Saturday, April 17, 2010

Winged Life

I could have died last week. A thing came through the bedroom window, I still don't know if it was a bee, a wasp or a hornet, only that it was the biggest thing of its kind that I have ever set eyes on. I was alone with the cat here, it was midnight and I was just about to get into bed. The cat was staring at something, tail gone stiff and prickly. The insect beast was perched on the edge of the dressing table. As I moved towards it with a rolled up copy of Mslexia magazine it flew around the room, buzzing like an outboard motor. The cat scarpered, frightened. The wasp went into the paper lampshade hanging from the ceiling and hurled itself from one side to the other, knocking layers of ancient dust off it in clumps that fell onto the bed. It was like a fist going back and forth. Then it came out of the lampshade and began to target me, zooming around and over my head like a low-flying aeroplane, buzzing malevolently.

Listen, you bastard, I said, I was going to kill you, but I'll just catch you and chuck you out - ok - so be nice. I fetched a small bucket, trapped the beast with a feather duster and took it down to the kitchen. The cat stared as I opened the back door and shook it out. The beast was not pleased. It hurled itself against the window, bang bang, buzz, trying to get inside.

The next day there was a smaller version of it on the dressing table and I killed it. I heard a buzzing outside and the by now familiar sound of something batting itself against the pane and knew that the beast was back, looking for revenge.

That's no wasp, said my neighbour when I told her about it, that's a queen bee, and the one you killed was one of her workers. If you see her again, kill her too or she'll set herself up in the eaves of your house.
That night, in the bedroom, I saw the queen once more. She was perched on the arm of the wicker chair and she and the cat were motionless, looking at each other. I picked up Mslexia. The cat fled. The queen did nothing.
I'm going to kill you, I said. I felt she deserved that much ceremony, to be told of her imminent demise. Perhaps it was because she read my pure intent and wanted to spare herself the anguish of the chase, or she had run out of strength, or she thought this was the best way of saving herself: she did not move at all, and I swatted her easily with one blow, where she perched. There was a snotty-looking mess to clean up afterwards, and her squashed and broken body, crushed wings and spindle legs.

She didn't look like a bee, she looked like a queen hornet. But my connection to the natural world is precarious. I have only, in recent years, learned what a fox's bark sounds like, properly identified the mating call of starlings.

I have never in my life been stung by a bee. wasp or hornet so for all I know I might be allergic. Like I said, I could have died.

Life is never humdrum, here on the Edge.

11 comments:

Zhoen said...

My granny once caught a wasp in a car with one of her best lawn, embroidered handkerchiefs. She threw it out of the window, and had no thought of retrieving her handkerchief.

I've never been stung, but have always been terrified of the thought.

LazyBlogger said...

i like your writing style. :)

Cusp said...

Sheeesh ! Reads like a horror story. I was stung on the thumb as a child at the seaside.

Reading the Signs said...

Zhoen, your granny had her priorities right I think.

Hi LB, and thanks very much.

Cusp, it did feel like that - but the malevolent intent was obviously the creature trying to set up base.

Serenwen said...

I'm liking your choice of swatting magazine - hope it was the latest issue.

I was bee stung on the tongue once - creature hiding in a can of Coke. That ended it for me and cans of any kind.

Reading the Signs said...

Serenwen (hello, bienvenue a Signsville) yes, yes it was! So as it turned out it was useful for something.

Fire Bird said...

brave Signs! Reminds me of that 'seven at one blow' story...

trousers said...

I like your choice of swatter too.

Very unsettling, these incursions, especially that of a queen bee. I too would rather escort these things off the premises than kill them but clearly there was little option in this case: thank goodness she didn't have you chasing her all round the house.

Reading the Signs said...

I remember that story FB - and now I'm thinking that word will get around - and I may just get a reputation as something or other. The Intrepid Swatter is coming to a place near you!

It was either that or the Argos catalogue, Trousers - no contest.

I have to confess I'm a bit of a psychopath when it comes to swatting insects. It was more a case of recognising the battle being fought by this formidable opponent. If she'd been a bluebottle she'd have been blasted away without a thought. But just to be fair (to myself), I always do give the winged or crawling ones the option of buggering off out the window first.

Jean said...

You should submit this to Mslexia -that slot they have, you know, for autobiographical accounts of strange episodes ...

Reading the Signs said...

hi Jean - you know what, I might just do that!