April 2, 2015
There is that old wives tale that says the first mosquito bite of the season is a harbinger of bad things. I got my first bite this morning, on my right shoulder blade where I couldn’t reach it. It’s been downhill since.
The Carolina wren, about which I wrote yesterday, was back at it, tearing apart my welcome mat for nesting material, its head covered with a crown of welcome mat fiber. It was charming yesterday, but today, with only seven-eighths of a welcome mat left, I opened the door.
That should have ended it right there. I am, after all seventy times bigger than a Carolina wren. The wren adjusted its crown of welcome mat fibers and . . . gave me the finger. (I know what you’re thinking. But you haven’t had a wren give YOU the finger.)
I slammed the door, stomped into my office, went online and researched wrens. (Did you know there are eighty species of wren, and they come from the family “Troglodytidae?” That’s right—they’re troglodytes.) After an hour, I found an old Audubon Society document headed: “Rules for Wren Behavior.” It seems that wrens are unionized, part of the SEIU since 1998.
Page 3, Section 1, Subsection 4, paragraph 2: “Wrens may live anywhere so long as they do not disturb a homeowner’s peace and ONLY sing at appropriate hours. Legal nest building materials include brush, dead grass, dried leaves, ant exoskeletons, worm casings, tree bark, insect poop, discarded and shredded paper bits, plastic anything, wiring, roofing nails, used condoms, honeycomb, cat or dog hair, feathers (discarded), snake skins etc. Wrens may NOT utilize homeowners’ private property, as for instance, WELCOME mats.”
I printed this out and, with righteous indignation, marched back to the porch, intending to read the wren rules to the smartass bird on my front porch.
FORTY Carolina wrens were now perched on the welcome mat and methodically shredding it. I reached behind me for my aluminum baseball bat I keep leaning against the sofa, hearing the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” theme song in my head.
The Carolina wren with the crown of fiber reached behind its back and pulled out a .32 snub-nose revolver—it was a conceal carry wren—and fired, the bullet passing by my left shin and blowing a hole in my storm door.
I slammed the storm door and front door shut and pulled all the shades. I ran into my office. Both windows were blacked out from masses of buffalo gnats, mosquitoes, regular gnats, irregular gnats, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, noseeums, house flies, homeless flies, black flies, green bottle flies, horse flies, cow flies, chicken flies—all trying to GET IN MY WINDOWS—all 1,257,304 of them. (I counted.)
Suddenly a shot rang out, the Carolina wren with the crown of welcome matting was flying and shooting at the same time, its next bullet shattering the south window, and the masses came flooding in, and I grabbed the cat and slammed the office door shut, entrapping the devils.
Three hours later.
The cat and I napped on the bedroom floor, listening to the trapped insects howling in the office. I scratched her back, she scratched mine. It sounded like the insects had figured out how to use the printer. I heard singing from the living room and I sneaked in and saw the Carolina Wren Kid and his friends, like strange Amish, building a nest between the storm door and the front door, using the bullet hole as a bird door.
I collapsed on the carpet and thought of Agent Kurtz, in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” His pursuer, Marlow, listens to Kurtz mutter, “The horror, the horror,” as he dies.
I use the garage door now. I am allowed outdoor privileges, so long as I always bring back birdseed and funnel it through a door crack, down to the happy family. I have to turn off the TV at ten, so as not to disturb the junior wrens. I hate three o’ clock in the afternoons, as the Carolina wrens gather in the back yard and fire pistols at targets.
The insects, having run out of printer ink (and leaving behind digital photographs of them nude—“oh the horror, the horror”), are back in the forest.