Bug vs. Blind Girl: A Battle Royale

July 10, 1995
Midafternoon in the piney woods of Texas was a scorchfest, and the overcast skies did nothing to alleviate the discomfort of 95-degree temperatures with high humidity. However, I was serene. I had my own apartment in a college town, things were cool inside, life was cool outside. I had classic rock on the stereo, a Sonic Diet Coke on my desk, reading for class was done for the day,,, what more could a 21-year-old girl ask for?

Cloudy days force you to be creative, finding things to do indoors. I decided to sort through my cassette tape collection, keep what I wanted, throw out what I didn’t. Since I was back and forth between home and college, I carried ten years worth of the soundtrack to my life in a good-sized zippered bag. I began sorting tapes, enjoying the walk-shudder down memory lane.
Mili Vanili? What was I thinking?
Debbie Gibson? Tiffany? . . Yeah, not so much.

There are labels on cassettes, the adhesive kind that you can write on, then peel them off, and stick them on the tape of your choice. I had discovered that I could put the label in a Brailler, so my tapes were labeled that way, in Braille. I reached into the bag, into a corner, and took hold of a loose label, one that had obviously peeled off of a tape. I pulled the label out to see what it said, so I could find the matching tape and put it on. (I can identify cassettes by the feel of them, and/or the sound they make when you shake them, but Braille labels make it faster.)

As I held the label in my hands, a shadow fell over the summery college afternoon, a pall of slowly dawning horror, as I came to the conclusion that the “label” in my hand was a leg, a dry rubbery-textured crinkly-sounding leg that was attached to the body of my lifelong sworn enemy, the water bug.

A note of explanation, in case water bugs aren’t nationwide. I’ve been told that roaches are small, and water bugs are their king-sized counterparts. Roaches are like scrunchy paper if you have to pick them up with a paper towel, water bugs are like,,, well, they’re evil. That’s what they are, no less than evil, and you may not be aware of this, but water bugs have a conspiracy against blind people. They like to die right where we’ll have to step on them. They have conventions about it, I KNOW they do! That is not paranoia, that is FACT!

Well, like I said, I was 21, self-sufficient, supreme in my newfound state of independence. So I did what any self-actualized 90’s woman would do. I flung the actuality of all my nightmares as far across the room as I could, then spent an hour or so making a 12-foot wide circle around the place where I thought it might have landed, so as not to step on it, praying it really was dead, and not behind the stove, assembling the troops for battle.

A friend came over later. I requested that she get rid of it, without confirming for fact that it was what I thought it was. Unfortunately, she had a little boy, who hollered with all the nthusiasm of an eight-year-old at his first major league baseball game, “It’s a giant roach.”

They left. The dead bug was gone, butthe the effect lingered. The blessing of being a writer is a vivid imagination, and the curse of being a writer is . . a vivid imagination. I began to remember a movie I’d seen when I was ten or so, Creep Show, a screenplay written by the god of writing to me, Stephen King. This movie concerned a guy who wasn’t nice, and it ended up that one night while he was asleep, roaches came out from everywhere, attacked him, and killed him. My Dad thoroughly enjoyed describing it to me, in the sadistic way men have of finding humor in the fact that girls are scared of bugs. So as afternoon turned to evening, I sat alone in my apartment, and visions of Creep Show danced in my head.

Like I said though, “I’m a Woman.” I decided I wasn’t going to take it, so I set out to neutralize the enemy threat by spraying it down. Picture a smallish brunette of medium build, stalking “the enemy” Rambo-style with a can of Raid, hunting them down wherever they were lurking to ambush me. I took them all out, no enemy hiding place was safe–under the cabinets, along the baseboards, in the closet, along the walls, EVERYWHERE. I showed no mercy, spared not the elderly nor the infants among them. All in all, the attack probably lasted fifteen minutes, but it was executed with a thoroughness that would make any military general proud.

I noticed a heavy chemical smell in the air, and decided I’d sprayed too much. To be safe, I called my Mom and asked if bug spray ever expired. She said it didn’t, and we decided I just went overboard with the bug spray.

The next day, a friend came by, everything was cool.

The following day, my mom came down to clean my carpets while I was at class. When I came in, she said, “I know why your bug spray smelled weird.”

I’m like, “Why?”

“Because it was red spray paint.” Along the walls, under the cabinets, along the baseboards, all in the closets, RED . SPRAY PAINT!

Three years earlier, I went to a Halloween costume party at a club, and my friend who took me made our costumes. I was Pennywise the Clown, so she spray-painted a red wig for me. In a couple of moves from dorm to apartment, that spray paint stayed with me, although I had forgotten it. My Dad put it under the sink when I moved into the current apartment. I assumed the can under the sink was bug spray, because that’s what was always under the sink.

