Now I realize the following confession may drive scads and scores of readers away, but I’m nothing if not honest (except with myself, of course).
Here in Taiwan they don’t mess around with mosquitoes. They play electric tennis with them. As you probably know, we in the USA have two main ways of dispensing with mosquitoes, the creature my old friend always said were the one animal God let the Devil create. Often we just try to smack them to death with our bare hands. So savage, so artless. Alternatively, we let inert hanging bug zappers slaughter any bug stupid enough to stumble in with a small shower of crackling blue light. But the Taiwanese are much more hands on in their bug prevention. Most Taiwanese homes are equipped — armed? — with a plastic tennis racket with electrified wires as the net. Don’t worry, there is a trigger. (And yes, I’ve tested it; the shock hurts like a devil.) If a mosquito begins to pester you just swipe him into the electric net and a short, sharp, popping sound with a tiny flash occurs. Mosquito magic.
Here’s where the readers start leaving. The charge doesn’t actually kill the mosquitoes on the first zap. It just sends them plummeting to the nearest surface where they flutter their wings like machine guns moving them so fast, in fact, that the bugs spin like tops. Eventually the charge dissipates, their wings stop twitching and they stop spinning. So there’s the mosquito, with a lot less pluck, on your dining room table, twitching his legs feebly every now and then.
So there’s the mosquito. Then the ethical and aesthetic dilemmas start hitting you like cold rain. There’s the mosquito. It’s up to you, to me, actually, whether to kill it or just let it twitch at the gates of death. I opt for the former. With my thumb hovering just over the trigger, placing the wires on the seizing little bloodsucker, I wait — and then zap. A miniscule web of electricity course up and down any parts touching the net until, if you hold the trigger long enough, the entire bug is vaporized in a bright burst.
Maybe this kind of thing tickles your fancy. If not my fancy, it does at least satisfy my primitive instincts about biological justice and retribution. Pester me and I’ll vaporize you, sucker. Of course, I admit (here’s where the rest of the sane readers leave), there is another, deeper, darker impulse at work. I want a show. Vaporizing mosquitoes has its perks, but surely such a brilliant invention as an electrified household bug racket can be put to better uses — on bigger subjects.
Yes, it turns out, it can be used for bigger visions. My bloodlust, my zap frenzy, was stirred first a week ago when I saw a moth flopping around my living room. Where’s my racket! I couldn’t find the zapper but I also couldn’t shake my darker visions of how a moth might… perform on the racket of doom. The moth got away but my imaginings fluttered in my mind like a moth around an oily flickering torch.
And then, three days ago, the Darwinian stakes were raised even higher. I saw a roach. A flying roach. One meter to my left. Hopping from my floor to my computer box. Then to my door. Then — I once again could not find my racket of doom, so I was left spraying the door with Raid; the little beastie crawled out fifteen minutes later and I ended him the good old fashioned way: with my shoe. How boring. How unelectrifying. How odorless.
Until tonight. Tonight I finally got my chance. I had unearthed the racket while sorting some dirty laundry (systematically strewn all over floor as usual, of course) My new roommate, James, and I were talking when he suddenly stuck his head into the hallway. “I thought I saw a–,” he mumbled.
I saw the crunchy little beastie making his sly escape. He froze as I crouched down at him. “James,” I said, “you cover him. I’m getting the racket!”
I darted into my room, pulled the racket out of the dirty clothes like Excalibur in Arthur’s young hand, got the recon that the perp had moved into the bathroom, told James to block the drain, and scurried into the bathroom after Mr Roachie.
He made a last desperate jump into the corner as I swiped at him and missed. But then he was mine. I laid the net over him, he hopped reflexively with fear (if such a term applies to such a critter) and then he popped. It was surreal. Too terrifying to be sublime. Too cinematic for mere words. I was temporarily blinded in one eye. He had all but the dregs spilled out of him. All he could manage was a slow extension of one back leg. The other leg, it looked to me, had been blown clean off.
“Kill him, man,” said James, “you gotta finish him now.”
“Hmm,” I mused. “I’m not so sure I’m up for roasted roach smell?” (One of many valuable things to consider before unsheathing Excalibur, I know.)
Down did I press the net and the trigger. Mr Roach spasmed and hopped onto his ruined legs again. He made an aimless, futile lunge from the corner but I only pressed the net onto his smooth wings. The tiny web of yellow electricity skittered and scattered over his back like a Jackson Pollock painting. Amazingly, he still had some kick.
So I ended what I never should have started. I cooked a large roach on my bathroom floor. His legs sparked and popped in hesitant, erratic snaps as the current coursed through his shriveling body. His antenna burned down like candle wick whenever they touch the net. And, worst of all, his stench wafted up under my sink and into my face like an invisible cloud of haunted pestilence. The smell was beyond atrocious. I know of no other smell to describe than, ironically, burning marijuana. (That is one way to keep me off pot. There really isn’t a first time everything; anything that smells like a roasted roach will never enter my lungs. Simple. Period.)
Clearly (for any psychopaths still reading), today was a special day. Today was new most awful smell day.