Three Bugs Walk Into a Bar

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pest convention

[A mosquito, a tick, and a midge are sitting in the hotel bar on the first evening of the annual Ipswich Pest Convention.]

BARTENDER: What’ll ya have?

MOSQUITO: Bloody Mary.

TICK: Bloody Mary.

MIDGE: Bloody Mary. [turning to the others, chewing her gum] So how was you gals’es year?

MOSQUITO: [wiping her proboscis primly with her napkin] Mine was quite terrible, actually. A deplorable year, by any reasonable measure. It’s not just people with their psssht! psssht! spray cans. Now it’s the state. The Commonwealth — of Massachusetts! They’re flying airplanes over the marshes, creating pesticide clouds. Honestly! When I first heard about it, I said to myself, ‘What is this? Syria?’

Every other week in the Chronicle, it’s West Nile, West Nile, West Nile! And these liberals, dear me — with all their direct-mail solicitations from humanitarian charities in Africa — they’re fixated on malaria. Waterborne diseases! From mosquitoes! I look at my husband and children, and I find myself asking, What are we? Monsters? We don’t carry diseases. We come from a long line of respectable New England mosquitoes.

[She smoothes her skirt over three of her knees.] My great-great-grandmother bit Kitty Dukakis. All she left was a red welt and an itch. That was all. Truly. It was gone in a day or two. Our family always does things properly.

MIDGE: [after a long, hard look at the mosquito] Kitty Dukakis? Really? That’s the best you got?

MOSQUITO: [slightly deflated] My aunt was once swatted by Mitt Romney.

[A long pause.]

MOSQUITO: But that was at a lake in New Hampshire.

MIDGE: [turning to the tick] OK, good-lookin’, whatchou been up to this year?

TICK: [checking her lipstick] Well, my year’s been pretty good, in spite of the bad press. You know how it is. Sure, Lyme is bad. But the P.R. is terrible. Just terrible. People panic. Just like with anything, you know? The Dunkin’ drive-through? I was totally for that. [She snaps her compact shut.] So everybody’s like, Ticks! Lyme disease! Yes, of course, some ticks carry Lyme disease. But please. My boyfriend was complaining about the bug spray — I told him, “Larry! It’s the generalizations that are killing us!” I don’t have Lyme. I keep myself clean. Larry and I only dine in respectable places. Those ticks west of Route 1, where people don’t even realize it’s still Ipswich, they’re the worst.

MIDGE: There’s Ipswich west of Route 1?

TICK: [rolling her eyes] I’m trying to be serious here. This is my point: People think us adult ticks are causing the Lyme problem. They don’t understand that this is a juvenile problem, and we in the tick community are working on it with our youth. We just need time to change our system, ya know? It’s politics. The tick community doesn’t welcome change. We’re still trying to get a skate park for our nymphs. God, I wish it could still be like it was when I was a kid, out around Hood Pond. When I was a larva, Hood Pond was heaven.

[The tick takes a long, soulful draw on her Bloody Mary. She turns to the midge.] So how was your year?

MIDGE: [with a broad smile, revealing a missing tooth] I thought you’d never ask! Best year ever! I sympathize with you plus-size chicks. You can’t get through the screens. Ha! Yeah! They’re makin’ the screens tighter and tighter! Me? Zip! I’m in there.

[She scratches her belly.] I love them upstairs windows. These antique houses, no central A/C. They have to leave the windows open to survive the summer nights. Humans! Yeah! I love the fat ones while they’re sleeping. They don’t even notice. [She slurps her drink.] Last week I got a guy on outer Linebrook about eight times, all around his hairline. By the time I flew away, he looked like a tacky red light-up Statue of Liberty souvenir.

MOSQUITO: [sniffing] Oh, please. I don’t appreciate subterfuge. It’s hypocrisy. I go in the open, as the sun begins to sink — the most beautiful time of the day. I focus on a lovely expanse of human flesh — the females are best, with their sleeveless sundresses — especially during a backyard cocktail party, with plenty of music and laughter. I settle onto that lovely epidermis, just above the clamshell bracelet. From this point, it’s a matter of surgical-precision timing: In! Suction! Eyes up! I’m watching for her other hand to come sailing in — here it comes — and at the last possible moment — Nose up! Fly away!

[She sighs.] I love the sound of her slapping her own arm as I’m buzzing off. It’s proof that the system is working. I made a human smack herself. Again! All is right with the world.

MIDGE: That’s sick. But I love it.

MOSQUITO: [slumping a bit] My only worry is, the older I get, the harder it is to fly off with such a big belly full of hemoglobin. Perhaps I should think about settling down at our place on the swamp, up in Byfield. Let my children take care of me. But if I’m entirely honest with myself, there is still the thrill of the kill. [She glances at the others.] Am I a beast?

[A greenhead walks in and sits at the bar. The mosquito, the tick, and the midge all silently turn away.]

MOSQUITO: [under her breath] Drinking problem.

TICK: [muttering] Floozy.

MIDGE: [quietly] Two hundred eggs every time she takes a drink.

BARTENDER: [to the greenhead] What’ll ya have, lady?

GREENHEAD: Bloody Mary.

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