Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Bestiary #1: I Am a Shiny Beetle
I am a shiny beetle. They put me in museums stuck by pins. I strike terror in little kids’ hearts. Why? I am shiny. I am symmetrical. I have curved pincers—I guess that’s what they’re called—but Geezalmighty, I’ve got to have something to eat with. Will you allow me that? Or do I scare the Bejeezus out of you because you think I’ll bite? I’m not exactly one of those Amazonian ones that’s as big as a tortoise. And mostly I just eat garden stuff. But it’s true that once in a while, if I’m scared shitless, I can rear back and let out this gigantic hisssss! But who am I kidding? I weigh less than an ounce. You weigh over a hundred pounds. Step on me. Go on. Squish me like a bug. I’m dead. See. Guts all over the place—what little I have. And I scare you? Get real. But I do have a secret and I’m told secrets scare the piss out of you. It’s that you can’t see my face. I’m not even sure I have one the way you think of faces. My eyes are pin pricks and my mandibles are more like something out of John Deere than your mouth. I can’t grimace. Or grin. Or smirk or frown. Or express myself in any way you’d favor or even notice. You have no idea what I’m thinking and you can pretty well guess that I don’t take you seriously as a person. What squishes me could be a rock or a bag of groceries. What I perceive vaguely in the shadows could be a hand, a bird, or a scrap of paper. Life is pretty much reduced to physics for creatures like me and truth be told, you don’t and never will matter to me. If you threaten me I’ll hiss my genetically programmed, automatic, compulsory hiss and maybe I’ll scare you but it’s nothing personal. And maybe that’s what makes you crazy. Maybe if you figure you have a chance to charm, persuade, establish rapport—like you do with, say, a dog—I’ll make you feel good about yourself and your self-esteem won’t be lying in a heap. I don’t give you anything back for who you are, because I just don’t care. And that means I’d stomp on you if roles were reversed and maybe if you were a leaf I’d chomp into you without regard for your nice family, humanitarian impulses, and talent for…the flute. I am harmless and—HHHHSSSSSSS!—that’s what scares you to death. Am I right?