My nemesis has five legs. As the temperature outside slid lower these past months, the stinkbugs finally began to die. August, September, even October found me with me escorting tank-like and grouchy Pentatomidae under my creaky window.
And then: they were gone. They died with the sun here in Pittsburgh, and they deserved it. No more ominous buzzing, creepy creeping walks, unpredictable leaps when cornered. My nightly stink-bug evacuation rites were over. Silence.
But over break, a housemate who stayed over during the break pumped up the heat five precious degrees. As the thermometer has slipped its red stocking down and the grey creepers began to die, I had abandoned my pretensions of rugged east-coast capacity for cold and retreated to my REI-quality sleeping bag. It had begun life as a way to stave off exposure in the high Sierras but now served as my comforter. In this temperature, I could do my homework atop my sleeping bag, rather than within it.
I was not the only one who had emerged from my hiding place.
A broken stink-bug fell into my lap in the middle of a Skype call with my parents. It seemed to have crawled from the floor, up to the ceiling above directly above my head, where it then let go and fell without wing support onto my blue nylon nest.
In the months I had lived with stink bugs, I had never killed on intentionally. I was now tempted. I herded the cretin onto a flashcard, and laid it on my desk, to keep and eye on him while I finished my call. He walked crookedly–he was missing a leg. Around and over and under the flashcard he wandered. He finally began hobbling his old-man self to the stem of my lamp, beginning a slow climb to the light. In my months of trying to keep his kin alive, I often corked their disastrous love affairs with my exposed bulbs. He wore out six inches from the desk, less than a third of the way up. Incapable of moving on but unwilling to move back, he hobbled around the column, stepping crooked with his missing leg.
Done with my call, I prodded him back to the flashcard, gently placing one above him to discourage undue meandering. Marching through my kitchen, I aimed to fling him onto the lit porch. My hand on the knob, I glanced down: he had managed the trip up the card, almost to the tip of my thumb. He crouched, resentful. I flung open the back door, and felt the slap of the icy air thinly chilly air trickle into my light cotton jammies. He hadn’t moved.
I yanked the back door closed, pulling in a tall billow of freeze. Nudging him away from my fingers, I slipped into the basement, where I set him on a shelf near a window. I heard the furnace slam on, and the walls rattle with channeled warmth
I went back upstairs, slipped my legs into my polar-level sleeping-bag, and got back to my paper.
“Cockroaches really put my “all creatures great and small” creed to the test.”–Astrid Alauda