By Richard Boughton
How do you feel about grasshoppers? That’s right, those little green bugs that hide in the yard and then jump away when you walk through the grass. The kind that kittens and children like to chase, hopping along behind like grasshoppers themselves, snatching the leaping bugs in a paw, cupping them in hands, collecting them for a time in an old glass jar, or maybe feeding them to a pet snake or rat, for the more zoologically inclined.
Fun, right? Child’s play. A backyard game on a day in May.
But what about the Balinese grasshopper? How do you feel about him? That grotesque exaggeration, that seeming freak of nature (if all you’re used to is Western nature, that is). Yes, that hopping, flying, menacing insect about the size of a crescent wrench. Or a Smith & Wesson revolver. A green Smith & Wesson revolver.
He’s bad enough when you find him in the yard, though easy enough to deal with. He hops one way; you hop the other. But what if he has invaded your house? Yes, your personal living space.
This is the situation I found before me. I was happily doing the dishes, in that happy spirit that always attends the task, when out of the corner of my otherwise undisturbed eye I spied this thing on the wall.
What in God’s holy name! That was the first question to enter my mind. Was it an enormous spider? Was it a blotch-like trick of sunlight? Was it a cat that had walked halfway up the wall between counter and ceiling?
I had stepped back a bit on first sight of the thing. Actually, to the adjoining room. Now I crept forward again for a closer examination.
By God, it’s a grasshopper. An unusual one, to be sure; an incredibly large one; a completely inappropriate one; but a grasshopper nonetheless. It was not a fun sort of grasshopper; nor was it a harmless appearing sort of grasshopper. On the contrary, its general shape and attitude were more reminiscent of the alien in the Sigourney Weaver movie by the same name than of a simple backyard bug.
So what now? We could not live together. This, in my mind, was crystal clear. But how to explain that to the creature?
Perhaps if I nudge it, it will fly out the open door. The doors leading to the yard are always open in Bali, and of course that is how it had made entry. A mistake pure and simple, a wrong turn; no more. Surely he would be just as happy to depart as I would be to see him do so.
So I nudged. Not with my bare hand, mind you. I nudged him with a spatula. I cannot say whether it was being nudged that the monster took exception to or whether it was being nudged specifically by a spatula, but it was swiftly apparent that the creature did not in the least take kindly to this nudging. Straightaway bat-like wings were spread and the creature flew directly into my face, got entangled for some time in my eyeglasses, then headed through the air toward other rooms, while I myself, screaming like a girl, fled in the opposite direction.
Where to now? Where had it hidden? Behind what door, under what counter, into what cupboard, under what bed?
Ah! There it is! Clinging now to the bedroom door, still as death, thinking. Or maybe planning. That is what these things do. They think. Then they fly. Then they sit and think a long time once again. Just now, sitting there on the door, dwarfing the doorknob, the grasshopper was thinking. Here was my chance then, whilst motionless the critter lay.
What was needed was a weapon of some sort. But what? As it happened, the nearest weapon-like object at hand was a can of air freshener. It was the strong sort of air freshener, the industrial sort, the kind of stuff that would surely be deadly to an insect, and probably to a man as well. The scent was strawberry and cream.
And so I took the weapon in hand, crept another step forward, drew in a breath and aimed the nozzle…
Ah, but no! I cannot do it. Chemical warfare is a horrifying thing. And also banned by the Geneva Conventions. I could not morally employ such measures, even against a creature as terrifying as this.
I dropped the aerosol can and searched about for something more humane.
Here, for instance, was a floor mat. A pretty thick floor mat at that. This, I reasoned, could be rolled several times, made club-like, and then wielded in one swift blow to put an end to the thing, freeing us both from this unwanted episode (though admittedly not the better for him).
Oh well, for goodness sake, it’s a bug after all – no matter whether it’s as large as a puppy. It’s only a bug, whose grave error had been to invade my house. And there are a million more bugs like him anyway (which is something I realise with horror just now, even as I plot his demise).
And so I roll my 99-percent pure cotton club with care, draw back my arm like David with his sling, and then with one mighty lurch forward I bash the thing.
And the thing flies again straight into my face. My club has simply bounced off, has glanced harmlessly away as if it were made of nothing other than … well, 99-percent cotton. Worse yet, after this second entanglement with my face, the thing has now disappeared. It is not on the wall, not on the door, not on the floor nor the cupboard nor the chair. Where, oh where?
I hunt the creature pace by pace, room by room, door by door, carrying now a broom in one hand and a small stool in the other. Bug-like myself, I slide stealthily along walls, creep around corners. Where are you, grasshopper; in what secret cove do you hide and think and wait?
There! Yes, there. There on the table. My foe has made the fatal mistake. Dropping my spear and shield and leaping with great agility to the kitchen counter, I grab the plastic juice container so recently cleansed and placed thereupon, then leap back again to the table to clap the container over my prey.
Trapped, finished, defeated. The thing flies in a dozen furious circles, butts its head against the imprisoning walls and then sits down to think again.
Carefully, I slip a magazine beneath the juice container, then transport the little prison to the yard and place it on the grass. One deft movement remains – the tipping of the container to release the insect to its proper environ. And there it sits. Huge. Spindly. Majestic. Green. There it sits, and thinks.
Richard Boughton is a writer living in Bali.