by Karen S. Elliott
The Ants carry the Exalted One into the Mud-Hut on a palanquin supported by bronze poles. They are such show-offs, the Ants — just because they can carry so much. Big deal. They are so boring to look at. All black like Goths. They make me sick. But I am an under-moth, and I must deal with it.
The lady-bugs-in-waiting are next, they flutter behind in case a leg is dropped. The platform is a spiral stage in the middle of fur-coated caterpillars. They make me sick, too — they are so show-offy, those fur coats in ridiculous colors. And it’s after Memorial Day, so they should not be wearing their fur coats at all.
Along the sides of the pheasant-feathered palanquin, the festoons glare with ridiculous paintings of the constellations. Some bug belches in the back. They all teek-teek on eensy feet about the bandstand. Crickets entertain us, their back legs and wings strumming.
Pine cones are fired up and flare against faces of the spectators. Chandeliers of spiders’ webs reflect the moonlight and the lightning bugs’ butts. For a moment, I am mesmerized by the glow; my nature begs me to flit toward the light. I wrestle with my feelings, but I stay still.
The Spiders trundle their saddlebags across the cobblestones and picnic on wrapped-up corpses. Above, the scaffolding groans with the weight of millions of gnats. Twenty-thousand strong, the gnats play and watch the chess game, each contingent moves a piece along the squares on the chessboard. Underworld side bets are taking place, nesting items being exchanged like trading cards. Kennels of ticks, they bark and bang against the wire with boundless energy.
The Exalted Mantis raises her foremost legs. The decapitated weathercock stops with an excruciating squeal, its tail a sun-reflecting rainbow. Amorous eight-legged spinners stop and suspend webs, sixteen legs in a final upheaval, stricken in mid-weave. The Mantis bangs the gavel; the arguments begin.
Holy catfish! Is that a felt scrap fashioned into a Colonial tri-corner hat on the Mantis? On a triangular head? That fashion statement is rather redundant, don’t you think? Someone must talk to her costume attendant. I much prefer last winter’s Russian ushanka to this ridiculous frippery.
Butterflies flit about flapping multi-colored wings of amethyst and cerulean and scarlet, pointing their antennae at those who are disruptive. The Hummingbird Brigade is overhead, creating breezes so that we can suffer the humidity of this shelter.
In the back, a flare of activity — a lady-bug-in-waiting is snared on the thorn of a tea rose! Several officers slursh over to the cacophony, silver slime and shiny shells march out to dispose of the annoyance. The clutch of the thorny European roses finally lets her go.
Along the perimeter, floral clusters crane their stem-necks and point their open blooms to the action on the bandstand. Youthful stamens and pistils are straining and stretching; they vie for attention and are shushed! Their elders flare their petals — a final murmur and then a hush.
Snails monitor the activity very slowly, shells polished like constabulary badges. We all watch the frozen weathercock on top of the bronze hall. We wait to see which way he will swing, announcing the verdict. Time is suspended. An argument begins. Clambering is discouraged.
The Mantis raises an appendage and demands silence; she rotates her head and glares at the Snails. They tick their shells, one against the other, signaling for quiet. A hush. The verdict comes down.
There has been conspiracy among the Cockroaches! This cannot stand! This cannot be allowed! The multiple eyes of multiple nations are upon us! We set a precedent, and a decision is dealt upon the prehistoric little garbage-munchers. The Mantis points to the compost foothills. They shall be expelled!
Little weaving, little buzz, little flutter. It has been decided; it will be written on left-over parchment wings and fur pelts of verbose caterpillars.
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From my desk on the trellis, overlooking the hubbub in the soil and tiny pebbles of the garden below, I watch the Snails escort the convicted Cockroaches — in braided chains of their own making — across the wide expanse of the garden. Slowed by the Snails, the Cockroaches lurch like zombies. They must travel over decorative brick and hot desert slate, through forests of grass. Their expedition is observed by Millipede urchins and an assortment of Beetles in fine Queen Anne’s lace petticoats. They are on their way to the compost.
