The Slider, Chapter 15: The Paper Wasp Warning

CASINO CAFE

Tania Snake made it to the casino with ten minutes to spare.  She wasn’t the only one.  The entire swing shift was flowing in, excepting only Roberta.  Roberta was always late.  Roberta was mighty close to getting herself fired.  “Who was in the accident?”  She asked the air, figuring somebody would know.  There were still cops out there, directing traffic so the outbound lane could be cleared of debris.

“Sherry Two Feathers.”  The voice was high, piping almost.  Frannie was built like a linebacker and sang soprano in the Catholic church choir.  She also had the latest gossip and loved to share.  “Hit and run.  Big horse trailer creamed Sherry’s Toyota.  Totaled it.”

Trust Frannie to lead with property damage.  “Sherry get hurt bad?”  She didn’t dare ask if her second cousin once removed had been killed.  There was always more than enough death to go around on the Reservation.

“Knocked out, I heard.  Ambulance took her.  But guess what?  She coulda been burned alive if it weren’t for your boyfriend.”

What?  “My–Tom?”

“Yep.  He saw it happen.  He was at the stop sign.  Happened right in front of him.  Hit and runner going ninety mile an hour.  That Tom, he jumped out, got Sherry out before she come to.  Then the car burned, ka-whoosh!  Sherry woulda been sizzle cakes if it wasn’t for Tom.  Bet he wants to tell you all about it, too.  He’s been in the café ever since.”

Tania doubted that.  Not that Tom Slider was in the café or that he’d rescued Two Feathers, but that he wanted to tell her all about it.  From what she’d seen of the man so far–which wasn’t nearly enough, she wanted to see more–the only topic of conversation he avoided like the plague was Any Good Deed By Tom.    She placed her handbag in the locker, spun the dial, and headed out front for a quick word with him.

“You look tired.”  Tania’s heart melted, seeing him like that after what she’d just heard.

“I do?”  His grin lit up his whole face.  “I had no idea.  Maybe you guys need to make stouter coffee.”

“Guess saving lives takes it out of you, huh?”

“One life.  And only maybe.”

“Right, sweetheart.”  She reached across the counter, placed a hand on his arm.  “No maybe about it.  Sherry wouldn’t have made it without you.”

He shrugged uncomfortably.  “If you say so.  At least she’s not Japanese.”

“Japanese?”

“Old school Japanese believe a person who’s life is saved by another owes the rescuer a favor that can never be repaid, yet the effort must be made–with interest, no less–so the poor fool who did the rescuing is bombarded with favors by the rescued one, nonstop, ad infinitum, until one of them dies.”

“Hm.”

“You going to be too tired after your shift to hang out for a while?”

It was her turn to smile.  “You’re in luck.  I’m off tomorrow.  If you’d like to follow me home and take care of a wasp nest near my front door, I might even let you sleep on the couch.”

That made him laugh, blue eyes twinkling, dark mustache dancing.  “The couch is as far as I get, now is it?”

“It’s only a little wasp nest.”  Her dark eyes gave away nothing.  Stoic Indian princess.

“Hope it’s not a little couch.”

“It’s not.”

“All right, then.”  He stood, fishing a couple of dollar bills out of his wallet to cover the tip.  Blueberry pie, she noted, along with the coffee.  “I’ll head out to my place, get a few hours sleep, and be back here in time to follow you home like a little lost puppy.”

Smiling, she watched him go.  Fine figure of a man, that one.

She had no intention of relegating him to the couch.

=======================================

TOM SLIDER

I really did need sleep.  A couple of hours, anyway.  It had been an eventful day.  Otis was in the house, windows open, country western music floating out.  Hank Williams, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.   “Coming in,” I hollered, but had no idea if he heard me over Hank or not.  I was reaching for the doorknob when a bee?  Wasp?  went buzzing by my head.  And then another and–what?

A paper wasp nest had materialized in the entryway’s top corner, no more than a foot from the door if I opened it, no more than a foot from my head if I walked inside.  Triple images cascaded through my inner vision.  I tamped them down.  Deal with the threat first.

Walking around to the kitchen window, I called again.  “Hey, Otis!”

The music stopped abruptly.  “Yeah?”

“We got a wasp nest by the front door.”

“They ain’t bothering me, Tom.”

“Not bothering me, either.  But the odds aren’t good for the long haul.”

“Suppose not.  You wanna kill ’em, then?”

“Not want to.  Figure I got it to do, though.  Unless you know how to persuade their queen to relocate.”

“Tried.  They voted me down.  Do what you gotta do.”

Just don’t talk about it any more than you have to, is what he meant.  I went back to the truck, retrieved the can of Raid Wasp & Hornet long distance spray I’d purchased at Safeway for dealing with Tania’s problem, and considered the nest.  Both common sense and the label said to stand a “safe distance away” when attacking the insects’ home but that wasn’t going to be possible in this case.  Due to the way our home’s entryway was built and the positioning of the nest, I had no choice.

