Friday, July 12, 2013

I Saw a Bug

An interesting event happened recently; I categorize it as interesting, because otherwise I’d have to call it a near crap-my-pants-in-abject-fear-in-front-of-my family event.  I’m a big enough guy and I am an infantry officer of the Canadian Forces.  A little macho masculine bravado is a stock standard expectation for guys in uniform.  Short of a life or death scenario, it’s somewhat bad form to be seen quivering in fear of something relatively benign, particularly if your rational brain knows better.  Such was the crux of this event.
I saw a bug on my deck.
A little history would seem apropos.  As a young boy, I lived in Arizona for two years and loved every minute of it.  I played with lizards (Gila Monsters and otherwise), used long sticks to poke and prod tarantulas, scorpions and black widow spiders.  I rode my dirt bike in washes and had no issues with insects of any kind.  Then we moved back to Canada and eventually found ourselves living in Kingston, Ontario.  I can trace the trigger to my issues to with bugs to two events.
The first was while playing guns in a wooded area.  I found the largest praying mantis I had ever seen sitting atop a boulder.  With my toy gun in hand, I moved within two meters to get a closer look.  It unfolded its arms, hissed at me and suddenly jumped on my face, like the Facehuggers from Aliens.  Throwing the damned thing off my face, it landed on the boulder.  Not to be outdone, I but stroked it.  Its thorax took the hit and juices squirted back up into my face.  My world goes black and apparently I run screaming for near two kilometers, my friends chasing after me the best they could.
The second incident occurred while mowing the grass.  I saw a massive queen hornet go into the siding of our house.  I thought, “I’ll be damned if I let this thing build a nest there.”  With a full can of Lysol spray, I place the nozel at the opening and start spraying.  I use near the whole can.  She comes out, wriggling and out of whack, flying directly onto my face.  She lands on my cheeks and twists a turn before zooming off. <shudder>  All this occurred while my arm is zooming to protect my face.
These two events lead to further incidents.  I once dreamed I was asleep in bed and a wasp crept up the foot of my bed under the blankets.  It made its way to my foot and stung my heel.  My leg jerks so hard I knee myself square in the mouth.  Yeah, loose teeth, blood and wounded pride.  In high school, my sister took to putting my mail over the mother’s National Geographic, the pages open to a macro shot of some insect’s head or some such.  She also once placed one of those paperclip butterflies with an elastic to make the wings spin into a card for my birthday.  When I opened the card, the twisted wings spun and launched the fake bug at me.  I nearly flip the table onto my mother sitting across from me.
When I was still dating my wife, we went to a zoo and I thought I’d face my fears and suffer the Insectarium.  I could not have put on a more desperate display of gut-reaction fear if I tried.  After 18 aquariums of stomach turning displays, we reach the Big Daddy; some kind of Brazilian tree-bird eating spider.  Big, angular armour looking bastard, completely tucked against the rear pane of glass.  I lean into catch a better view – in retrospect, a rather naive move.  All of a sudden, it scurries forward against the front pane, hissing loud enough my wife jumps a bit.  I “lose it.”  The door is right there, and I bolt.  I find myself flipping over the wheelchair ramp onto the path outside, hyperventilating in front of a family of four.  My wife exits, rather embarrassedly excusing my behaviour.
So we return to the scene on my deck.  I’ve made a conscious effort not to relay my fear of insects to my two kids.  On this day, I think I fail.  I sat down on a chair and turned my head to see something no less than four inches long, something that resembled a frikkin’ giant earwig with wings folded over its body.  It’s hiding maybe two feet from my head.  Before I even settle into the chair, I am in the house, ready to puke before my wife realizes what’s going on.  The kids are ushered in and I boil a full kettle of water.  I’m in full-kill-mode.  I toss the water and hit this thing square on.  It flops to the floor, sounding more like an overripe tomato than a creature with an exoskeleton.  I retreat back into the house.  Not until two hours later do I make it back out on to the deck.  The bug is gone.
Now, I have no idea what this thing was, nor will I Google it to find out.  Ignorance is bliss and I know for a fact I would not last 5 seconds skimming through Google images.
To wrap this all up, I can’t help but acknowledge the obvious, that a person’s point of view will determine their reaction to what they read.  For many, a scene involving bugs will likely not evoke the same emotions as I would experience; even a poorly written one.  Written well, most would be able to imagine themselves in the scenario, or at least empathize with the character and feel the emotions the author sought to induce; the concept of ‘show’ versus ‘tell’ kicks into refrain.  Telling a scene would not be nearly as powerful as showing – lace the emotions and reactions as opposed to a clinical observation of the action.  This is something that I often have to come to grips with when revising a scene – how do a ‘show’ more of what I want the reader to grasp?  No easy thing, or at least easier said than done.
I purposefully used a race of giant bugs in my fantasy manuscript, the kind that measure in size to a cow.  The scene involved a fair amount of squirming in my seat as I tried to create the atmosphere and emotions I would have faced (ahem, do face) when encountering a ridiculously over-sized insect.  The bug on my deck might as well have been cow-sized, given the reaction I had.  My rational-brain lost handily to my emotional-brain.  Maybe that’s the key to getting this ‘show’ versus ‘tell’ thing down?  If the emotional side of the brain can’t connect with the scene, maybe it’s time for a revision?  I’m sure that’s an oversimplification, but hey, my wife seems to be all for oversimplifications; she insists I get my head checked out.