So, I’m sitting in the backyard, minding my own business, when Godzilla — some people call him the exterminator — shows up, a tank of mass destruction slung over his shoulder.
Alarmed, I leap to my feet.
“I’m here to do the yard,” Godzilla says pleasantly.
“Oh,” I say in a high-pitched voice that resembles the sound of a mosquito and conveys that everything I’m about to say is not even remotely sincere. “Okay!”
I have not ordered this. I do not want this. I have nothing against the creatures commonly known as “pests.” But I am that lowly life form known as a Renter, and this decision was made above my pay grade.
Godzilla pulls out his wand and begins to squirt a vile liquid along the base of the house, which abuts a forest and thus is teeming with non-human life.
“Are you having any particular problems?” he asks in a friendly tone meant to conceal his depravity.
“No! No problems at all!” I squeak, quickly moving to stand in front of the three chipmunk-sized holes into which I toss a handful of sunflower seeds every Sunday morning. (We are big on breakfast in bed around here.) “Really, we don’t even need you!”
“Well, it’s for prevention, you know. And there’s probably a lot of pests that you don’t notice.”
He advances toward a window where a spider has been tending three egg sacs for a couple of weeks. (Three! Such a hard worker!) We have been looking forward to them hatching.
I think briefly of tackling him. I think I could take him down.
But his eyes are are on the base of the house, and he passes Charlotte and her offspring-to-be and takes aim at the crevice of a brick step where an adorable little frog has been resting of late. The frog is not there, but I am reduced to using breathing techniques I learned in Lamaze class in order to stay upright.
Cleansing breaths! Cleansing breaths!
Mr. Oblivious continues his violent rampage, whistling.
He moves along the side of the house, and I follow anxiously, pointing out the birdseed fallen from the feeder and the frail blossoms I hope will be squash next month.
He is a killing machine; I, a snowflake, desperately trying to reconcile my last few nubs of common sense with my ever-increasing passion for life and its preservation.
This philosophy may sound naive and silly to you, but like a soft, fuzzy peach, it has a hard center that can be reduced to two words, both of which are impolite: Screw death. I’m not a fan.
Meanwhile, I’ve been left behind. The Terminator has advanced past the basil and is poking around the woodpile.
“Hey! A snake!” he exclaims, and I am done, it is over, all is lost; in a moment, he is going to pull out a machete and carve the snake into little pieces in the grass like some sort of satanic ritual, and when he’s done with that, he will find my secret chipmunk stash.
“A snake!” I say weakly. “What kind?”
It is a Hail Mary question, but it works. I have tapped into some secret hubris, and the exterminator stops the exterminating and proudly recites a small encyclopedia of Snakes of New England, eventually concluding that it was likely a garter snake, the “was” being vitally important, because it means he can no longer see it. The serpent lives and will likely eat that adorable little frog tomorrow; Eden suffers but is not totally destroyed.
A few more squirts of poison, and he is on his way, having been assured that there are NO SPIDERS IN THE HOUSE, NO, NONE AT ALL, CERTAINLY NOT A WEB OF TINY BABY SPIDERS THAT HATCHED JUST TWO DAYS AGO AND ARE SWINGING JOYFULLY FROM A LIGHT BULB IN THE BASEMENT, CAUSING ME TO HAVE TO YELL “DON’T GET SPIDERS IN YOUR HAIR” EVERY TIME SOMEONE GOES DOWNSTAIRS TO PUT SOMETHING IN THE WASH.
Nope. Nothing to see here.
Honestly. It’s as if some of you never read “Charlotte’s Web.”