Arachnid runners in hour-glass-stamped tunics jump upon my stem with the latest interviews and eye-witness reports from the ground. Dragonflies alight on surrounding leaves with their eye-in-the-sky newsreels.
Below, spectators and hecklers en route hurl discarded coffee grounds and bits of rotted cabbage leaves. Cockroaches snick-snick along, shackled together like a chain gang. Wild flowers unwrap their withering petals, slinging dried up pollen upon the procession. Not that it would damage the Cockroach’s armor plating — it is simply an exhibition of dissent.
I lament the current state of insect affairs. It seems that just weeks ago all was serene here in this patch of garden; coming out of cocoon or burrow or hive, we all knew our place. We all knew the responsibilities of our genus, be we Lepidopteron, Arachnid, Coleopteran. Until recently floral zones were clear — more comprehensible. Ah, the good ole days. How I miss them.
As I lament, battalions of Dandelions release clusters of fluffy white paratroopers. They float and are caught upon the breezes. They fan out in military fashion and set up their posts.
I exchange pieces of parchment with several reporter Moths, and dispatch them to the lower trellis floors. Ancient mimeographs start their incessant clanging; recycled butterfly-wing scales are loaded into their ink wells.
Through my binoculars, I watch curiously as a conveyance of a crisp upturned shell is pushed into a copse of mushrooms by two Cockroaches in Ghillie suits. My breath catches. My phototactic eyes bulge.
Boom! The tiny cart of fertilizer explodes! The shock wave rumbles across a broad expanse, blowing Moths, Butterflies and other winged creatures thousands of millimeters. The smoke clears from the blast site and a crater the size of a bird bath emerges. Insurgent Roaches scurry in clutching spears of dried grasses; they punch through the constraints of their brethren, releasing them.
The stench of charred wings and scorched appendages floats skyward in a stinky black cloud. Pulverized Snail shells litter the blast zone; their slime plops upon the earth. Dead leaves are pounded into mulch. Under my six feet, cracks appear in the trellis. I hear snapping noises. My workmates and I tremble on a precipitous ledge. Bugs cling to the trellis with all the legs they’ve got. Cries of terror and pain disrupt the black after-bomb silence. My feathery antennae are tingly and itchy. I see Emergency Medical Ticks — EMT’s — dispatched and they begin infusing stored blood into the wounded.
Further out, among the branches of the mighty oak and maple, our avian neighbors sit and observe, their twittering squelched.
The Garden Birds
I love this time of year — the springtime. I once again start a new home from fluff out of the dryer vent, discarded bits of yarn from old sweaters; weave in a few twigs and bits of lint that flutter down from materials clothes-pinned on the line. Sometimes I get lucky and find a loose thread on a cloth diaper. That’s the ultimate find for a nest-builder.
Ah, what’s that smell? The squishy goodness, sprinkled with a smattering of earth. My mate — in his pointed red fedora and lush black beard — has brought me a plump, juicy worm! He winks his limpid black eye at me and asks would I like to rub wings later. He gives me an affectionate beak tweak.
From several branches away a mad cacophony erupts between two odious Blue Jays — their crests erect, blue and black feathers engaged in a broiling rustle. They are in a struggle for a female. What a ridiculous exhibition. I turn away, and hop back to my terrace.
A rainbow of iridescence cascades past my branch. Ah, the Hummers. How lovely their costumes; they are like jewels of amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and jade. Rather large proboscis they all have, and at times they are the brunt of good-natured teasing. Their fluttering creates the most delicious breezes. I’d invite them in for respite, but our tastes are quite disparate.
What nasty business is going on down below in the city of bugs, among the rubbish of the compost? Most distressing. By Avian Law we are not permitted to interfere. We must observe and silence our tweets. Their preposterous squabbles infect my dreams and create great disorder. The recent disturbance (such a blast!) was muffled at this distance. We have now gotten twittering reports from the orange-breasted Robins and the acrobatic Finches. I admit that I am often jealous of the Finches — the way they are able to hang upside down. What a merriment that must be!
