Saturday, August 30, 2014

What a Buzz

The first mosquito dive bombed me the other day while I was replaying the June 7, 1950, baseball game between Brooklyn and Chicago with my APBA game. Initially, the incessant buzzing could have provided a backdrop to the game -- the buzz of the crowd or the vuvuzelas at some sporting contest.

But this was Wrigley Field in 1950 and I'm pretty sure the bleacher bums would have whacked anyone who brought the annoying noise maker to a game.

I continued on with the game, swatting at the pesky insect as it tried to make my arm his dinner.

Soon, another showed up. I had gone outside to toss trash that evening and thought I must have brought a few in with me. I live in Northeast Arkansas. This area is a red light district for amorous mosquitoes; seeing a score of them near doorways is not uncommon. I've seen many hanging around outside, reading newspapers and smoking. When I go outside, I hear them. “Hey, Buzz,” one would say. “We got one comin',” And then they'd swoop.

When I went to bed, several more began buzzing me. I smacked a few, but gave up, ducking under the covers and hoping they'd move along during the night.

They didn't.

When I woke the following morning, there were more perched on the wall. Others were doing holdover patterns above my head, flying reconnaissance missions to see when I would be available to dine upon. Something was wrong.

I soon discovered the problem. I had left the door leading from the kitchen to the garage open all night. The good news was my cat didn't get out. The bad news was 42 billion mosquitoes got in.

The bugs formed a giant arrow, like in the cartoons, and aimed for me. The war began.

I spent the next three days battling them. I charged around the house, clapping at the insects in a frenzied manner, like some addled madman who couldn't keep the proper beat to a Brittney Spears ditty. I didn't have any bug spray so I used Lysol cleaning fluid to knock them down. I employed my vacuum cleaner in an attempt to suck them out of the air. I found an old fly swatter and smacked them, leaving smears of warfare on the walls and ceiling.

It became an obsession. They regrouped after battles in the evening, buzzing me again. APBA games were cancelled because of the infestation.

It was the Civil War, but rather than the smoke of infantry cannon fire, the fog of Deep Woods Off wafted across the battlefield. The Battle of 'Skeeter Ridge was a particularly bloody warfare. I had left a light on in the small bathroom in hope of drawing them in. It worked. For 30 minutes, we fought in the confines of the bathroom. I flailed with the flyswatter and a wadded towel, they continued to bomb me, seeking that last meal before being squished. The Battle of Shower Curtain Run was very horrific.

At about 3 a.m. that night I saw in the bathtub three mosquitoes emerge from the bug spray fog. I think they were playing the drum and fife. The fight hadn't left them. Even as I annihilated them, others continued to swarm, biting, feeding. We were battle-worn. They lay injured, twitching, their tiny proboscises sticking from mangled heaps. I itched as red welts popped up on my arms.

I also worried some. I've written several stories in the past at the newspaper where I work about mosquito-borne diseases. West Nile, malaria and chikungunya — a particularly lovely ailment that creates fever, joint pain, muscle aches and sudden love for the North American Soccer League (the horror, the horror!) I didn't want to become afflicted with any viral infections.

By the third day of battle, the mosquitoes' numbers were dwindling. They had heavy casualties in their ranks. There may have been some army deserters, too. The guy next door to me was barbecuing in his back yard that evening and some of the pesky soldiers may have marched on over to his place.

I pulled back the shower curtain in the bathroom and saw two lone mosquitoes left. As I went in to squish one, the other took off and soon I heard the annoying whine as he (or maybe it was a she; aren't female mosquitoes more of the biting kind?) bore down on me. Smack. One down. Swat. Another gone.

It was over by the third evening. I persevered, waving my fly swatter like confederate Gen. John Sappington Marmaduke brandishing his saber. (I had to look that name up. I was educated in the north where our brief Civil War lessons consisted of “Yeah, we won. Moving along...”) The mosquitos were dead and my life returned to prewar status, albeit, a bit more scratchy. The APBA games resumed with nary a noise.

It's all quiet on the western front of my home; I check the door all the time now to make sure it's closed. Despite the victory, I don't want to have any more of my replay games cancelled. I always hated that vuvuzela noise anyway.