Paper-thin slices of sunlight striped the weeds around me.
The air was thick with the richness of New England soil, but cool there beneath the pungent planks of a homemade deck.
I listened to the buzz of crickets, my own breath, the softly-approaching footsteps of my brother. Curious spiders clung to their webs above my flaxen pony tails, wondering what I was up to this time.
Each thin boney hand held my weapon of choice, and I bit back a grin: he had no idea what was coming.
“Kim…?” he called with a high voice into the woods, over towards the garden. It was hard not to giggle. His small shadow darkened my hiding spot for a moment, then he started down the simple steps.
He didn’t hear my skinny legs unfolding behind him, or see my arms roll back for the throw.
He only felt the slap of four garden snakes pelting him, one after another, as I shrieked with laughter. “GOTCHA!” His shock only lasted a second before he was a scooping up the snakes I had been patiently holding in my gentle grip, and tossing them right back at me.
I’ve always been comfortable with nature.
Animals, bugs, worms, beetles, snakes, fish – I never met a critter I didn’t like.
My brother and I used to have garden snake fights on a regular basis. The yard we lived in until I was 7 was a perfect breeding ground for them: a long dipping yard with a huge garden next to a wide, shady deck that backed up into woods. We both knew how to safely catch them, and that nothing is crazier than seeing one get tossed at your head. (We have since stopped using live animals as weapons, so no need to call PETA on us thankyouverymuch)
We also would go on filthy, creature-themed adventures. Summers were spent pollywogging, seeing who could catch the biggest crayfish from the brook, lifting massive rocks to discover new bugs, catching fireflies, digging up Earth worms to fish with.
Even now, as an adult, I’m the one who gently escorts wanderlust spiders out of the house and helps her own kids find worms to plop into the garden.
But every girl has her limits.
You may have heard that the cicadas are currently invading the East Coast, particularly New Jersey.
I live in New Jersey now, yo.
Have you ever seen the devil up close?
Maybe it’s the fact that these monster bugs hide out for 17 years and then all come out en masse like a noisy, crunchy plague that seems so unnatural to me.
Maybe it’s the fact that Wikipedia insists they are usually “benign to humans under normal circumstances (!!!) and do not bite or sting in a true sense (???), but may mistake a person’s arm or other part of their body for a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed,” which I do not find reassuring at all.
But I am totally creeped out by these things.
There are enough now that we have to watch our step outside, for the ground is getting coated with the juicy nymphs, crunchy shedded shells/exoskeletons, and buzzy-winged adult cicadas as big as my man-hand thumbs.
They are hanging on our trees, fences, mailboxes and patio furniture; landing on us as we stand talking to one another at the park; looking for a way into our shady garages to pass time until the mating period begins.
I have finally found a creature (other than moths, i.e.: Satan’s Powdery Lap Cat) that I don’t want to play with, pet, or even throw at my brother.
So, yeah. Never say “never,” my friends. Or else a million cicadas will emerge from the ground and force you to seek shelter for an entire summer.
Since I won’t be spending ANY time outside in the forseeable future, please prepare yourself for many stories about what happens in my basement or the mall throughout the summer. I’m sure there will be scintillating tales to tell.
I’m kicking off this summer of Let’s Avoid the Cicada Devils by talking about the types of people I ALWAYS see at the mall, over on InThePowderRoom. Come on by – it’s safe over there.