the insect visitor
— denis murrell
Insect visitors are rare here,
up on the twenty-fifth.
But late one night,
one flew through the window
as I was tutoring a student for her exams.
She squealed and jumped up from her chair with alarm.
Waving her arms and hunching her shoulders,
she hid behind the end of the sofa.
A bee or a beetle?
I didn’t know
and my student didn’t care
as long as it would just go away.
it was a giant of its species;
larger than a half the length of my thumb
and at least as wide.
Too late in the night for a bee.
Too much of a flyer for a beetle.
It droned around the room,
choosing not to rest.
It skimmed by the light,
barely missed the money-box,
sideswiped a rose in the vase on the shelf
and powdered some peeling paint off the wall,
dusting itself with white.
My student huddled in her foxhole
and whimpered as it targeted her.
It changed its mind and
circled my head instead,
nudging my hair,
buzzing just by my left ear,
raising the hairs on my arms.
My student chuckled with nervous relief
as I swung at the visitor with a randomly chosen book,
The Bible According to Spike Milligan’.
I missed, dislodging my glasses.
It swerved deftly rightwards and upwards
and journeyed to the kitchen and back.
I marveled at its agility
the aerodynamics involved
in maneuvering a sizably bulky body
around a confined space
while under attack
and then swung at it again with a larger book,
‘Satisfaction—The Rolling Stones in Pictures’,
and this time connected.
The force sent it veering sideways.
It hit another slice of peeling paint
and fell directly downwards
near the fridge.
My student emerged from her foxhole
with a sigh, feeling relatively safe
until she heard the visitor
buzzing in distress
from the inside of a wicker basket
filled with crumpled pages
of the ‘South China Morning Post’.
I was all for fishing it out with a thick wad of tissue
and releasing it out of the window into the night
from whence it had come.
My timid student would have none of that.
‘Leave it where it is or I’m leaving!’ she screamed.
So we left it deep within the recesses of the crumpled newspaper
and resumed our study of the ‘Beowulf’ saga,
aware of, but ignoring, its struggles and its desire for freedom
as it droned angrily,
scratching its legs and vibrating its wings noisily against the paper.
Two mornings later, I remembered our visitor.
I found it on its back
deep within two creases in the paper,
nearing the finale of its death throes,
its legs twitching aimlessly.
A massive grey-green wasp,
glistening even in death.
Two compound eyes glinting at one end
through a fine dusting of powdered paint;
a vicious black stinger at the other,
an insect-equivalent of an Amazonian poisoned dart.
I sat it prominently on my table.
where I could appreciate
its subtle, primitive beauty.
My students did not appreciate it as I did.
They were appalled
and begged me to get rid of it.
The Cantonese don’t like insects
unless they taste good when stir fried
or have known medicinal value.
It ended up in a plastic bag with
some empty milk cartons,
egg-shells, soggy tea-leaves
and a shampoo bottle,
wrapped in the pages of the ‘Post’
and was removed some days later
to the Coloane incinerator.