Late one night as I reclined in my favorite chair reading a book, I heard a faint buzz in the air. Looking up, I spotted a mosquito flitting around the room. It wasn’t really bothering me, so after watching it for a moment, I returned to my reading. Suddenly a voice boomed, “Don’t you ever get tired of reading?”
I shot out of my chair! There was no one in the room but me! My wife was staying the night with her elderly parents, so I was alone in the house. My heart was pounding, but then it hit me; I must have dozed off and started dreaming. Laughing at myself, I sat back down and opened the book.
“Don’t you get tired of reading?” the voice boomed through the room once again.
I jumped from my chair certain I was not asleep this time. “Who’s there?” I growled looking for anything I might use as a weapon against an intruder. I still couldn’t see anyone in the room, but it was obvious I was not alone.
“It doesn’t matter who,” said the voice.
“It matters to me,” I said looking frantically around the room for the intruder. “Where are you hiding?”
“I’m not hiding,” said the voice. “I’m right here.”
The voice seemed to be coming from the window next to my chair, but no one was there at least on the inside. Suddenly, it dawned on me that someone must be outside the window! I grabbed a plastic baseball bat one of my grandchildren had left on the couch, quickly unlatched the back door, and raced outside to confront whoever was there. The deck was covered in shadows. The only light was the faint light from my reading lamp inside the house shining through the window. I heard a movement in the azalea bush just off the deck to my left. Instinctively, I swung the plastic bat as hard as I could at the bush. Something hissed and moved away. Immediately, I started beating around the bush hoping to chase whoever was lurking there out into the open. A black demon screeched wildly and came tearing out of the azalea toward me! I screamed, and quickly retreated, swinging the plastic bat, which was now bent and flopping back and forth. The creature spit at me and jumped clear of the deck to the walkway below. There it turned and crouched, its beady glass eyes glowing in the dim light. That is when I recognized the creature as my black cat. I felt terrible. I wanted to go to him and apologize, but he promptly stood, stuck his tail in the air and walked off indignantly.
“Have you gone absolutely crazy?” I heard the voice say from inside the house.
A chill raced down my spine changing to a soft warm sensation as it ran down my legs. I have heard of people wetting themselves when scared, and I can tell you it happens. Quickly, I squished my way back into the house slamming and locking the back door behind me. Not smart! I was now locked in the same room with the intruder who for all I knew had a gun or at worst a wooden baseball bat. I was not only scared, wet, and defenseless, but trapped as well.
“Would you please relax,” said the voice.
“Where are you!” I demanded loudly trying my best to sound intimidating, but my voice broke like I had just entered puberty resulting in a laughable squeak. Out of frustration, I began swinging the plastic bat blindly around me.
“Hey, cut it out!” shouted the voice. “You are going to break something.”
“I’ll break you if I find you!” I squeaked as my fear turned to rage. I swung the plastic bat wildly breaking a blue vase sitting on an end table next to the couch. I had had enough. “I’ll tear this place to pieces to find you if I need to!”
“Whoa! Buster. No need to go all postal,” the voice said. “My shrink says I carry things way too far, and I guess I have done it again.”
“You think?” I said. “Where are you?”
“Relax. Put the bat down, and I will show you.”
“How do I know you don’t have a gun or even a bat of your own?”
“If I did, I would have already used it on you with the crazy way you’ve been acting?”
I looked around the room wondering where someone could possibly be hiding. I no longer knew if I was dreaming or if this was real, but either way, I was ready for it to end, so I reluctantly dropped the bat.
“I really am sorry I let this go on so long,” the voice said, “but sometimes I just can’t stop when I get in a groove.”
I looked all around the room, but I still could not see anyone. “Where are you?” I asked.
“Over here,” said the voice, “by the window.”
There was no one by the window. “Stop playing games!” I said. “I can see there is no one there.”
“Look at the window real close,” said the voice.
I could clearly see there was no one near the window. What kind of sick game was the intruder playing? “I can plainly see you are not next to the window,” I said.
“You can’t see anything in this light from where you are standing,” the voice said. “You have to come closer.”
I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe, the intruder was outside after all, trying to lure me back to the window, so he could see me clearly and attack. Visions of camouflaged snipers flashed before my eyes. Whatever his intent, I knew I had to get to the bottom of the mystery, so I cautiously approached the window. I imagined a red bead focused between my eyes as I stood nervously in front of the window looking for my tormentor. At first I saw nothing, but then, I caught a slight movement. Sure enough as I bent closer, I saw a small green figure waving to me from the latch handle on the window. I bent closer for a better look, and there sat a mosquito in a green dinner jacket with his legs crossed holding a megaphone, smoke from an ultra mini Cuban cigar slowly circled his head. “Well,” he said eyeballing me, “what do you have to say for yourself?”
