I lead a monthy writers' group called Writers at Work. Each month I create assignments for the group, which are usually fictional stories under 600 words. This month the stories had to do with stinkbugs. So, to add a bit of levity to a subject that has caused many of us a bit of stress, here's my story from last night's meeting. I hope you enjoy it.
Driven to Distraction
by Hana Haatainen Caye
“Your turn, Charlie. Hop in!” Meredith placed the jar up against the brick wall prompting the stinkbug to jump. “One hundred and sixty-two.”
Watching the pseudo-armored bug struggle against inevitable death, Meredith smiled. The watery graveyard was mucky brown with those that had suffered identical fates – death by soapy water. It was a formula she learned about on Facebook from someone calling herself “Green Grandma” who promoted environmentally-friendly ways to solve common problems. Not that the eradication of stinkbugs was all that common, mind you. Meredith could not recall a time she had ever even noticed one of these insects in the past. Now it seemed these miniature army men were threatening to overtake civilization as she once knew it, creeping their way onto her kitchen counters, into her bathroom, atop her line-dried organic bamboo bed sheets. Everywhere she turned, she saw them. The news stations were airing special reports, strangers in the grocery stores were swapping war stories, and newspapers blowing in the wind sported headlines about the problem.
Meredith herself was working on a magazine article titled, Destined to Die: The story of an American stinkbug, but so far she could not seem to get past the title. That happened often with her. She would create a dynamite heading, often perusing her trusty Thesaurus for elegant alliteration or pithy similes, and then fall flat in her effort to match up her titling abilities with an equally dynamic article.
Maybe if I just spend some time with Charlie and all his Chinese relatives, I’ll come up with something, she had thought, but then succumbed to a killing spree rivaling any she had participated in prior to this partly sunny, unusually warm October day. Thinking about the mass grave she held in her hands made Meredith start to feel itchy. First it was her shoulders and she twisted back and forth trying to reach the spots on her upper back where it felt like bugs were crawling. She could hear buzzing in her ears, the telltale sound of stinkbugs on patrol…or attack…or whatever it was they were doing.
“Vinegar!” she shouted. “I have to find some vinegar!”
Slamming the screen door behind her, Meredith started opening cabinet doors in her kitchen, pulling out bottle after bottle.
“There must be a jar of vinegar here somewhere, Tawny,” she said through gritted teeth. The cat ignored her, sauntering past her before bounding down the basement steps to his litter box. “The basement!” she exclaimed. “You are brilliant, Tawny. Of course, there’s vinegar in the basement!”
Tawny looked up at Meredith from his squatting position in the corner of the laundry room.
“Why vinegar, you ask?” Meredith directed her question to him as he scratched at the litter. “Well, because,” she continued. “Green Grandma says vinegar is the answer for everything! Remember when we watched that movie about the Greek family and the wedding?”
Tawny did not answer.
“Well, the bride’s father thought Windex was the answer, but let’s face it, Tawnmeister – Windex is not environmentally-friendly. Vinegar is!”
Retrieving the gallon jug from the cabinet above the washer, Meredith hurried up the steps, taking them two at a time. If I can find a way to eradicate these freakin’ demons, the article will write itself.
Her neck started to twitch as Meredith walked around the patio toting an almost full gallon of vinegar, without a clue as to what she was going to do with it. Realizing she was at a total loss, she went back into her office and began to type.