The Hornet

hornetI am on the phone with my aunt. She’s talking about work. Since I can never stay still while talking on the phone and my parents’ house is roughly the temperature of Mercury, I leave the house to pace our driveway.

It’s as I near the garage that I hear the most dreaded onamonapia a person in the country can hear. Buzz. Right next to my ear. Loudly. Again, buzz. Now it lingers in the near distance. Buzz.

There’s a specific reaction one has to a buzz. First, there’s panic. Manly, manly panic, coupled with an ever more masculine high-pitched wail of terror. Second, there’s a duel hand wave/flap around the head area to ensure that the vespine invader is not an immediate threat. The third step is to run away. Often this is done while still enacting the second step, so that if one’s neighbors were to see him at this time, they’d think he was reenacting a scene out of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

My neighbors are gifted this vision at this moment, if any of them has the good fortune to be watching. My aunt asks if everything is OK. I lie and say yes. My heart is palpitating. I stand on the porch fifteen feet away and scan the sky as if I were a gunner on the Akagi during the Battle of Midway.

I see it. It’s big and it’s flying in aggressive swoops near the front of the garage. It’s not a bee, it’s not a wasp, it’s a hornet.

I tell my aunt I love her and I have to hang up. And I go in the house to hide.

I love visiting my parents in the summer. It’s like having a time-out from life. No school. No students. Few worries. And other than trying to decipher the clouds of bullshit that Donald Trump spews into the air, there are no language concerns.

Part of the pleasure of visiting comes from the fact that my parents live in a big old country house in rural Pennsylvania. It’s quiet, calm, and removed from the hectic bustle that comes with living in a big(ish) city. Additionally, they are not in the far-removed suburbs; they’re on the Main Street of a small town. Their house is surrounded by trees and woods, but there’s still a coffee shop, a Target, and a Barnes and Noble nearby.

So it’s sort of like going to the country while not having to go to the country. I have wifi, I am not awakened by roosters. It’s perfect for a city rat like me, who still likes to pretend that he spends some time in the country. I go for walks on a nearby trail that starts next to some guy’s house, meanders through a light forest, and ends a few hundred yards away near a 7-11. By the time I get there I have earned a root beer Slurpee.

So the arrival of the hornet shakes me a bit. It’s an all too real invader. I have scurried inside and hidden from a relatively tiny creature. A tiny, scary, aggressive creature. As Lee once said when we stumbled upon a hornet near his house, “Let’s get away from here, these fuckers will sting you just to see what you’ll do.”

I feel at ease once inside, but the hornet won’t leave me alone. He repeatedly bangs himself against the screen door with audible thwaps. Finally it’s quiet and I figure he has given up and gone to attack some children. But then he grips onto the screen and tears, bites, and gnaws at it. Despite the fact that there is a screen, a glass window, and a door between the hornet and I, I am scared. This guy looks like he wants to kick my ass. This is personal. Have I somehow offended the hornet?

I shut the door. Now he’s really blocked. I breathe a sigh of relief.

I go to the window in the living room and switch on the air conditioning. A thwaping on the window makes me look outside and sure enough, there is my winged enemy. He’s now throwing himself against the screen and the window.  Typically I name things that scare me (Herman the Hyena, Jerry the Bathroom Spider), but I can’t bring myself to name this malicious creature.

It occurs to me that I might have to abandon the house. But he’s got the house surrounded somehow, so how will I get out?

As I collapse at the terrifying scenario of a hornet being outside of my house, I wonder if he’s here to teach me a lesson. About what? Who knows. Maybe he’s telling me not to claim that I am in some way a country dweller. Maybe he’s telling me to stop drinking root beer Slurpees. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the hectic bustle of Prague. At least those threats I can cope with.

I look outside and verbally denounce my claim as a country boy to the hornet. He bites and gnaws for a while, but then deliberately takes off into the afternoon sky. My run-in with the hornet has made me more humble, wiser, more aware of my surroundings. Now that makes me feel like a country dweller.

I wait an hour, and then head to Target.

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