Pastoral Genocide


Fixable, Anyway.
June 26, 2008, 3:12 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , , ,

It happened before I knew it. One day, nothing. The next day, wasps, en masse, are bleeding from the dark of the shed and into the bright of day. I’m taking care of some yard work and sweating a little bit when I first see them, carving nonsensical flight patterns into the afternoon’s humidity. I hate, despise, loathe wasps. My childhood is punctuated by painful memories of painful stings – riveting moments of pin-pricked melodrama that haunt me into adulthood. Wasps are sonsofsbitches, I really believe that.

I’m angry, suddenly. I don’t need immediate access to the shed but I decide to take immediate action. I’m roused into a frenetic and singular inferno of resolution: these motherfuckers are going down.

I’m a strange man when it comes to action. Inspiration strikes me quickly and pointedly. That’s just how I’ve always been. I can’t see point of patience. I get antsy, you know? I don’t always take the time to think things through. Some people say I’m a hot head. Fuck those guys, though.

Anyway, here’s my problem: my can of Raid is in the very shed that the offending wasps have taken over. It’s a cruel, but simple irony. Definitive killing requires forethought. Efficiency is mistress that undresses only for those anticipatory, calculating minds. Messy, slow burning debacles, however, are the children of men like me, whimsical beings with limited foresight and above average hand-eye coordination.

Quickly, and with razor sharp efficacy, the answer to the problem at hand materializes, literally rising from the earth into my admittedly limited cognizance: gasoline, the majestic giver and taker of life. These wasps will feel a petroleum rain and then, nothing. My mind is racing and I’ve got a taste for slaughter, the wholesale extermination of an entire colony, an entire way of life. I ponder things and feel, fleetingly, tyrannical: is this what power, true power, feels like?

I move towards the garage where I keep a gallon of gasoline for the lawn mower. I unscrew the top and emerge, like my enemy, from the shade of the garage into the sunny afternoon. My pace is so quick, so undeniably determined that I’m splashing gas all over my forearms. But I don’t care. I’m floating on testosterone, flying high. I’m the king, baby. I’m in it to win it and I don’t plan on losing. I lust for the taste of victory and for the raw freedom of annihilation. I fall into it.

When I’m about a foot away from the shed’s entrance, my breath quickens with anticipation. I flick the metal door latch upwards and use my shoulder to burst into the shed. Glancing quickly around the small structure, I see the large hive, in all its looming iniquity, nestled between the bottom of the wall and the four-by-four which frames the corner. The hive is a massive structure of wood fibers bonded by insect saliva. Throughout the shed, wasps swirl, dancing with each other in protracted, nonsensical rhythm. The atmosphere is intense.

Unprepared for such discovery, I make a calculated and strategic retreat. How did a hive of such magnitude develop under my watchful eyes? How did it become so complex, so developed? I feel foolish and out of touch with the simplest of realities, the fact that my backyard, my small, sad claim to sovereignty, has been tarnished in the slightest of ways. I allowed it, I am to blame.

These thoughts spurn me into a humming force of spite and anger. I will salt their reality, these wasps, I will take their lives. I collect my thoughts and fashion my strategy. What it lacks in framework it compensates for with emotion. I ache for victory. I shift the gas can into my left hand and charge back into the shed. I strike with immediacy and drown the hive with upwards of a gallon of gasoline.

The smell of unleaded fuel saturates the air. Luxurious fumes. Success. It is a heavy and wondrous smell and I feel light-headed and proud. The hive is quiet, save a few straggling soldiers knocking about in the trusses above my head. I did it. I won. I have erased a scourge from the earth; I have done my part.

Then, everything changes.

The slightly intoxicating scent of gas is supplanted by the domineering omnipresence of fire in the air. I turn to see voluminous black smoke billowing from the shed. I run towards the shed and rip off my shirt. I beat down on the flames but its useless. I’m useless. The flames are whipping in agitated waves of heat and smoke and it’s not long before the entire shed and the adjacent house – my house – is consumed in a writhing disaster. It’s a mess, all of it.

The wasps have won and I have failed, miserably and completely. I take only a limited enjoyment at their destruction; it has cost me dearly. Most likely, I’ve burnt my son’s cat to a spectacular crisp. Most likely, we’re moving into the trailer park on the east side of town. Few people have failed in the manner and function of this failure.

In the distance, I can hear the distant echoing ring of sirens as they flood the neighborhood. From far away, they sound like mechanical voices, laughing shrilly at me, announcing my failure. They’re too late, anyway. I feel stupid and helpless.

I’m totally numb but I know the world is buzzing with kinetic energy. The firemen are arriving, running towards me, towards the inferno. They shout: is anyone inside? And I answer; no, nothing is inside. Well, maybe my kid’s cat, but I’m not sure. The firefighters hit the blaze with water. By that time, there’s nothing left to save. They know this, I know this, everyone knows it. But to not make an effort, we all agree, would merely extenuate the already welling tragedy.

When its done, the house looks menacing. Everything is black and burnt. Foreign, somehow. What used to be my house is now a hill of ash, a half burned mattress and a lazy boy armchair. That’s all that’s left.

The fireman pack up their gear into their grumbling trucks and ride off into the settling twilight. I’m standing there, too afraid to think about what I’ve just done. The short version of the long story is that I’ve got no one to blame but myself. It’s been a pattern, throughout my life. I don’t think things through. Never have, unfortunately. I can remember when I was in grade school and I got busted for stealing cartons of chocolate milk and exploding them against the cafeteria wall. My punishment? Writing, precisely one thousand and five hundred times, I will think before I act.

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