The Wasps
Cathy Barber

One day the wasps arrived. Hundreds, maybe thousands of little yellow and black bodies filled our house. They buzzed about like one large disconnected engine going this way and that. We were scared. Why us? Why our house?

There were difficulties. Each night we had to ask them gently and politely to move when we wanted to lie in bed. If we were nice, they moved. We had to make them offerings of food, small plates of meat, to get them off our chairs at dinnertime. Sometimes they did not like what we offered and we had to try a piece of spice cake or quarters of green apple until we found what they were in the mood for. We couldn't eat their favorites. They got mad.

The noise was unbearable. We tried to buy earmuffs but it was summer and there were none to be found. We bought a Walkman for each of us and played music all day long. We liked oldies but classical worked better with the buzzing.

We had to keep the curtains drawn on the first floor windows so the neighbors wouldn't see the swarms inside. It was stuffy. The second floor windows were wide open so the wasps could come and go as they pleased. It was breezy. The neighbors started to take frequent walks past our house, staring hard, and sometimes bumping into one another. It was embarrassing.

On the seventh day we called an exterminator. He came. He didn't like what he saw. "Where did you get all these wasps?" he asked. We didn't know. "How long have you had them?" he asked. "A week," we said. "Hmmmmppphhh," he said. "Hmmmppphhh?" we said. "Well," he drawled, "I can kill 'em for you. A hundred bucks. You better move out for a couple days, though, maybe longer. Me and the boys'll come through with foggers and we'll spike the ground and we'll find their nest and we'll blast 'em to kingdom come."

We huddled. The youngest of us started to cry. He had wasps on his head, his arms, his ears. "No," came his whisper, "No, you can't kill them. It's not right."

The exterminator overheard and rolled his eyes.

We asked the youngest what he meant. "They're here to help us," he explained in that thin, tinny voice. He blew a wasp off his nose. "They told me so." The exterminator smirked. We told him we'd call him if we needed him, and watched him stomp out the door in his white overalls.

The little one spoke again. "They only want to stay while they eat the mites off the trees and flowers. Another three days max, they said. And they have requests, too. They would like juice every morning and chocolate cake and maybe a nice pork roast with apricot glaze. They're hungry.

The buzzing was much softer now. We looked at each other.

"And they would like you to be more careful about sitting down. There have been accidents."

The buzzing was softer still.

"And they want you to stop complaining about them. They are working hard on the mite situation and their feelings are hurt."

Softer still.

We considered their message. We looked around at the wasps on the lamps, the books, the dog. They were all silent as clams and their incessant moving had stopped.

"Okay," we said together, "but only three days."

The wasps let out their collective breath and buzzed. It was a loud, happy, righteous buzz. The dog woke up and stretched and the dog-wasps scattered.

We divided up the chores; one to pour the juice, one to bake a chocolate cake, one to go to the market for pork roast (and apricot preserves), and one to call the exterminator, within earshot of the wasps, to tell him he wouldn't be needed.

That night we did not need our Walkmans. The peaceful drone of the wasps was all for us and we slept soundly side by side.

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