When I step out the front door, the sentinel stationed in the oak tree near the house alerts his friends. "Watch out," he caws. "She's back!"
A distant and immediate reply echoes through the woods. "Caw, caw! Message received. We'll keep an eye on her."
To the crows in the woods, I will, I suppose, always be an interloper. Still, I wonder, after all these years of watching me refresh the water in the big enamel bowl and scatter stale bread and tortilla chips in the yard, why do they continue to eye me so suspiciously?
"Oh well," I think, "I sort of enjoy their noisy rancor. I get it: I'm a curmudgeon too."
With my journal and coffee, I settle into my favorite lawn chair to listen to the world wake up. The usually raucous cicadas are nearly silent this morning; a faint knocking sound emanates from the brambles on the other side of the garage, probably a squirrel trying to open a walnut. And a single engine plane putt putts across the sky like a noisy graceless bird and disappears behind the trees.
Looking down, I notice some sort of large insect flailing on the edge of the drive way. I put on my glasses and bend down to take a closer look. It's a wasp. I see a needle like stinger protruding from his stripped back end. He's dying.
While I watch, I wonder why fate has brought me to this time and place to witness the death throes of a creature I consider repugnant and dangerous.
Death is, I suppose, an agonizing labor for all creatures, even a wasp. Briefly, I consider putting him out of his misery. Would it be an act of mercy to grind him underfoot?
I hesitate. Truth be told, maybe I don't want to put him out of his misery; in fact, maybe what I really want to do is punish him and every member of his species for the torment his ancestors inflicted on me so long ago, when I was a little girl, just four years old, and living on Atlanta Road.
Under the whirring wings of the window fan, I lie on my narrow bed. An old fashioned ice bag with an aluminum cap presses against my burning forehead and drips down my neck.
Dr. Thomas stands next to the bed, holding his black bag and talking in a low voice. “Just watch her,” he says to Mother. “I think she’ll be alright.”
Now I’m alone; the bedroom door is shut. The soft patter of a laugh track emanates from the living room where Anita is watching TV. Pans clatter in the kitchen. Mother’s cooking supper.
Gingerly, I touch one of several stinging red welts rising on my wet face and neck. How can I be on fire yet still shiver with cold beneath my white cotton sheet? How long will it take for this misery to pass?
I hear the screen door open and slam shut. Daddy’s home. I recognize his footfalls. No sooner is he through the front door than Mother’s shrill scold begins: “Andy, I told you that wasp nest had to come down!”
Sitting on the drive way, I watch the thrashing limbs of the dying wasp with detached, scientific interest. A mere fixture in the environment, like a stone, or a leaf, or a tree, I am nothing to him. Likewise, other than as a specimen, he is nothing to me.
I suddenly notice how hot I am. While I've been idly pin balling between 1956 and this curious early autumn morning, the brutal September sun has climbed high overhead and is grilling the top of my head. It's time to go inside.
I take one last good hard look at the wasp and decide not to grind him under the heel of my shoe. With neither sympathy or animosity, I leave him to flail, thrash and die in his own good time. After he's dead, maybe the ants will eat him.