By Richard Boughton
I tend to be fond of most critters, especially of the mammalian persuasion – from the lowly gerbil to the lofty dog to the human being and his more intelligent relative the orangutan. I like fish as well, particularly for eating. But when it comes to critters of the insect world, my affection grows cold.
I can think of no pleasant experiences that I have had with bugs. It’s not that I expect them to play ball or roll over or have cute, cuddly bug babies. That would be unreasonable. I would expect, however, at this late stage in the evolutionary process, that they might manage to be at least somewhat useful, or to contribute in some way to the overall ambiance of existence, like songbirds, for instance, or turtles or frogs – each harmless in his disposition yet contributing to the world in some sensory or aesthetic way. But what can the bug be said to contribute? How many songs devoted to the bug have you heard? How many great works of art has he inspired? How many statues or monuments have been erected in his honour?
I find also that bugs are rarely where they are supposed to be. A blue jay may be found in the sky or in a tree, a bear in a cave, a fish in a stream, a snake in the grass, but the bug insists on disregarding natural boundaries and ends up in my shoe, on my dinner plate, under the toilet seat or, worst of all, in my bed. What more basic intrusion can there be than this? It is safe to say that one does not, and never will, find the bird or the fish or the bear in his bed – so how comes it that these crawly, creepy, unseemly insects end up there? It is not proper in any other portion of the animal kingdom, and it is not, as far as I’m concerned, a proper place for the spider or the beetle or the centipede either.
Bad enough then that the bug is in my bed, but he must further exacerbate the invasion by biting me whilst unaware in the depth of peaceful slumber. Not satisfied with biting his fellows in their own beds – of dirt or stone or grass or sand – the bug crawls from his earthy lair, unto my porch, through my door, through entryway and dining room and thence to the bedroom, this most hallowed of indoor spaces, to make himself cosy between the sheets of my bed, and wait there to spring his evil assault.
I wake in the morning believing at first that I had enjoyed a good sleep, only do discover a curious itching on the calf of my leg, which on inspection turns out to be a red welt with a little white highlight at the centre.
Seen also is a spider or some similar creature in full flight towards the end of the mattress, as fast as his multiple little legs can take him. A swift, well-aimed reprisal does the nefarious creature in, but the damage is done and he has left his mark, which by midday is the size of a silver dollar, and by evening mountainous with swelling, and throbbing with pain, such that it seems my very heart must have moved downward to reside in my leg.
Ultimately this results in a trip to the emergency room. Every effort is taken to avoid this course, hating and fearing doctors as I do. Soap is applied, ointment is applied, green oil, brown oil and bee serum are applied – the latter of which, according to my wife, can heal even cataracts, if one is crazy enough to put the stuff in his eye – and yet all treatments, all balms, are to no avail. To the emergency room at Kasih Ibu I go, cursing all the way the scurvy little midget that can cause such a colossal nuisance.
I present myself and my wound to the receptionist and explain in the best possible Indonesian I can manage what has brought me here. Some confusion ensues from the outset, for it turns out that I have told them that I’ve bitten a spider rather than been bitten by one. They wonder perhaps, if this be the case, why the spider itself has not presented, but by and by the phraseology is put right and I am told to sit down and wait.
I don’t mind the waiting at all. It’s usual and it’s normal and it doesn’t cause any additional pain. What I do mind, yet cannot avoid, is the painful examination that follows, the poking and picking and scraping at the wound, the whistling of the technician, the sleepy disinterest of the physician, and the fact that I must return to this place every two days for the next two weeks and undergo the procedure again and again like some repetitious torture in a restless dream.
Better for all this to have wrestled with the bear, struggled with the lion, grappled with the gator, than to be laid so low by such a miniscule foe as this pointless, dim-witted, superfluous bug.