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Thursday, July 1, 2010

God's Little Cows--Ben Nardolilli

The trip back home was filled with a few triumphs and some small disasters. Nothing of that time is worth mentioning since it all balanced out. For example, there was the last night back in my parents’ place. I was in the room I raised myself in, flags, maps, posters, pictures, and postcards all where I had left them, representing places I still had yet to visit, let alone conquer. Since I would have to get up in the morning to catch the bus, I decided that it was best to take a shower in the evening. I am a morning shower person. I like to embrace the day as cleanly as possible. But the bus trip back to Pittsburgh would end up dirtying me no matter how much I showered, so it was better to save time and get the shower out of the way while I could.

I gathered up a clean pair of boxers with paisley designs on them and a t-shirt. These would form my uniform for sleep. In the bathroom I turned all the handles and knobs so that I got an elevated stream of water coming out at the temperature that I desired. Back in my room I undressed and put my clothes in my white wicker hamper. I took a red towel and wrapped it around me. My parents had not bought a new set in a while, or at least not one for my brother and me. It no longer felt as soft as I remembered it back in high school, when I would use it on my face to wash off stage makeup after a play.

Soon, the water was coming out of the showerhead in nice thin columns. They almost looked like threads that could be somehow woven into wet textiles. I put my hand in the stream to see if it was warm enough yet. It was too warm for drinking, but not hot enough for me. While waiting for the temperature to rise, I looked up at the ceiling. I saw something crawling. It was a small dot that was capable of flight. I blew some air in its direction and it did not move. Such small creatures are fine outside, and normally do not bother me. But having a small unidentified flying object right over me indoors, especially while nude, made me feeling vulnerable.

Shooing the speck away with the wave of my distant hand was ineffective. It stayed on the ceiling, hanging upside down or perhaps thinking I was the one hanging the wrong way. Normally I am a pacifist, but when an insect, bug, or arachnid comes into a space I consider quite personal, I want to get rid of it. It is no personal slight against the creature, but if I somehow found my way to its sacred spot, say the underside of a leaf, it would probably act the same way towards me. Looking at the dot hanging on my ceiling reminded me of when my brother was bitten by a spider while bathing in the same bathroom many years ago.

My first attempt to dislodge it was with water. In my mind bugs and water do not mix, especially the flying ones. Nothing wounds them so easily than a simple jet or spray of droplets in their direction. So I cupped my hands under the shower and tossed water at the little dot. The water rose and landed on the ceiling, but seemed to fall around the insect, not on it. It remained clinging in the same place. The water beaded up and began dropping back down from the ceiling. It was like watching a melting chandelier.

I tried a spray of water again. A little bit of it landed on the speck and it flew in a small loop, leaving the wet space on the ceiling for a dry one. The water was pooling and dripping like before and I did not want the cool, paint-stained drops to land on me. I took the towel off and made it into a ball with my hands. I was naked before the little dot, but did not care. Putting my feet on the flat cold edge of the bathtub, I raised myself up and balanced using the curtain rod. I turned the towel into a thick whip of red coarse cloth. I crouched and then let the towel loose like a hand-held thunderbolt. I absorbed the wet spot on the ceiling and I captured the bug.

I got off my little pedestal and examined the contents of my towel. It was wet and I could see a tiny dead creature wrapped up in the folds. I saw legs, a body, and a shell. The shell was red with black spots. I had killed a ladybug. Something inside me felt bad for doing it. They are not a vicious kind of insect. They do not bite or sting. They do not make loud music or buzzing sounds. There is a sort of clumsiness about them as they scurry and fly with their round bodies. It’s bad luck to kill one, my mother says, and although I’m not superstitious, the idea that I had been fooling around and acting like a warrior to kill a ladybug just did not sit right with me.

I tossed the remains of the insect into the stream running along the tub, from where the shower hit the back corner of the porcelain and caused a small waterfall. I imagined it a bit like disposing of bodies in the Ganges, the river carrying away whatever clumsy round soul the ladybug carried. Once it was gone, I stepped into the shower and cleaned myself. I took soap and water over my body and washed my hair and beard. Running my hands through the thick fields ready for a combine harvester of scissors, I realized it had been nearly six months since my last haircut.

After I got out and turned the water off, I dried myself using the same towel from before. It was slightly wet already and so was not as absorbent. However, I was more concerned that the parts from the ladybug would get on me. Checking my body, it seemed that I was all right. I looked at the drain to see if any parts were sticking up or out, but it was all clear. In my room I dressed for bed and noticed a bright red dot clinging to my t-shirt. I thought something inside of me had burst, or that my shirt somehow had a boil.

Looking closer I saw it was another ladybug. I was not sure how so many were getting into my room, but decided this one had to be saved. Shaking my t-shirt a bit caused the ladybug to fall into my hands. I opened my window to see if I could let it out, but there was a screen separating outside and inside. A breeze could pass through the holes, but no ladybugs. I shut the window and tried to think of what to do with it. I did not want to rush down the stairs and open the front door and wake everybody up. But leaving it in my room raised the possibility of a whole colony of the roaming red dots erupting.

So I went into my brother’s room. He was away at college and I decided that it would be safe to leave the ladybug there. So as to not raise suspicion, I kept things dark. Without the light, my feet kept hitting old toys, books, and the edges of furniture, but I found his old stereo. It was as flat and unused a surface as any, and so I left my ladybug there. My hope was that my mother would find it, and let it go outside. She believes finding a ladybug is good luck.

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