It would be just fine with me if the cicadas emerged from the ground, did their seventeen-year dance, and then died. They would distract me from the Brown marmorated stink bugs which came without announcements or glory or biblical allusions, and seem to have settled in, like houseguests who are dangerously available for long term visits.
I consider the stinkbugs my personal failure. Each morning we wake up and I put on my glasses and count the stinkbugs doing absolutely nothing on the ledges of the crown molding in the bedroom. Later I go into Reine’s room and open the aged casement windows and start gathering up the stinkbugs that are gathered on the window jambs, resting on the screens, likewise doing absolutely nothing. One time out of five a stinkbug will actually take flight when I attempt to remove it, but otherwise they are largely inert.
What is the point of being a stinkbug?
How is it possible that stinkbugs arrived at our house, and keep arriving at our house, no matter how many times I gather them up? And they are ridiculously easy to gather up, except from the crown molding, unless you are as tall as CSB, and even he has to use the back scratcher to flip out the ones ensconced in the recesses. Then we flush them down the toilet, being careful not to crush them. Because crushing releases their stink. (And yes, they can also swim.) You would think that at some point I would have reduced the population of stinkbugs. That sooner or later I would find fewer, not more, stinkbugs in residence. That is not what is happening. There is no relationship between my removal of stinkbugs and the population density of stinkbugs. I have failed miserably, and continue to fail miserably, at the simple task of keeping my home and hearth, my den and nest, free of vile smelling insects that appear to have no purpose.
Just now my eyes drifted upward, and there is a stinkbug ambling along the lowest ridge of the crown molding. To what end? Does it matter to the stinkbug in what direction it moves?
Even worse than the incursion of stinkbugs into our house, is the fact that we – I – seem singled out by this infestation. Other people in town do not spend their mornings removing stinkbugs, dead and alive, from moldings and windowsills and muntins. Other people do not flush stinkbugs down the toilet in order to prevent them from expelling their stink, and then worry about wasting water with all that flushing that has nothing to do with human excretions and everything to do my personal aversion to stinkbugs, and to the stinkbugs’ proliferation.
And by the way, I am not generally squeamish about insects. I keep bees, for goodness sake. Once in Oaxaca Reine and I ate chapulines (toasted grasshoppers); they were crunchy and, though not delicious, were relatively innocuous. There are few things I like better than watching spiders spin webs.
Where have I failed, in this elementary task of home maintenance? Does it really matter that I can make pesto or lemon soufflé, if a stinkbug drops from the chandelier onto your shoulder during the main course? (Yes, this has happened.) It seems to me that while I was raised to have few expectations for myself, it was assumed that I would manage a household and that I would dominate the domestic realm as my mother did, and does. (Though now that I consider it, since my father’s death - predating his death really, but only noticed during those weeks when we were all sitting at his bedside, dishing up the morphine - my mother’s kitchen has been infested with pantry moths. Generations of pantry moths. But pantry moths are not stinkbugs. They do not resonate of moral laxity and turpitude as stinkbugs do.)
According to an interview we heard last week on Science Friday, on NPR, with an entomophagist, of all the insects this writer/researcher had eaten all over the world, the most disgusting was a stinkbug he had eaten alive. Once in his mouth the stinkbug crawled around and so he, the voluntary entomophagist, was required (By custom? By his captors? At gunpoint??) to bite down and crush the stinkbug and then not only did it smell terrible, but its viscera oozed out and did not taste at all good.
But at least the stinkbugs have not moved into his home, causing him (me) to castigate him(my)self as a failed housefrau, unworthy of the title.