Killing With Extreme Prejudice
I hate wasps.
I don't think that makes me special. Given enough time and a confined area a wasp will make monsters of the best of us. Leave Gandhi alone in a Prius with an agitated hornet and even he would be wielding a rolled-up copy of Hustler trying to brutally rupture a wasp between a passenger-side airbag and the thighs of some girl named Haley. Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Gandhi. I leave you in the car for five minutes to return some DVDs and you ruin my copy of Hustler? There's stinger all over this taint.
Wasps are bugs. Giant, ugly, pissed-off bees. They don't make honey and just ceaselessly build half-assed portions of a hive at the right-angles of your house's exterior. Go out and mow the yard and they will pull some Hound of Tindalos shit, all coming at you from under the gutters and the eaves.
It's hard to guess what motivates them. It could be the vibrations of the lawnmower, it could be they don't like to see someone enjoying some taco and s beer in a public park, or they just might have the same sort of hatred for us that we have for them.
Having been stung twice by wasps in the first week of July I made their extermination something of a personal crusade. Brooms handled most of their nests and after a few clearance missions I learned that a well-aimed blast of the hose directed at their grotesque mockery of a beehive would drown them before they could even come buzzing at you from their hexagonal corridors. Things seemed to be moving along pretty well, but the wasps were still appearing whenever I would go into any park.
Five minutes and one sting to the eyebrow later and I had retired to my office to draw my plans for a final solution to the wasp question. I might have also done a lot of holding a paper towel full of ice cubes to the throbbing pain in my face. Their base of operations in the plastic closet was a problem. Their nest was located above and to the left of the doorway and could not be seen from the outside. It wouldn't be easy to vanquish this last colony. This was war, but I was not alone.
I was in my garage searching for a secret weapon when my Arab neighbor Kafir pulled up on a motorcycle. He was decked out head-to-toe in white leather, with a white scarf hanging around his neck and a white helmet on his head. He looked like something out of a Saudi Arabian techno video.
Kafir and I aren't close, but I consider him a friendly acquaintance. Hardly the sort of person I would expect to ride up on a motorcycle and offer to help with something as daunting as the extermination of wasps.
"Grass a problem?" He asked, noting the weed whacker I had taken up to feel the heft of as a wasp-crushing implement.
"No," I replied. "Grass is fine. It's the wasps."
He shrugged, so I pantomimed a buzzing insect landing on my eyebrow and then stinging me.
"Ah," he said, understanding. "The hostile bee! He is a beast!"
"Yeah," I said.
I hung the weed whacker up on its hook and continued my search for some sort of weapon. I fantasized about a morning star made out of lava. Something that would simultaneously crush and burn the wasps almost instantly.
"I help," Kafir said. "The wasp, he not sting through this."
Kafir slapped his leather jacket.
"Too thick!" He exclaimed.
It was true, the wasp's stinger seemed unlikely to penetrate the hard leather of Kafir's ridiculous motorcycle costume. A plan took shape. A plan that resulted in me standing three feet away from the plastic closet with a hose dribbling water onto the lawn.
Kafir edged closer to the door, his helmet's visor down. The idea was that he would slap the door open and I would hit the surface of the door with the hose and deflect the water into the shed at the proper angle to douse the wasp's nest.
In retrospect I should have just burned my house down and collected the insurance. People throw around the phrase "utterly inept" a little too much. They use it to describe bad baseball teams or accounting errors. Utterly inept should be reserved for those almost magical moments when a human being (or two) is so completely bereft of any trace of eptness that nothing but calamity can follow.
I definitely should have burned down the house.
"Ready?" Kafir asked.
I took carefully aim with the spray attachment for the hose. I nodded my readiness. Kafir made his move, lunging forward and slapping the door with his splayed fingers. It slammed open and I squeezed the sprayer in my hand, unleashing a solid stream of liquid death on the wasps. Only the door had hit the side wall of the shed and had bounced closed again.
The stream of water rattled the shed like a drum and the door swung open very slightly. Just a tiny crack really, but it turned out to be more than wide enough to allow something as big as, say, a large bee to come rocketing out through the opening. Okay, it was more like ten giant and enraged bees. And they all made right for Kafir, who began to scream and flail his arms.
"No, no, no!" Kafir shouted. "No, back! Fuck shit! Get back! Ah! Back!"
Sure enough, the wasps that landed on his arms and chest could not pierce his leathers with their stingers. The interesting thing about motorcycle helmets is that they aren't air tight. For a wasp the size of a lima bean, a sliver of exposed flesh around Kafir's throat must have been like a red carpet. I didn't realize it at the time, but nearly half of the wasps had almost instantly flown either inside the helmet or straight down the front of his motorcycle jacket.
A stream of muffled Arabic expletives and the occasional "fuck shit" emerged from behind Kafir's visor.
The neighbor I had talked to three times in the past was suddenly screaming and flailing his arms. I shot him with the hose almost instinctively as he collapsed in my neighbor's delicate flowerbed and began thrashing around in her pink and white perennials. I sprayed Kafir again with the hose as he struggled to open his visor and get at the wasps that were punishing his face with their insectoid anger.
Unbeknownst to me, the wasps on his body had been successfully dislodged by the hose and all of Kafir's flailing. These turned on their new enemy with the ferocity of tiny beavers with miniature knives tied to their tails. I dropped the hose immediately and began a hysterical dance as the wasps abused my body in ways indescribable in a decent society. How one of the wasps ended up in the leg of my shorts is something I'm not proud of, but for the next two days my groin was decidedly asymmetrical.
Kafir managed to get the best of his wasps first, and he helped me defeat the last of mine by stomping on my chest with a white cowboy boot. A little fun fact on wasps: they can sting multiple times while being crushed beneath the toe of a cowboy boot.
An hour later, Kafir and I sat defeated on the old couch in my garage. We held a beer to various parts of our body, groaning and whistling as each sting reasserted its domination of our nervous system. Kafir didn't even open his beer. Despite his embrace of American culture, he still doesn't drink.
"We not talk of this again," Kafir advised.
He looked at me with his one good eye, the eyelid of his other eye having swollen to the size of a decorative gourd and become useless.
"Yeah," I agreed. "This never happened."
The next day I did what I should have done from the beginning. I closed the door of the shed, tipped it onto its front, and dragged it, construction equipment and all, to a retention pond just down the block. The pigeons that like to cover our sidewalks in a thick carpet of their excrement scattered as the shed splashed into the murky water. I folded my arms across my chest and watched with satisfaction as the shed began to sink.
Only it wasn't sinking. Whatever asshole designed the shed apparently made it seaworthy. I had just launched the wasp ark of my suburban subdivision. Going by the buzzing echoing from within the shed the passengers of the vessel seemed agitated.
I did what the situation called for at that point. I whistled nonchalantly and walked as quickly and as innocently as possible back to my house. Surely some sort of animal exists in retention ponds that can eat a shed full of construction equipment and angry wasps.