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USA Today . . . er . . . maybe tomorrow?
by Mike Bay

The subject of entomology -- the study of insects -- is a hot subject around here nowadays in Colorado. Yet, in the Peoples' Republic of Boulder (CO), a few squeaky environmentalist wheels are trying to prevent spraying to attack the particular breed of mosquito responsible for the spread of the disease.

Apparently, diseased mosquitoes are alleged to have more rights in Boulder than the humans they're trying to infect. Eh...that's Boulder. At any rate, and before I digress too much, if you're an insect rights advocate, don't read the rest of this column. You won't like it.

I'm not much of a bug person. Not that they bother me: I was mildly fascinated by insects in my youth. Especially if they splattered on impact. Nowadays, I'm more of a stick in the antennae: if my swatter isn't handy, my big feet are usually adequate to terminate unwanted visitors to my abode. Bugs in Colorado, in my experience, ain't what they are elsewhere, West Nile-bearing mosquitoes aside. One memorable example down South in my traveling days stands out in particular.

An occasion triggered by the morning paper and a tray with leftovers on it.

On an early summer's day in 1990, I was in West Monroe, Louisiana, on company business. Staying at a local motel, I emerged from my domicile one morning to retrieve my complimentary copy of USA Today, which was supposed to be on the sidewalk immediately outside my door.

When I emerged, I noticed three things: (1) my next-door neighbor apparently had delivery food of some kind the night before, and had left a tray outside the room, (2) my paper was right next to it, and (3) both the tray and the paper were trying to walk away.

It was, to say the least, ominous.

When I tried to snatch my paper from whatever was trying to take it elsewhere, I expected some huge arachnid, or perhaps a literate rodent seeking stock tips or sports scores to go skittering off into the parking lot. That's when I was confronted by IT: the biggest cockroach I have ever seen, up to then and since (I've been told that down yonder they're called palmetto bugs). Not that I haven't seen a roach or two in my time in the northern climes; but never one to momentarily make me think someone had modified a Volkswagen Bug with legs in place of tires.

And IT wasn't into giving up either the tray remnants or the morning paper easily. An unexpected bug-o-war ensued. Yeah, I know I probably looked silly; but that was my complimentary paper, and I wasn't giving it up to no bug, VW or otherwise.

Being somewhat larger and with undivided attention (I could care less about the tray and contents thereon), I was able to wrest the paper from the grip of the roach, which let out a miniscule but unanticipated shriek of anguish. Not wanting to render my paper unreadable by using it in a secondary role, I decided to dispense with this entomological snatch-and-skitterer by the long-perfected use of my right foot, which I casually applied.

Too casually, as it turned out: I was astounded, as my foot met with unexpected resistance. Then came the totally surreal sensation of being a couple inches taller. I was being military pressed by a bug? I had heard stories of how seemingly indestructible the roach family is, but whoa. This was so wrong.

Having had enough of this schtick, I removed my foot and took a different tact, kicking the Charles Atlas of palmetto bugdom toward the nearest parked vehicle, football/field goal style. That's when I learned that palmetto bugs can fly.

And this one was noticeably pissed.

Taking a wide turn, it bore down on me like an Exocet missile looking for a ship to sink. Probably muttering all sorts of imprecations about my ancestral heritage and such, I surmised that IT wanted my paper and the leftovers on that tray. The tray I didn't care about, since some of the leftovers appeared to be grits, but that's for another time. But it was MY paper! At this point, somewhat nonplussed by the whole experience and not amused to be under air attack by an entomological equivalent of Tom Daschle, I concluded to screw the physical integrity of the paper: I reared back and used it like a bat to hit a Barry Bonds-ish line drive shot to left. A louder-than-expected *THWONK* resonated from the nearby parked car that -- I sorta kid you not -- actually rocked from the impact of the palmetto projectile.

Where it wound up, and in what condition, I'll never know. The car itself wasn't apparently totaled. Happy to have what was left of the paper in hand, I didn't linger to savor my victory. I merely withdrew to the sanctity of my room, trying to ignore a maid three doors down, who was shaking her head and muttering something about 'danged fool tourists'.

I've often wondered down the years, when the maid got to that tray, who won the subsequent bug-o-war over it?

Oh well . . . one thing's sure: If that palmetto bug relocated to Boulder, IT would have the run of any tray it set its antennae on. The bug-rights folks would see to that. Even a tray with grits.

But that's for another time.


Mike Bay is a free-lance humor writer and accomplished ceiling pencil sticker during writers' block. Born in Iowa, subsisting in Colorado, he has parental and other ancestral links on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. He's a former newspaper columnist, a member of the NetWits and National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and has been published in the quarterly Satire, on various websites and ezines, on his very own website (outofthinair) and in an upcoming book, Serenade of the Stinkweed, an anthology of marital experiences by Jeanni Brosius, Bandal Books. A life-long bachelor, he's still waiting to receive his BS in it, and trying to figure out why he needs a degree to prove what he's full of.

Critiquesters may write Mike at cowfethers@yahoo.com


Read another Mike Bay story at USADS -- go here:
Gravity Bites . . . or
A Turkey of a Recipe. . . or
It's Valentine's Day. Why?

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