Somber-looking Crows roost on the wire adjacent to the Trellis. They wait for word from the grapevine about the filling of the bird feeder. The Crows will tell the Woodpeckers; the Woodpeckers will tack-tack the news for all to hear. Such yummies our Gardener puts out for us — black sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanuts, an occasional handful of currants. Oft-times she sets out a block of suet; the goo feels so deliciously decadent on my beak. The Mockingbirds and Thrashers flutter in in droves when she sets out a halved apple or other chopped fruits. I do not care for the fruits — they create a great disorder upon my delicate digestion.
Our Gardener scrubbed and re-filled the birdbath before the setting of yesterday’s sun. What a reveling holiday atmosphere this creates! Jump in! The water is fine, so fine. The juveniles are reprimanded by their mothers about deposits recklessly left — shameful. They are sent home with quiet dispatch.
A squeal from the portal — here she comes! The Gardener is coming! Several of our Avian persuasion beat wing away from the suet. The rest of us in the branches are quiet, waiting for today’s smorgasbord to appear. I observe, attentively, smacking my beak. She is so kind, our Gardener, so respectful. She amuses me when she tries to whistle. I do not understand one word. But bless her for trying.
Oh goodness, I need to oil those hinges. Every time I push open this screen door, I scare away all the birds! Oh wait, there’s a couple of Cardinals up in the maple tree. Isn’t that nice, they’ve built a nest, started a home. That male has a worm and he’s offering it to his lady friend. Wow, that’s a big worm. Those Blue Jays are so raucous! Must they be so noisy? Hush now!
What a lovely day, not too hot, not too chilly. I just love the spring. The sun is bright and so warm. Don’t want to get a burn, so I should sit in the shade I guess. I’ll just sit down here in my rickety lawn chair and enjoy my first iced tea of the day. Ah! I really do need to go pick up a new chair. My butt’s gonna bust through this thing any day.
Oh, look! Hummingbirds! I should have brought my camera out with me, darn it. I wonder if Mr. Beverin has hummers again this year. They are so beautiful — all those shiny colors. They look like feathered jewels. And so quick! Vrtt! Here they are. Vrtt! There they go. My my.
Those silly Yellow Finches, how do they do that, hang upside down and eat? They are so entertaining. Like tiny circus acrobats. I’ve never seen any other bird hang upside down like that. I hope those crows over there don’t bother them. It looks like they are waiting around for some big bird announcement. The crows, they can be a bother.
Darn it, look at that bird bath! Tsk, tsk. Bird poopy. And I just scrubbed it yesterday! Ah well. And the feeder, too — nearly empty! I just loaded that yesterday. Piggy birdies. I wonder if the squirrels are still getting up there. And look at the suet! It’s nearly gone already!
It’s so quiet and peaceful. I just love it here in my backyard, not bothered by the rushing traffic noises from the highway, no running about in a crowded shopping center, kids out of the house. It's almost too quiet. Twe-whoo, twe-whoo. They look at me funny — cocking their heads — when I whistle. I wonder if they understand me.
What time is it? 1:15... twenty minutes until the Phillies game. What’s that tickle on my arm? Aw, a lady bug. I’ll just pick her up — gently, gently, Lois — with my finger and put her on this little tea rose over here. There ya go, little lady bug! How precious, little fluttery wings.
Oh! My breath catches whenever I see the Praying Mantis! Look at her sitting there on that leaf, so regal, like she thinks she’s a queen. I wonder if she’s after those moths. Ew, spiders on the trellis. Well, they serve a purpose too, I suppose. All these bugs, running about, so busy busy busy.
Are those cockroaches?! Ah! Agnes, bring me the bug spray! Quick! Odd, it looks like that cockroach over at the compost is wearing a grass skirt! Oh, that’s funny, that a cockroach would wear a grass skirt. You’re losing it, Lois.
What the — oh dear, what’s with this brown spot? What got to this patch? Wonder if this has anything to do with those darn roaches. Blech. Guess I’ll have to seed that. Hmm, seed, burlap, coupla nails to hold down the burlap, need to pull out the hose...
Lois! The game’s started!
Copyright © 2010 by Karen S. Elliott