BUGS AND PRAYER (a true story)

Around Seattle’s Puget Sound area, you suffer six-plus months of gray, drizzly (seldom rainy) weather over the Fall and Winter. In exchange for that, you receive nearly six months of guaranteed sunshine, each and every day. Seattle summers are the best kept secret in the states—except maybe from all the people flocking here each year.

I call it “flipping the switch”. Once the switch flips, you get what weather you’ve got. For another six months.

According to the weather reports (and my instincts), the switch would be flipped the next day. So that ultimate, late afternnoon in September, I sat on the porch, reading a book. A last chance for some quality me time with nature. I perspired into my sweatpants as the late afternoon sun angled in on me—perfectly content. 

Suddently, I was started by a load BUuzzZZPP!! A bug flew past my head and landed right on my chest. There, between me and my book sat a large stink bug, flecked with its splotchy gray-black camouflague. 

A flash of anger rose through me, mostly at my annoyance at being even momentarily scared. “Really?” I said to him. And I lifted one hand to flick him away. 

The first flick missed. 

But rather than rethink it, I recocked and flicked him away, in an arc about eight feet, until he landed on the floor of the porch deck. 

I studied him like a boxing opponent in-between rounds. Even though he didn’t move, my mind projected the tactical possibility of him taking flight again…towards me, perhaps…my hand still hadn’t lowered.

Except he didn’t move. Until he did. Very, very slowly. 

From a distance, I could see its injury. Something asymmetrical was sticking out of one side. But, it tried to move anyway. I looked at it. Each step it took was an accusation. Why did I do that? 

I just didn’t know. Eventually, I went inside. Could it feel pain? I wondered to myself as I grabbed a paper towel. And my laptop.

When I returned, it hadn’t moved. 

Might as well get this over with, I thought as I stepped forward and leaned over it. Then it did move! It quickly scampered towards the edge of the deck, slipping between the boards as though fleeing for its life. If it could pray, it surely did then. 

But by now, I could clearly see its guts leaking from its side. Now, too late, I suddenly couldn’t live with its pain. 

Wanting to weep a little, I reached down and enshrouded it with the damned paper towel. Then I crushed its life from my conscience. Erased it. 

At least until I could write this eulogy.

Numerous other bugs—some black, some brightly colored, both large and small—have flown near me as I wrote this. At first, I imagined them on missions of revenge. Now I recognize those dark fantasies as echoes of my own violence. The bugs are God, not me. 

So, who am I? I am a recorder of death songs. Not its death, but mine. 

My soul dies a little each time I kill. I knew this. Yet, I killed again. 

Who should be asking: Why me, God?

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