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  • Writer's pictureJane Cooper Hong

Of Wasps and Women

From Oct. 3, 2009

My youngest daughter's first homecoming dance is tonight. She had invited eight of her friends for a sleepover. Unfortunately, our neighborhood wasps invited a few hundred of their friends. Since early this morning, I have been beating yellow and black buzzing creatures into stupors with a now-hopelessly bent flyswatter. And, ever since Jana came downstairs, she's been vacuuming up the miserable creatures in hopes that, if bludgeoning by flyswatter doesn't kill them, vacuuming will. Now, mind you, I don't know who's going to empty the vacuum tank. If I were living in a place where all life was sacred, I would have destroyed all chances at an afterlife because I've killed at least 50 souls today, and I did it with fury and vengeance.

Five or six calls to various pest control services produced no responses, save one who said they could come on Monday. By then, we'll be sleeping in one of our cars.

* * *

The folks who said they could come on Monday came on Sunday. Of course, the sleepover was canceled--or rather moved to a home not under invasion by stinging insects. The exterminator was an older gentleman. "Been doing this going on 30 years," he said. "These aren't wasps. They're yellow jackets." I told him about the three cans of Raid my husband had pumped into the hole in the corner of the house. He laughed. "He could've pumped in 13 cans, and you'd still have 'em. Look at that traffic," he said, pointing at the frantic circle of insects entering and exiting from the corner of the roof. "Worse than O'Hare. You'll have thousands of these buggers dead all over the neighborhood after I put down this nest."

He smoked a cigarette and kept observing the wasps. Meantime, I was still killing them in the house with my misshapen flyswatter. I was wondering when he was going to start to off the buggers so they could die anywhere they wanted to die. I went outside again as he finished his cigarette. He had a look as he stared at the tornado of wasps whirling over our house--not exactly fear, more like awe, a kind of reverence almost at the size of our problem. He told me a story about a woman in nearby Elburn who had gone to one of the other places I'd called--one of the ones that didn't call me back. He whispered conspiratorially, "Charged her $2,000, and they didn't even get rid of the varmints." And then I knew, he was trying to get me ready for the price tag. What he didn't understand was that I hadn't slept for two nights because every time I'd start to doze off, I'd hear, "bzz, bzz, bzz." For two days, I'd been swatting bugs that wouldn't die no matter how hard I whacked with my ruined blue flyswatter. What he didn't understand was that I would have traded any car in our driveway to be rid of the horrid insects, raided my bank account, sent him vacationing on the French Riviera.

"How much?" I asked. "$400," he said. I could hear the question mark.

I could tell he thought it was a lot, and on a different day, I might have too, but not that day. "You're sure you can get rid of them?"

"Guaranteed," he said. I wrote the check. I emptied the kitchen of food and moved the cat's dishes into another room. He said I didn't need to, but if the poison he was using could kill those Lazarus wasps ("Yellow jackets," he reminded me), I didn't want it on our cereal. He pumped an entire tank of bug killer into the two traffic spots by the corner of the roof and then came inside and sprayed a stream around the light fixtures (where they seemed to be getting in), the windows and doors.

A few more stupefied bugs buzzed in, but then it snapped cold. Whether it was the exterminator or the weather that silenced them, I honestly don't care. I was able to hang up my flyswatter. And sleep.

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