My Bug Collection of Stories
I squash a lightning bug and smear its glowing pieces across my cheeks. The killing is a dare, and within the adolescent caste system, I become a warrior. But beyond this June night, boldness is no triumph. Parents swat brazen children. Entomologists place lids on jars and pin down grasshoppers.
I learn to turn myself inside out, wear on the surface my skeleton, peek out from behind my sternum, corral developing breasts in a boney white fence. Bugs survived millions of years just like this.
Some insects click. Some hiss. I rub my exposed shoulder blades together ’til they moan. It is the sound rocks make while waves dull their edges.
My bones weave around me like basket reeds. I sit inside with berries and flowers and bread for grandmother. I swing through the forest on the arm of a little girl. I let her face the wolf.
Bugs developed wings long before bats and birds. I think about that prehistoric moment, insects flying safely in the air, no predators evolved enough to pursue them. I want to be like that, a few steps ahead of danger.
With a flashlight and a book, I crouch beneath the covers. I hide inside a wooden horse, preparing to sneak out and infest the city.
A life can be less than a day if you’re a mayfly. But if you’re born queen of a termitarium, you’ll last five decades. Butterflies and moths live only months or weeks, so many drawn helplessly to the light of my flickering face. I am a warrior again. I hold behind my back a net on the end of a stick.