I'm lying in bed, it's Saturday night, and Sweetie comes into the bedroom with a slightly haunted air. She is looking for somewhere to hide. I invite her up onto the bed but no, she's too unhappy and won't feel secure up there, so she is searching around my room for a safe place. The usual safe places, under the desk or under my bed way up against the wall, are not safe enough, apparently. Meanwhile I'm wondering what's bothering her. I hear, out in the living room, a "bleep!" It's my cell phone letting me know that the battery is low. This noise scares Sweetie. Other noises that scare her are thunder and my father cutting up meat in the kitchen. The sound of the knife on the cutting board sends her scurrying under my bed.
Outside she isn't scared of a lot of things but last weekend she unfortunately found out about frogs. Frogs have the disconcerting habit of jumping plop! into a stream just as she is about to take a drink from it. Sweetie's attitude to bodies of water is like that of a lot of Caribbean females. It's for getting your feet wet or maybe lying down in the shallows right at the water's edge. The two times Sweetie has been in water she couldn't wade in (once when I threw her into the sea to see what would happen and once when she stepped through some duckweed into a pond she didn't know was there) she walked on the water to get out. And the water that she does get into must not be doing anything funny. Well, now, thanks to the frogs, the water is doing funny things. Some thing springs out of the bushes and goes plop! or ploop! and while it doesnt' seem to indicate any danger to her, the apprehension of being startled has dampened, so to speak, this particular pleasure of hers. She looks so discomfited now at the least little disturbance near the water!
Well it's easy for me to laugh. We were walking back to the car when I felt something sticky-scratchy-dear-god-please let it be a leaf.
This woman I work with at the Big Scientific Institution told me a funny story. She was on the Metro one day and noticed that a woman sitting near her had a praying mantis on her and was completely unaware of the fact? M., my friend at work, said to me, "What do you do?" Really, what does one do? I once saw a woman go into complete literal hysterics because of a lizard. It was at this posh restaurant in Kingston where my aunt had taken me and her two daughters, my cousins, for drinks. I was about 12 at the time, my cousin D. was about five. She was trying to catch a lizard, just a wee one, and cornered it under the tabletop. The lizard, in desperation, jumped and landed in my cousin's hair. My aunt swung at it with a rolled up newspaper and knocked the lizard lightly so that it went soaring across the patio and landed in the skirts of a waitress on a break. The restaurant was in an old great house and the staff dressed in vaguely 18th-century costume, the men in knee beeches and the women in full skirts with frilly petticoats. The lizard disappeared into all those frills and the poor waitress sat up like she'd been shot and started screaming bloody murder. She was completely beside herself, shaking and jumping up and down and tearing at her clothes and screaming, screaming, screaming. One waiter came over to help, but she was screaming too much to answer him. So he did what they do in the movies, he gave her a light, smart slap across the face. This stopped the screaming, just like in the movies. She told him about the lizard and he looked around and pointed it out to her on the ground a few feet away from her chair. Well, he was doing great up to that point. But he should not then have laughed.
So the thing is if you tell someone they have a big space-alien looking bug on them in the Metro you could cause an incident. And, as my cousin D. recently pointed out, it could end up harming the bug. M. chose to do nothing.
So what did I find on my shoulder this afternoon traveling up or possibly down my neck? I'll tell you but first you have my permission that if I am in the vicinity and you see something like this on me, just don't even tell me about it, just walk up, knock it off with a rolled-up newspaper or your bare hand if you feel brave, whatever. Then tell me. Because -- OK you have to understand how I feel about creepy crawlies. If it has some sort of skeleton, exo- or endo-, I'm all right, except for big hairy spiders in my underwear (I know more about that than anybody should have to). But squishy things. I cannot handle the squishy things. And this was some sort of large green squishy thing, this big ass caterpillar the size of a Greyhound Bus, this HELLWORM, on my NECK, with its vaguely scratchy suckery spiky feet so help me God. I brushed it off and managed not to break out screaming. (I almost rear-ended someone when I found a little inchworm crawling on me after a hike a couple weeks ago.)
You know those bumper stickers that say, "I brake for small animals"? I need one that says "I go completely batshit when I find caterpillars on me." For the next hour I was brushing imaginary caterpillars off myself. And now I'm wondering whether I should just stay out of the woods until these creatures finish up whatever project it is they're working on, the one that requires them to hang by invisible threads from trees and then drop on people.