Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)
TITLE: The Family That Bugged Me
By Betty Castleberry
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Holding the broom up, I was about to strike a blow when I heard a faint voice. “Please don’t kill me.”
Confused, I squinted at the bug. “Are you talking?
“Yes. Please spare me.”
“But you can’t talk.”
“Oh, but I can, Sue.”
It knew my name. I looked around for the hidden camera, suspecting I was on some new reality show.
It waved its antennae at me. “I’m definitely talking. You think I can’t, because you’ve always been told bugs don’t talk. Put the broom down. I’m really not a bad guy. In fact, I’d like you to go with me.”
“To meet my family. Me and my cousins live in your walls.”
“Eww. Anyway, this is ridiculous. I can’t go anywhere with you.”
“Why not? My name’s George, and I’m a harmless house beetle.”
He slipped through a crack in the corner. I watched him disappear, positive I had been dreaming.
A minute later, he poked his head back through the crack. “Coming?”
“Yeah right. I can’t get through that crack.”
“You’ve only been told you can’t. Try it.”
“But, the laws of physics…”
“Nonsense. Just try.”
Stupidly, I attempted to go through the crack. A sudden whoosh of air sucked me through and I found myself in a tiny dark corridor.
“Told ya.” George lifted a hair-like leg. “Grab hold, but be gentle and don’t pull it off.”
Shrugging, I very carefully held onto his leg while my eyes adjusted to the light. George led me into a crevice streaked with fibrous threads of pink insulation. Several bugs that looked like him lounged against the wall.
He approached one and nodded to me. “Fred, we have company.”
Fred eyed me curiously. “Welcome. We finally meet face to face.”
I’m sure I mumbled. “Yes, er, that is…”
Fred laughed. “You’ve never seen us, but we’ve lived here a long time. Our ancestors came over on the Juneflower and moved right in. Isn’t that right, George?”
I wasn’t sure I had heard right. “Don’t you mean the Mayflower?”
Fred shook his head. “No, the Juneflower. It sailed a little later.”
George made a sweeping gesture around the miniscule room. “This is why I insisted you come with me. I wanted you to meet my cousins and make you realize we’ve been here practically forever, but we’ve never bothered you. Fred’s mom and my mom were sisters. Do you see Harriet over there? Her dad and my mom were brother and sister. All of us cousins grew up right here in this very crevice. We’re just an ordinary family, like yours. I admit Harriet’s strange, but no stranger than your cousin Joe. There’s an odd one.”
“You know Joe?”
“Oh yes. The point is, we’re asking you not to harm us. I‘m not the first one of us you threatened. Alfred narrowly escaped your broom.”
“Sorry. Can’t you just stay in here?”
“All the time?”
“Oh. Well, don’t you carry diseases?”
“Certainly not. We’re not cockroaches.”
“You look the same.”
George rolled his beady little eyes. “We don’t look anything alike. Besides, cockroaches don’t care much about their hygiene. They’re unshaven and smell like stale cigar smoke.”
Bewildered, I looked around. It did look like any normal family gathering. Fred had started a game of Pinochle. Two beetles sat together, chatting. Harriet was standing on her head. It reminded me of when all my cousins got together, only with a lot more legs. Well, and Joe never stood on his head. Poking himself in the eye was his specialty. Maybe cousins, even these cousins, were just cousins, after all.
I sighed. “Okay, I’ll try to be careful, but I need to go back now.”
George led me back to the crack. With a whoosh, I was standing in my kitchen again.
I grabbed my notepad and scribbled a message to myself. Pleased, I stuck it on the fridge. It read, “Never squash a bug until you sniff it for stale cigar smoke.”
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