Friday, September 3, 2010

Nature Attacks!

Sometimes, my life is like an old slapstick movie. Especially when Nature decides to attack.

Work has slowed to a more manageable pace this week, so I've had a chance to catch up on my share of the household duties. A Golden Retriever in the summer means near-constant vacuuming, for instance. And living in the San Bernardino Valley ("The Other Valley," as we call it) means a steady accumulation of smog residue on the balcony. Which is precisely where Nature decided to attack.

It started with a hanging flower planter that had been sitting on the balcony floor for weeks. I'm sure my wife has told me repeatedly why that particular hanging flower planter wasn't hanging. It's just one of those things my brain tends to repeatedly misfile. And little did I think that non-hanging hanging flower planter would be home to a swarm of ants, none of whom appreciated my picking up the planter so I could sweep under it and so became the first wave of Nature's attack.

Have you ever seen a literal explosion of ants? They were like the debris flying out of an asteroid impact crater, nothing but little wriggling arcs soaring in all directions. Mostly, though, they managed to land on my summer-clad (meaning bare) legs. And mostly, they decided to bite.

One ant biting you is annoying. Twenty or twenty-five biting you is enough to make you shout an expletive I won't repeat here, to drop the non-hanging hanging flower planter (unfortunately setting off a second explosion of ants as it hit the balcony floor), and to make you bolt upright from where you had been crouching down -- and smack your head into the hanging flower planter you had forgotten was hanging right above you.

And which you didn't know was also full of ants.

That second wave came like an angry rain, falling into my hair and down the front and back of my shirt, and sending me stumbling backward as I slapped at myself, and slapped hard, killing some but only making the survivors even angrier, which is when I banged my shin into the rather old and rickety table holding my wife's many potted plants. Most of these plants are low and wide, and their pots are also low and wide, and therefore stable. Not so the lone tall one, with its center of gravity at much too great a height for the narrow little pot that still contained it. First, the narrow little pot wobbled in the corner of my vision as I shouted a second expletive from the pain the table had caused, and then, it fell over in a blur. Which is when instinct kicked in, and I reached out, and I successfully snatched the plant in mid-fall.

Only then did I realize the plant was actually a cactus.

For one brief moment, I stood there, realizing that I had ants biting my legs, still more ants biting my torso, and now just as many prickly spines embedded in my left palm and fingers.

I did the only thing I could do, of course. I screamed. And I shook my hand without thinking, dislodging the cactus and most of its prickly spines from my flesh, and sending the narrow little pot to shatter on the balcony floor. Not that I really cared just then. I only had eyes for the blood flowing from six different spots in my hand.

Honestly, if the floor of our balcony hadn't already been concrete, I would have gladly paved over the entire thing.

By the time my wife got home, I had killed all the ants, removed the final spines from my hand, cleaned and dressed my various wounds, and cleared away the broken shards of both planting pot and cactus. My wife didn't mean to laugh when she heard the tale, but she just couldn't help herself.

It's taken me another day, but now I can laugh at this, too.