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by Charles C. Cole

CURTIS enters his living room to find an unexpected guest squatting on the floor, nibbling food ferociously and watching TV.

BUGS is the personification of an invasive pest, a combination of frat-house slob and the annoying neighbor who thinks he’ll just take over and make himself at home.

BUGS: (Mouth full) Hey. How’s it hanging?

CURTIS: What? Who are you? What’re you doing here?

BUGS: (Mesmerized by the TV and grunting excitedly) “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” From Die Hard. God, I love TV! What a life! What an invention!

CURTIS (exasperated): Who are you and what are you doing in my house?

BUGS: Right. Don’t panic. You’re home early. You weren’t supposed to see us. That was the plan anyway.

CURTIS: But I do see you, and I want answers.

BUGS: Right. Of course. You would. (He stuffs some chips in his mouth.) This was bound to happen sooner or later.

CURTIS: Do I need to call the cops?

BUGS: Don’t bother. They can’t help you. This is out of their jurisdiction, you might say.

CURTIS: Because?

BUGS: I forget it’s not so obvious, which is a good thing, believe me. Because I’m a bug.

CURTIS (incredulously): You’re a bug?

BUGS: Technically, I’m a colony. This is a disguise. Very hi-tech. Turns out, humans don’t hate bugs; they only hate things that LOOK like bugs. Who knew? So now we look like you. Not all of us. “This” us. The copyright’s pending. I think there’s going to be a big interspecies demand.

CURTIS: Can I help you?

BUGS: Nope. We’re very self-sufficient. That’s how we’ve lasted so long. We’re just chowing down on your leftovers, then we’ll be on our way. (Eating.) But we do want to thank you. You have some of the best snacks on the market today. No kidding. No “organic wheat grass soda” for you, no, sir. We feel like we’re at one of those sweeping neighborhood picnics, like in the Currier and Ives pictures: yummy bounty everywhere, no sign of rain and the kids are all distracted down by the beach. Life’s good. You know what I mean?

CURTIS: I could step on you. I could squash you. Is that what you want?

BUGS: Cut it out. Look at me! It’s like you’re looking in a mirror. We could be related. You can’t hurt me.

CURTIS: What happened to “We this” and “We that”?

BUGS: It’s more accurate, true, but it kinda defeats the purpose of talking to you as an equal.

CURTIS: What else have you eaten?

BUGS: Dude! What haven’t I eaten? Look at these hands! I can open the fridge. I can open jars. I can even heat stuff in the oven. “Warmed-up leftovers!” Who knew it would make such a difference? De-lish! (Thought.) Oh, crap. You know, I think I left that thing on. I got distracted. Can you blame me? Not something we have back at the hive. Could you check? I kinda like to leave a house the way I found it, minus the food of course. Statistically, people are less likely to get offended and more open to a return visit. Hey, quick question, which Star Trek captain do you like best: Picard or Kirk?

CURTIS: I think you need to go.

BUGS: I will. I will. I’m just a little incapacitated at the moment: full to bursting, like you guys after Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking of which, when is that anyway? We haven’t cracked your whole “secret calendar code” yet. It’s supposed to be after the leaves fall, when it gets cold. Right? (Suddenly realizing how the season was named.) Fall! Oh my God, I get it! So “spring”? What is that named after: grasshoppers or fleas?

CURTIS: How do you feel about bug spray?

BUGS: Hate the stuff. And swatters. Don’t get me going. And those damned hypnotizing purple lights. What is it about those? They’re like the “silly cat videos” for my kind. Hey! I’ve got a question. Brushing your teeth! What’s up with that? You’ve got all this sweet sticky crummy-ness in your mouth, and you wash it off?! Ever heard of saving a bit for later?

CURTIS: I just want you to know something: it’s not personal. (EXITS.)

BUGS: Where you going? What’s not personal?

CURTIS: (Returning with bug spray.) This.

BUGS: Okay. Okay! I get the hint. (Standing.) Half the stuff I ate was expired, by your standards, or stale. Not that I’m complaining.

CURTIS: You’ve got ten seconds.

BUGS: So you probably don’t want to hear about the eggs I laid in your silverware drawer. The gift that keeps on giving.

CURTIS: (Feeling faint.) I’m going to have to have the place fumigated.

BUGS: No need to go to extremes. I’m just saying it could have been worse. There are no eggs. We’re here today, we’re gone today. Look, you left crumbs everywhere. We did you a favor. We are better than a Hoover, my friend. And your fridge has never been cleaner. Mostly condiments now and flat soda. And spoiled milk: even we don’t touch spoiled milk.

CURTIS: I could kill you where you stand.

BUGS: Yeah/no. Look at me: I’m humongous! I think you’re gonna need a bigger can. Sure, you could flatten me, but think of the stain. Oh, and we have this “stinky stink” that we exude upon death. Ordinarily, it’s not so bad, but there’s, like, a small city of busy beetles inside of this artificial skin sac.

CURTIS: I want my house back.

BUGS: You got it. See, you didn’t have to threaten anybody. We’re communicating. We’re done here. Don’t tell the neighbors, because we’re going there next. Don’t they have, like, an illegal daycare? That’s the rumor. A potato chip farm on the outside with a warehouse of Girl Scout cookies on the inside. We call it the Sugar Shack.

CURTIS: You’re disgusting.

BUGS: Speaking of “potatoes,” you’ve been a great host. Glad we didn’t have to come to blows. Well, in my case, stings or bites. You get the point. (Starts to EXIT.)

CURTIS: I hate you. (Phone rings. He answers it.) What? I didn’t order any pizza. (To BUGS.) Don’t move. (To the phone.) The red house on the corner. Great. (To BUGS.) Your delivery’s on the way.

BUGS: I forgot all about it. Lucky for you, I’m maxed. I ate so much that my mandibles are sore, and that’s saying something. You take it. It’s the least I could do.

CURTIS: Next time, there’s going to be violence.

BUGS: There always is. But we’ve got some other inventions up our sleeve, you’ll see. Hey, we never introduced ourselves. Do you want our formal Latin name or what the rugrats call us? (Stony silence.) What about you? What do you go by?

CURTIS: My friends call me Curtis. I don’t think it has a formal Latin equivalent. Professionally, my clients call me The Traveling Exterminator.

BUGS: You drive around with that giant artsy mosquito on the roof of your truck, so we naturally thought you were a fan. Nope, we did not see that coming. Ironic. That’s a new concept for us. We have so much left to learn. Leave your work at work, right? And don’t spray where you sleep. Words to live by. Hey, enjoy the evening. We gotta go. (Exits.)

CURTIS charges after BUGS, spraying wildly with the can of bug spray.

Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole

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