I did not look at the tissue to make sure they were there and crushed, as I do now.  I began pressing the soft material against more of them, up and down the wall, faster and faster, rubbing them into the delicate fibers.  My eyes glazed over, I grinned with pride.

My toe began to itch, but that was no matter.  I was doing important work.  Nothing could stop me now, not even an itch.  There was a tickle on my arm from either sweat or the heat, I figured, and I continued on, mashing and killing, maintaining the insect holocaust.  Then soon, I felt the tickling feeling on my legs and knees, and in another few moments, my thighs.  It became unbearable and I glanced down to scratch my skin to relieve the incessant itching.  As my eyes traveled down my body, past my shirt and shorts, I noticed something different about my legs.  There were tiny, black marks on them that I had never seen before.  It suddenly occurred to me with a stinging clarity, what the marks actually were.  I glanced at my arms and noticed that they too were covered in these black, crawling spots.  I shrieked with recognition at what was happening.

"GRAMMA!"

My savior arrived momentarily.  My grandmother came rushing in to my rescue.  She grabbed the old, crinkly cloth from her vest pocket, and proceeded to brush the tiny creatures off my body as I ran in place screaming. It was not my victory that I smelled at all.  As the last ant flew off of my leg with the gentle brushes of my grandmother's crumpled tissue, which was now encrusted with semi-mashed, writhing little bodies, I vowed never to attack the ants alone again.  As I plodded back across the linoleum, feeling much like General Custer after the Battle of Little Big Horn, I sensed laughter and joy at a much lower level of life, and my clothes and entire person reeked soley of the formidable stench of defeat.

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