The Spanish word is beautiful and mysterious: pandemia. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit full blast and as we head into the first month of lockdown, the fear and stridency being rolled out is like a new marketing campaign for Zero Coke. Lungs stop working, wear a mask don’t wear a mask, your children might infect you. This particular drug is effective—but wait—five days later the messaging does a 180 and tells us this same drug will kill you.
I don’t pray often, but I do pray that writers of novels and TV refrain from writing about COVID-19. It would be like movies about 9/11. No thanks. We lived through it. We took this particular drama straight.
Into the COVID-19 mess come the earwigs, behaving like bit actors in a cheap movie. Earwigs are insects on average a half-inch long, with pincers capable of giving a bite more irritable than painful. The Spanish name for them is tijerilla. Legend has it that they like to burrow into your ear and drive you mad. It’s only a legend. But then you dig a little deeper and find anecdotal accounts that say it’s true. Then you find an earwig crawling on your neck and you wonder if you’re going to be one of those exceptions to the rule.
Years before, we might have seen one or two earwigs in the house. No big deal.
This year there are thousands. They swarm the walls of our porch and crawl in hordes across the cement floor of the patio. Then they find their way into the house, where they lurk under a crumpled napkin, under a cloth potholder. They even took to crawling inside my Mr. Coffee and if I neglected to clean the filter from the day before I’d find them lying on the grounds as though they were on a black sand beach.
Sophy says, “We have to do something?”
“Martine kills them with his vacuum cleaner.”
That night I stalk the walls and floor of the patio, making a racket as I hoover them up by the thousands, sucking them into a water vac filled with poisonous bleach. I go back and forth, using just the hose, trailing it over their bodies. I’m my own pandemia. The earwigs resemble a rush-hour crowd in Times Square. Sometimes I step on one. Then its fellows cluster around and consume the squished body. In minutes all that remains is black dust.
After an hour their number is reduced to stragglers. Even then they are plentiful. When I trail my hose over these stragglers I count 800 in less than a minute.
My evening routine becomes watching COVID-19 news for an hour or two and then killing earwigs in the dark.
Before I go to bed I leave traps for them; plates with a mixture of pancake syrup, vegetable oil, and salt. While I sleep the earwigs are drawn to this mixture by the hundred and die in the goo. Problem is, in the morning, if I release my dogs before I dispose of the plates, my hounds gobble up the sweet oil and salt, earwigs and all.
The whole thing is disgusting.
from a work in progress Fort Rosarito