The Beautiful and the Damned

Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Summertime in Ipswich. Days of sorrow.

No Chowderfest this October. Ipswich Lions Club won’t be doing it.

And the air is thick with poison: mosquito-spraying by the expert exterminators at Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District (NEMMC).

Of course, it’s not a sad time for the clams. The clams are celebrating.

The mosquitos, meanwhile, are burying their dead.

With no Chowderfest, the Ipswich clam mortality rate drops by 47%.

With the NEMMC’s toxin-tanks rolling through town, the mosquito mortality rate skyrockets. In tiny mosquito hospitals, tiny mosquito nurses dissolve in tears just trying to keep up with the paperwork. Tiny refrigerated mosquito trailers transporting heartbreaking numbers of insect cadavers wait in seemingly endless traffic jams trying to get their dear departed cargo into tiny mosquito funeral homes.

The contrast here — between the immediate situation of the Ipswich clams and the immediate situation of the Ipswich mosquitos — could not be more painful.

But longer-term … can these two species continue to co-exist?

What if we could get them together for a conversation?

A clam and a mosquito walk into a bar….

Eh — not feasible. Clams can’t walk. And good luck getting up onto a bar stool. Gotta try someplace else.

A clam and a mosquito meet on a clam flat….

(Cue sad violin music.)

Some hapless mother mosquito, devastated by the loss of her children in the Wetlands Management District purge, is staggering onto the beach, hoping for solace.

And there’s a clam. (Cue guitar riffs.) Probably some smart-aleck teenage clam. Some whippersnapper clam who doesn’t appreciate the holocaust they’ve just avoided, never knew the joy us old guys felt, in the Vietnam era, the day Richard Nixon canceled the draft.

“Yo! Mosquito!” the clam cries out. 

Ms. Mosquito doesn’t have the heart, or the strength, to reply. She settles onto the damp wet sand of the clam flat, a surface strange and uncomfortable to her. She’s only accustomed to warm human flesh, and the room-temperature walls of humans’ homes after they’ve swatted her away.

The clam tries again. “No Chowderfest!” 

No response.

“Strange days are these, pretty mama!” the clam punk cries gleefully.

The mosquito is inert.

“Par-tay, baby!”

The mosquito finally arches a tiny eyebrow.

“It’s not ‘Strange days are these,’” she sneers, then adds, with a tiny snort: “‘Pretty mama.’ Geez.” 

The clam chokes a bit.

“It’s ‘Strange days indeed,’” the mosquito continues. “‘Most peculiar, mama.’” Her head droops again in sadness.

The teen clam, shamed by his ignorance of John Lennon lyrics, declines to say anything more.

After a long moment, the mosquito looks up. Her little head swivels sideways to take in the callow, pimply youth.

“Did you see the videos of Joni Mitchell?” she asks. “From the Newport Folk Festival?”

The young clam brightens. “Yes! That grandma — in the glasses! She was trending!”

The mosquito ventures a bit of a smile, and lets her gaze drop back to the ocean before her.

There’s a long silence, and then, very softly, very quietly, she begins to sing — not for an audience, just for herself, and for the universe:

“I’ve looked at clams from both sides now….”

Summertime in Ipswich. Two species, no matter their differences, find common ground.

Maybe there’s hope for us humans.

(Follow Doug’s more serious work at NewThing.net.)

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