Monday, November 29, 2010

Of Mice and Water Bugs

In the weeks preceding Thanksgiving, I was visited by a couple of God’s creatures: a mouse and a water bug. Now, the latter is a periodic caller to my ground floor lair here in the Bronx, most especially in the heat and humidity of summertime, which can be pretty bad in these parts. But the former is rare, which is good because I’m not as nimble as I once was.

As there are infrequent sightings of water bugs at this time of year, this particular visitation was an anomaly of sorts. The bug's stomping grounds, too, were unusual—not along my kitchen or bathroom floors but in my bed and on my head. I awoke feeling something in my hair—the little that remains of it—and brushed my hands through it. Must have been nothing, I initially reasoned, in my nighttime torpor. However, seconds later, feeling something once more, I ran my hands over my head and hair again. This go-around propelled this uninvited intruder to the far end of my bed, which was illuminated by a night-light. I could now distinguish the silhouette of some small creature slowly but surely meandering away from me. And I wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating, either.

Having been visited by a mouse only a couple of days earlier—coming out of the early season cold and pitter-pattering through the enclosed heating pipes along my ceiling—I initially feared the worse—that I had had a mouse on my head only moments before, which was now somewhere in my bed. But as I grew more alert and my senses sharpened with each waking second, I knew the zigzag gait of the creature on the unsteady terrain of my bed's blanket bespoke water bug, and not a more fleet-footed mouse.

Water bugs are pretty harmless. I suspect Andrew Zimmern has very likely even sampled a few in some outdoor marketplace or barbecue. As far as I know, they don’t bite or any such thing. But they are still creepy-looking. Sure, this misunderstood insect is judged largely by its grisly appearance, which as bugs go is downright sinister. They have quite a disagreeable crunch when you squash them, too.

It was about three o’clock when this incident played out. I subsequently got out of bed and switched on my bedroom light. The bug was gone. I searched high and low for this meddling insect, but it had evidently made its escape into some unseen nook and cranny. Still, I thoroughly examined all of my bed’s trappings from sheets to pillows to blanket. I just don't trust water bugs. They have this knack of quietly looming and returning for encores. But there was no sign of it—anywhere. I don't know why, but I opted not to return to my bed, and slept the rest of the night on an uncomfortable easy chair in another room. I let the water bug win. There must be a life lesson here.

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