Monday, January 23, 2012

let's talk about June bugs.

When I was twelve, my parents started building a new house, and I was a total brat about it. I loved our old house, which was undeniably too small for a family of five. It didn’t matter to me that I’d have a giant room and that our house would have more than one bathroom (we didn’t count the terrifying basement bathroom). I had a terrible attitude about this new house, but that’s not what this story is about.

We moved into our new house in May 2000, right before the end of school. We started moving things in on a Saturday, and I remember that nothing was more important than getting the new big screen TV hooked up in the basement (we watched All in the Family to make sure that everything was working).

Our extended family and friends came over on Sunday to help us do the lion’s share of the moving. We worked all day and successfully got everything transferred from the old house to the new. My room was a mass of boxes, but it was nice to be done with the heavy lifting. Because I had kept my complaining to a minimum, my parents said I could invite my friend Sarah over to help me start putting my room together.

Sarah arrived, and we immediately settled in my room to talk about whatever it is that thirteen-year-olds talk about. We made macaroni and cheese for dinner: Sarah’s and my specialty dish (and still one of the few things I know how to cook) and got to eat IN MY ROOM (there had been a strict “no food out of the kitchen” rule in our old house that my parents seemed to be willing to bend in the new house). Mom and Dad had even let us take the family laptop up to my room, which was a huge deal: though we had no internet access up there, it meant that we didn’t have to share Encarta with anyone. It was a wild time.

As we worked to unpack my boxes, it got warmer and warmer in my room. May in South Dakota can get humid, and our central air hadn’t been hooked up yet. I turned on the ceiling fan and opened all my windows, not thinking anything of the fact that my windows had no screens in them. This will be important later.

It was a school night, so it wasn’t too long before my mom yelled up the stairs and told me it was time to take Sarah home. Sarah and I pranced downstairs and headed towards the car. I suddenly realized that I’d left the light on in my room, so, ever the energy-conscious youngster, I raced back up the stairs to turn off my ceiling light.

I was met with a dreadful sight. It looked as though my room was actually moving. Large, brown insects swarmed around the ceiling lamp, and a horrific buzzing filled the air: my room had been overrun by June bugs. 
Having never encountered a June bug invasion of such magnitude before, I was unsure of how to proceed. I considered shrieking and fleeing the house, but I decided that wasn’t the best course of action. For the time being, I simply turned off my light and closed the door to my room.

I scurried down the stairs and hesitantly told Mom that I had a problem. She looked at me like the idiot I was and said, “Why didn’t you close the windows? More bugs can get in!” I thought that the June bugs presently in my room would want to leave now that the light was off, but Mom informed me that it wouldn’t be that simple. I offered to go back and shut the screenless windows, but Mom decided we should just take poor Sarah home and deal with the aftermath after the two of us had returned.

When Mom and I got back, it was time to face the horror. Bless her heart, my mom took pity on my soul and offered to help me catch the June bugs. But what to do with them? I was given explicit instructions not to step on them/smush them/damage them in any way because June bug juice smells. Plus, it would stain the brand new carpet. Way to break in the new house. The solution was to get the empty peanut cans that we had in the garage. Why did we have empty peanut cans in the garage? They were being used for my dad’s nail/nut/bolt storage, but we had bigger plans for them. We were going to catch the June bugs and place them inside the can until we could toss them back outside. I remember those peanut cans so clearly: they were Girl Scout peanut cans from my sister’s and my brief tenure with the organization. They were taller than your average peanut can and had this friendly little picture of a jungle scene printed on it.

Since I was the moron who had created this whole mess, it was only fair that I do the dirty work. I would pick up the June bugs, and Mom would hold the peanut can. I did my best not to freak out; the giant insects and their awful buzzing noise were more than unpleasant. I put on a winter glove so I wouldn’t have to touch the little beasts, and we went about our work. Mom and I were like an assembly line of June bug removal: I would pick one up, and she’d open and close the peanut lid in a flash. Things were going fairly smoothly until one of the June bugs decided that it didn’t want to be put in the can. When I tried to set it down, it flew up at my face. Being the weenie that I am, I screamed and accidentally knocked the peanut can out of Mom’s hands. All of the June bugs we’d been so diligently collecting began to scatter. Luckily, they were a little dazed from the lack of oxygen in the peanut can, so it didn’t take much to recapture them.

After what felt like hours, Mom and I were convinced that we’d successfully located every June bug that had made its way into my room. There was no buzzing; no little creatures were scuttling across the floor. Sweet, sweet success.

That is, until I went to bed. It was a school night, after all, so I had to try and get SOME sleep. I turned out the lights, double-checked to make sure the windows were shut, and crawled into bed. But then… buzzing. Have you ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”? This was the Tell-Tale Buzz. I leapt out of bed and turned the lights on. I had a disturbing feeling about where this buzzing was coming from. I whipped off my sheets, and sure enough: a June bug in my bed. I’m fairly sure I died a little that night.

For the next several hours, I’d try and try to go to sleep. Every time I’d get into bed, there would be a brief silence… and more buzzing. I’d get up, search and destroy, and go back to bed, only to be taunted by more buzzing shortly thereafter. It was impossible to figure out where the infernal noise was coming from. After all, my room was still full of partially-unpacked boxes, and those hideous insects could’ve been hiding anywhere. My night had turned into an unmitigated disaster.

Finally, I had located what I hoped to be all the June bugs that were hiding in my room. Even if I hadn’t, I was ready to wave the white flag. Those pests were elusive, and I had done my very best. At long last, I could lie in my bed and not hear something buzzing from deep within my closet.

So that’s how upwards of twenty June bugs made their way into my brand new room. A valuable lesson was learned: DO NOT leave windows without screens open, especially in May and especially with the lights on. Almost twelve years later, I certainly haven’t made that mistake twice. Even so, whenever I hear the tell-tale buzzing of a June bug’s wings, my skin crawls. And you’d better believe it was a long time before I could fall asleep without thoroughly checking my bed sheets from any creepy crawly surprises.
Sweet dreams!

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