Culiseta

If you were to have seen me, I must have looked like I had lost my mind.  It was nighttime, and a full moon’s soft glow illuminated my dashboard.  I was alone in the car, in the parking lot, slapping myself in the face. Not just once or twice, but numerous times—as if my hands were being controlled by some mad puppeteer.  My ears took most of the hits.  Sharp, stinging slaps that accomplished nothing.

And just what was it that I was trying to accomplish, you might ask?

Murder.  Cold-blooded murder. Even if it meant my suffering some facial lacerations, I was intent on delivering death to a mosquito.

The trick was locating it.  You’d think killing a mosquito shouldn’t be much of a chore.  I am, after all, about a million times larger. I have a daily regimen of going to the gym to lift weights.  Compared to the mosquito, I possess the indestructible cross-bred strength of King Kong, Hercules, and Chuck Norris.  I can rip off the wings from a mosquito’s thorax in the quarter-blink of an eye. I can blow the bug off my arm with relative hurricane force.  I can annihilate it in any manner I desire just as long as I can…locate it.

And this is the part where all of my robust power falters like the graceless floating ability of a cinder block.  This is also the part where I am convinced that the incessant buzzing next to my ear is, in fact, the sound of a mosquito’s joyous laughter.  With each failed slap to the face in the parking lot, my car rocks like a baby’s cradle. Yes, I put that much effort into it. It is literally slapstick comedy that is literally bugging me.  Its buzzing laughter appears to be hovering no more than one inch from my ear.  Slowly, I raise my flattened hand to a spot about a foot out from where I detect the sound.  The hovering laughter has not stopped or moved. How can I possibly miss? I take one deep calming breath before I commence with the slaughter.

WHACK!…WHACK!!..WHACK!!!…WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK!!!!!!!…

There is now silence. The car stops rocking. I look at my palm to find no signs of murder.  Seriously!? Then I hear it: bzzzzzzzzhahahahah!!

WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK!!!!! Repeatedly, I continue to strike out at the plate.  This is infuriatingly frustrating. How is this even possible!? Miraculously, my hand and upper jaw bone are not broken.  And though my ear hasn’t fallen off the side of my head, it is, however, throbbing and as if swollen to the size of a football.

By mere coincidence, I have a book on the passenger’s seat titled, Insects. A friend had loaned it to me to read about a certain caterpillar than is infesting my oak trees.  Curious, I look up the mosquito to get a better look at whom I am waging war. Turns out it’s a woman.  Or so its name appears.

Culiseta longiareolata.

Culiseta. Sounds so feminine. I’m impressed that scientists gave the mosquito such a beautiful name.  Still, what did I ever do to anger this flying woman?

Culiseta my love,

Oh how you hover above,

And buzz so close to my ear.

 

Please depart from this place,

Or I shall smash your face,

And never again call you my dear.

 Her laughter stops. My car fills with silence. Perhaps during the whackfest I might have maimed her, shattering a couple of her legs or rendered her blind.  Culiseta did all she could do to maintain flight, but, in the end, pain and exhaustion got the best of her.  Perhaps she plummeted to the floor behind my seat, where she shall spend her final hours entangled in dirty carpet fibers.

And then, I feel it—my ankle.  That all too familiar itch immediately following an insect bite.  Except mosquitos don’t bite, but rather pierce your skin with their head syringes and suck your blood.  I react quickly and scratch my ankle like I’m certain it’s a winning lottery ticket.  Of course, the more you scratch, the worse it gets.  As my lottery ticket fails me—and out of pure irritation—I do what I always do:  I rake that ankle deep and raw until it goes numb.  In 24 hours I will have a scab a half-inch wide by two inches long. All from a spot that began no larger than one-tenth the width of hair follicle.

I’m now fit to be tied, caged, locked-up…euthanized.  I don’t care who hears my raging voice: “CULISETA!!…WHERE…ARE…YOU!!!??”

Another skin prick hits the other ankle.  A third one lands on the upper calf.  And a fourth one needles me behind the knee.  No buzzing.  No laughter.  She is the ancestry result of over 100 million years of mastering stealth assaults, and she is on a mission. Hell hath no fury like a female mosquito in attack mode.

I open up the Insects book next to me.  I’m curious about her anatomy, specifically her head syringe.  It’s called a proboscis.  Turns out Culiseta is quite the drinker, as she can consume up to three times her body weight in blood. I read on, until I am interrupted by her buzzing.  Only this time it’s not by my ears. Culiseta, for whatever reason, is bouncing around between my dashboard and the windshield.  She is not only completely exposed, but has set herself up for total inhalation.

Four times with the back of my hand I try to smash her against the windshield, jarring my knuckles hard against the glass.  She makes her way to the tight crevasse where the windshield meets the dashboard.  All I can do is dart my fingertips into that confined area, gnashing more of my knuckles as I try. I look for a towel, a pencil, anything to assist in the jabbing.  I have no such item, until I remember that I keep a pocket knife in my glove compartment. Rummaging through miscellaneous stuff and numerous oil change receipts, I find the knife buried beneath the clutter.  Pulling out the blade, I scan the dashboard and see that Culiseta is quietly positioned in the crevasse.  This is my chance.

It will be a difficult jab as I’ll have to hold the knife from the end of the handle with my thumb and index finger in order the wedge into her confined location. Cautiously, so not to disturb and send Culiseta into flight mode, I position the tip of the blade two inches from her…

*           *          *

100 million years of ancestry.  Culiseta’s lifespan is but a microcosm of that as she should perish within 42-52 days from her birth.  Like any insect, there is nothing to be learned.  They do as they are genetically instructed to perform.  Wasps and bees simply know how to build their hives.  There was no schooling involved.  Mosquitoes know how to extract blood and reproduce more mosquitoes. They know how to transmit diseases.  They know how to annoy.  From the perspective of certain animals, mosquitoes are known to be a source of food. Culiseta is part of a complex food web within the animal kingdom.  Perhaps this is destined to be her lucky day.  I cannot deny the cunning fight she put up earlier.  I cannot deny her ability to evade punishing blows to her fragile existence.

The grip on my pocket knife loosens.  I pull the blade back, having come to the conclusion that, as bizarre as it is, I am going to free Culiseta into the night air. This compassion towards an insect that has nailed me four times in the leg, and has made me slap myself at least twenty times in the head, just doesn’t make sense.  But, then again, maybe it’s not supposed to.  Maybe I’m simply going on my genetic instincts.

Rolling down my window, I manage to shoe her off the dashboard and out of the car.  I actually smile at this act of kindness.  Life, I say to myself, is good.

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

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