Don’t Let It Bug You

Mrs. Owenby said to my wife, “Honey, there isn’t a single bug in that house!”

Judy hadn’t mentioned the possibility, but the old woman seemed eager to reassure her when we closed on the house. Mrs. Owenby’s son apologized after business had been concluded by saying, “We tried to get it clean, but it’s not perfect.”

A few days later, we got a babysitter to watch our four and one-year-old while we began to thoroughly clean our new home. I vacuumed and picked up a stray pea or two in the dining area. Then we noticed straight pins along the baseboards. Mrs. Owenby had used them to pin elaborate arrangements of window curtains in place. After we got down on our knees to make a close inspection (one-year-olds stick anything in their mouths), we started to find dead bugs at the edges of the carpet. Mrs. Owenby should have said, “Honey, there’s not a single living bug in that house!”

And she still would have been wrong. Wolf spiders had survived the Owenby spray-fest and stalked across ceilings and walls at unexpected moments. We spent years squishing them into submission, and sometimes found more lurking on the front porch waiting for an opportunity to invade. I killed one near the doormat one day. It had a blobby white “backpack” that released dozens of little spiders once torn open by my shoe.

We turned on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” last week. Judy and I wanted to relax after a long day, but the show was a suspense thriller about an inside plot to undermine the Federation. Tension built up as Captain Picard discovered that ships and men had been shifted to odd assignments, and ships had self-destructed for unexplained reasons.

Captain Picard returned to Federation headquarters to report his findings and discovered that the admiralty had been compromised. Scorpion-like aliens had implanted themselves on the brainstems of key officers and controlled their actions. Picard and Riker used their phasers to stun the admirals, and little creatures exited mouths and attempted to crawl away. One bug made it to the next conference room, shimmied up the leg and torso of a blond-haired junior admiral, entered his mouth and made a bulgy lap or two around the inside of the man’s neck. Blondie explained that the aliens were a superior race bent on infesting human beings. “We are the brains, and you will be the brawn,” the man said smugly.

Riker and Picard decided not to worry about the prime directive and lasered the crap out of Blondie’s chest. A fiery hole opened, and a giant cockroach, the ringleader of the plot, emerged to die in agony.

At that exact moment, a two-inch cockroach flew across the dining room ceiling. It’s wings made an unpleasant clacking sound. No ray guns were available, so I grabbed a magazine, chased and killed it with a hard swat.

I got a strip of paper towel to pick it up off the floor. Crunched it again to make sure that it was truly deceased.

The bugs are coming for us again. But they won’t take over, Mrs. Owenby. Not on my watch, honey. Not on my watch.