Sigh.

Slicker donned and bandanna over my lower face, bandit style, I got in position and–blasted trigger wouldn’t depress. Oh. Remove tab first. I got in position and pressed the button. Nothing. Pressed Harder. Nothing. Pressed harder yet, and suddenly we were in business. Me and the spray, that is.  Not the innocent creatures on the receiving end of my attack.

There would be strays coming back to the nest for a while. I wanted it out of there as soon as possible, couldn’t stand the sight of the peaceful, dead, dying, lost and confused fliers, but removal would have to wait until tomorrow. Gotta let Death do its work. I went in the side door. Otis would do the same, avoid that front door until I gave him the all clear. We didn’t talk about it. There was plenty left in the can to exterminate the nest at Tania’s.

Peaceful paper wasps, born with the blessing/curse of venom stinger tails. Inside, alone in my bedroom where nobody could see, I wanted to cry. Didn’t, but knew, knew full well that Spirit had clobbered me with a triple hitter to get my attention. The accident in front of my face that nearly took a human life. Not one but two, countem two wasp nests it took to get through to me. Few people knew about the way I paid attention to these messages–though many a Native understood such things, so maybe I was living in the right area–but why oh why had I been so dense that all this had to happen to make sure I understood?

S.U.S. Sudden understanding sucks.

It was all about my Emily. For all these years, I’d believed she’d left our life together too early, that we had unfinished business. Then hottie blondie Lanie Delaney showed up, Emily reincarnated without a doubt, and I’d thought, okay, maybe we can finish that unfinished business.  Never mind that if I did, I’d be taking her away from my own son, whatever their relationship might be.

But I’d been wrong. One thousand percent wrong. Rescuing the woman named Sherry from her wrecked car? I’d done all I could there…and, I now realized, I’d done all I could for Emily, too. There was nothing more that had to be done.  The only thing keeping me off balance was me.

When I’d fixated on charismatic young Lanie, it was as reckless as the hit and run driver who’d clobbered Two Feathers,  the same as inviting the wasp nest to my home and also to Tania’s home. Could I snag the girl if I really tried? Sure. Maybe. Like inviting the wasps to live closer. Too close. Posing venomous threats to my legally blind partner and to Native girlfriend, not to mention my own alias. Threats that in the end I would’ve had to remove just like I’d removed the unconscious accident victim, just like I was in the process of removing wasps. Face it: I had to kill the wasps. If I ever allowed Lanie to get close, I would in some sense–not physically, but in some spiritual sense–end up killing her…after hurting the two most important people in my life.

Blink’s powerful body thumped on the mattress as the orange tomcat launched from the floor. His peremptory yeow! prompted me to shift from my side to my back, allowing my left arm to welcome him. He settled down, propped his massive head atop my upper arm, and promptly purred himself to sleep. Another day in the life, he might as well have said. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Before I knew it, I’d followed him to dreamland. When my alarm went off at ten p.m., getting me up in time to be at the Casino Café by midnight, I felt some better.

One more nest to exterminate, delicate intricate paper construction, Nature’s beauty, happy waspy home to destroy. I still didn’t like it, but at least the greater error had been avoided.

While washing my face,  I shuddered at how close it had come, how foolish I had been. I thanked the Powers That Be for the warnings that had finally gotten my attention. I thanked the wasps for sacrificing their lives to save me from myself.  And I thanked Blink the tomcat with all my heart for his love and his feline wisdom, though he was still sound asleep on my bed and probably couldn’t care less.

 

6 thoughts on “The Slider, Chapter 15: The Paper Wasp Warning

  1. Excellent chapter, Ghost, though I was surprised you didn’t throw in a cliff-hanger at the end. But I know it wasn’t needed. Your story is full of lessons and insights on how to live an active life while also following spiritual guidelines and guidance. No navel-watching for long hours: just living life fully and in a state of awareness.
    The Emily situation is quite understandable: I once had a second chance at my first adult love, and remember my cousing taking the part of your cat: “its in the past, and you can’t go back. You have to move forward.” That advice, and the fact that she never came looking for me personally (her sister had given me the message since I worked a few blocks from her home) let me calm down and understand that the past was certainly past…. “Bummer”…. LOL and yes, I still love her though I know nothing about her now. And now, I have a God-sent loving spouse who would neer have ben in my life had I tried to go back to my old flame and fire. 😉

    As for paper wasps, I had to deal with them regularly when overseas, and it is no fun… I would sometimes use a torch to fire them up, or just spray kerosene on them… insectiside dowsn’t work as well in open spaces and gets my allergies all worked up… the ones I hated having to kill off were the miniature bees that live in cracks and brick openings, which don’t sting but do scare the bejeezus our of my wife and children… They are not natural to dry climates so I don’t know if you have seen them. But with the fear of Africanized bees attacking my dog or kids, I had no doubts about killing the small hives around us. But out in the forest, we just avoided them.
    Thanks again, Ghost!