My Mom cleaned it up for me, when she could stop laughing. When questioned about it later, the friend who had visited me without mentioning the half-can of spray paint on my wall said, “I wasn’t sure what it was you were doing. I didn’t want to offend you, in case you were trying to decorate or something.”

I’m just wondering though, if there might possibly be red water bugs in that town, (they say roaches can adapt to survive anything.)
So I guess it’s up to you to decide who won the battle royale, me, or the bugs.

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Review: Best Friends: The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary


Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal SanctuaryBest Friends: The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and it tells a beautiful story, of how a group of friends built one of the world’s most unique and compassionate animal sanctuaries.

During the 1960’s, this group came together, from all faiths and walks of life. These friendships endured and deepened, bonded by optimism, love for animals, and a shared vision of a safe haven where all creatures would be welcomed and loved, in spite of illness, disability, or general lack of “pet” appeal. During the 1980’s, the dream became a reality, and with much warmth and sincerity, this book chronicles the struggles and triumphs of such an endeavor, as well as spotlighting the people and animals that make Best Friends Sanctuary a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who love animals. It’s well worth noting that since Best friends came to be in 1984, the number of euthanized animals has dropped from 17 million annually to 5 million. This is a story that restores faith in humanity and makes you feel good all around.

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Review: Tremolo: Cry of the Loon by Aaron Paul Lazar

Tremolo: cry of the loonTremolo: cry of the loon by Aaron Paul Lazar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Body”, but sweeter, “Tremolo: Cry of the Loon”, is a beautifully crafted mystery, thriller, and coming-of-age novel. These elements merge, so that the suspense plot never becomes too gritty, the “end of innocence” story is never too mushy, and the mystery never gets bogged down in details. Tremolo is filled with exquisite imagery, so that you are drawn into the story from the opening paragraph, and are sorry to turn the last page. This is an undiscovered masterpiece of storytelling, one that captures to perfection the last fleeting moments of childhood and the discoveries and excitement that beckon one into growing up.

In 1964, Gus LeGarde is eleven, spending the summer at his grandparents’ lake resort with his family and his two best friends. Against a backdrop of boat rides, penny candy, and picnics, Gus begins to notice girls, learns about the cruelty of some adults, and discovers a hero within himself. The world begins to change for Gus, when he spies a frightened injured girl in the woods behind the lake. She disappears before he can come to her aid, and Tremolo is the story of Gus’s summer-long efforts to find and help her while there is still time.

I picked this book up by chance, and it’s a little hidden treasure, one that re-opens our eyes to all the good in life we may be overlooking with our adult perspective. Sometimes, it’s great to be eleven again, even just for an afternoon.

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One Book Started It All

There’s a defining moment in the life of every book lover, a perfect intersection in time when an author’s wordweaving meets a reader’s imagination. Books are transformed from words on a page, to complete worlds. I am sure that my love affair with the written word began long before 1981, but it was in the honeysuckled nights of April, in the year that I was seven, when I first met Tabitha, Sarah, and all the cats.
Just a little girl with a book on tape, I had no idea that a simple childrens’ story would gift me a lifetime of knowledge, new people, and interesting places, but “House of Thirty Cats”, now likely gathering dust on long-forgotten library shelves, was my passageway into a world of books.

I slid through the pages, leaving behind the smell of frying French fries, the feel of shag carpet, and the sounscape of early 80’s television theme songs in my small trailer house, emerging into sunny door yards with fluffy green grass and old lady houses softly scented with age, magnolia, and lemon poundcake. I could feel the soft belly fur of chubby mischievous gray kittens. I could hear the purr of graceful dainty mother cats. Imperial aging toms and spiteful murderous black cats were brought to life with such clarity that my play room was transformed into another world. I lived that book, and it was magic!

Mary Calhoun’s story of a lonely old lady, an average little girl, and the unlikely friendship that developed through their love of cats is one that captivated my seventh summer, and catapulted me into a love of all things written. The book was on my alltime childhood favorites list, and for many years, I wanted to reread it, but i never would, for fear that all the mysterious wonder of it would disappear under the scrutiny of adulthood.

Last year, I took the chance, and recaptured not only the magic of the story, but also the reason I began to love reading in the first place. I realized, I hadn’t lost anything, but only forgot it a little. My youth, my imagination, my optimism, all my old friends were there, just waiting for me to revisit them, and maybe bring along some wisdom and appreciation for the fragile beauty of such things. For those who believe that reading is fanciful, and writing means little in the way of contributions to the world, I can only tell you that my love of reading was shaped by this little childrens’ tale, and that my love of reading led to a desire to learn, and that the desire to learn led to good grades, and that good grades led to self-confidence and a college degree, and that the college degree led to an even greater love of reading, which led to a love of writing . . . and who knows where that may lead.

And it all started with one little book.

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