  2. Thanks, Manny. This chapter didn’t allow a cliffhanger. It just slammed down with the final sentence and said, “The End.”

    [Aside: I’m watching the news as I write, coverage of the New York City blackout. Of course, major cities all over the planet–not just here in the U.S.–are extremely vulnerable when it comes to power outages. The electrical grid has certainly upgraded life for a lot of folks in a lot of ways, yet has put them at even greater risk when tech fails.]

    No, I haven’t seen the miniature bees you describe. As for Africanized bees, authorities seem to be telling us that most bees we see these days are such. I remember having to hire an exterminator when Pam & I lived at the Border Fort. A sizeable hive had “dug in” under a steel storage shed, their home accessed through a hole left by some other critter. The exterminator told us they were in fact Africanized, which we had not known.

    I once made the mistake of firing up interest with an “old flame,” specifically my third ex-wife. My error occurred in 1985. The lapse was brief yet caused significant damage, not to me but to her. I did learn not to do that again but it was not my finest hour.

  3. Actually, the bee experts are right the African invasive species (the ones researchers let loose in the Amazon) were highly aggressive and the first wave of them was dangerous, but as with invasions into China, they were assimilated. Bees in North America are bred for gentleness and in the last 20 plus years the industry has learnt how to eliminate the more agressive hives\queens. The are more aggressive, probably produce more honey, and, but can be handled in the movable bee transports that go from farm to farm… 🙂
    the media keeps on harping on the death of the bees, but apparently it was a passing problem that has been corrected. I still worry, after years of warning about how genetically modified crops are dangerous and contaminate everything, but they too are like an invasive species in the world.

    But how does this relate to the power outage in the Times Square area? Apparently a transformer (transformer bank?) blew out and created the chaos (at midnight it was still a mess, since we drove across Manhattan and it was bumber to bumper). Transformers are big and hard to switch in and out. And most transformer fires are due to maintenance issues.
    I am sure we are not being told the truth about this problem, which is normal – in my oil industry day we worried about guerillas using the electric grid as a weapon since huge transformers are made to order and can take months to replace even when you have one in stock!
    I wonder what the waking dream is about this… I had a flash on the immigration chaos. Bees, GMO’s, invasive species, Chinese absorbtion of invaders, media hysterics, and transformers,

  4. I have no idea how–or if–it relates to the Times Square power outage. That just happened to be on when I fired up the computer and I found it interesting, especially since you live back thataway.

    Agreed: we’re probably not being told the truth about the cause of the blackout, nor would I expect to be. Why publicly expose any weakness in the grid for our enemies to exploit? They (adversaries) may have already been involved, but whether they were or not, volunteering too much information would be foolish. Like a martial artist announcing, “I’m pretty tough, but I have a bad habit of following x kick by y punch by z move. So now you know and you can prepare to take me out without a sweat….”

    No clue what the overall waking dream you describe is about. Seldom hurts to ponder a bit, though. 😀

  5. You can’t make ceramics without a crucible to melt and combine the materials, can you? The Chinese simply absorb, while the US has traditionally used the melting pot or crucible to transform its invasive species…
    Manny

  6. Indeed. We do (in the U.S.) seem to have a growing problem with that now, though, as the “melting pot” concept breaks down more and more. Or perhaps that’s mere illusion. It’s not like we haven’t always had numerous groups that did not assimilate, or at least not fully. That is, more folks arriving who instead of saying, “Let’s become American,” prefer the approach of, “Let’s change America.”

    The Chinese, obviously, have a huge capacity for absorption due to their extreme population numbers. Comparatively, we don’t.

    Naturally, throughout history and undoubtedly in prehistoric times as well, it’s a two-way flow regardless of anyone’s particular intentions. Greek slaves certainly influenced their Roman owners, for example. Alexander thought he could, I guess you could say “reeducate” the peoples he conquered, but in the end, who wound up changed the most? The flux of change, mixing and bubbling, human chemical reagents, affects us all whether we recognize it or not. The slave plantation culture of the American South, clung to fiercely by its dominant adherents, never had a chance of “staying the same”–because nothing does. Ever.

    My personal inner dictionary considers “stasis” a synonym for “illusion.” Even here in “flyover country,” rural Montana, where ranching families I knew in my youth are still ranching, nothing remains the same. My own family has gone from “no phone” to smart phones. My alma mater, Montana Sate University at Bozeman, was a fairly small town when I graduated in 1970 but has since exploded population-wise.

    If we could take a look at society a century from now, would you and I recognize it? Maybe, but maybe not. At best, I’m thinking it would be a stretch.

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