“My wife doesn’t allow smoking in the house,” I stammered. “It stinks and is bad for your health.”
“I’m bad for your health,” he shot back.
“I should mash you into a greasy spot after what you’ve put me through.”
“Hey, don’t be so dramatic. I did apologize.”
“How do I know I haven’t fallen asleep reading, and you are nothing more than some garbled print stuck in my subconscious?”
“I hate doubters,” the mosquito mumbled rather loudly into the megaphone as he unfolded his wings. Carefully snuffing out the smoldering cigar on the bottom of his foot, he launched himself into the air with a buzz. He buzzed my head twice, and then dove for my neck.
“Ouch!” I snapped swatting at my neck.
“Hey, you could have killed me you nit!” the mosquito chastised me as he settled once again on the latch handle.
“You?” I countered rubbing the growing whelp on my neck. “What about me? I could get some nasty disease from your bite and die!”
“For heaven’s sake,” the mosquito said. “I’ve had my shots, and I brush and gargle three times daily. Besides, you now know for sure you are not asleep.”
“I wish I was,” I mumbled still rubbing my neck.
“Well, you’re not, so let’s get on with it,” the mosquito said holding up a silver and gold plated hand mirror to admire his reflection. Straightening his collar, he glanced toward the window. “I have some special guests arriving any minute now,” he said, “so we need to hurry.”
All matter of trouble raced through my mind. Special guests? What next? Talking beetles, or maybe singing chipmunks? What diabolical atrocities lay in store for me?
“Quit worrying,” the mosquito said. “No one is going to hurt you. My guests have no interest in you whatsoever. On the other hand, they are very much interested in me, so if you don’t mind, I would like to finish here as quickly as possible. No disrespect intended toward you, but my guests and I need privacy.”
“Privacy? You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said still not fully believing I was awake in spite of my itching neck.
“Yes, privacy,” the mosquito said. “Just because we mosquitos travel in clouds of thousands doesn’t mean we do everything in a swarm.”
My head was spinning. Why was I talking to a mosquito in a green dinner jacket? Was this West Nile? Was this the first stages of malaria? Was this delusional insanity?
“Because it is the polite thing to do, and no, no, and no,” said the mosquito sniffing each of his armpits.
“What?” I asked totally confused.
“The answers to what you were thinking,” the mosquito said producing a brush from his jacket pocket and combing his wavy hair. “And yes, I do need a haircut.”
“How do you know what I am thinking?”
“I have connections,” the mosquito said looking at his watch and frowning.
“That information is on a need to know basis,” the mosquito said, “and you don’t need to know, so will you please hurry to the obvious question. My friends will be arriving any minute.”
“How am I supposed to know what the obvious question is?” I asked. “Why don’t you just read my mind?”
“I read thoughts not minds,” the mosquito said checking his watch again.
“There’s a difference?” I asked.
“Lord you are dense,” the mosquito said shaking his head in dismay. “Of course there is a difference. There are active minds full of thoughts, and there are passive minds without thoughts. One can be read – one cannot. Would you care to guess which?”
“I suppose the mind with thoughts can be read,” I growled growing very tired of the conversation.
“Genius!” said the mosquito tapping a foot impatiently on the window handle. “Maybe, now you can ask the obvious.” He cocked his head to the side listening for my response, but I didn’t know how to respond to what he obviously thought was so obvious. The tap-tap of his foot against the window handle increased steadily until all of his eight legs were tapping impatiently against the handle. “I’m waiting,” he sighed. Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer. “You idiot!” he shouted jumping to his feet. Grey-green frustration covered his face. “The obvious . . . ,” he started then abruptly stopped. He cast a hurried look to the window and then looked at his watch. In the distance, a faint whining buzz could be heard. He looked at me, and then back to the window. The buzz became a bit more distinctive. “Ask the obvious,” he shouted looking again at the window. “By rules of the ridiculous, I can’t proceed unless you ask the question!” There was a fluttering motion on the outside glass, and his face drooped in sadness.
“You know,” he said shockingly calm, “I get six maybe seven days at most to do what you humans get to do in seventy or so years, and I am about to miss a golden opportunity with some very special friends because you can’t ask the obvious question. Man, if you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s a swarm of female mosquitoes waiting for me outside your window and a bucket of stale water nearby, so how about asking the freaking question. It’s obvious!”
“I am sorry,” I said, my brain completely fried.
He looked out the window one more time where the wings fluttering against the glass had now multiplied at least a dozen times. “I’m not supposed to tell you,” he sighed, “but I’ve got fans waiting. The obvious question is very obvious. What am I doing here?”
“How am I supposed to know,” I asked.
“No, no, no, no,” moaned the mosquito. “’What am I doing here?’ is the obvious question you are supposed to ask me!”
“Oh,” I said. “That is rather obvious isn’t it?”
“Very,” said the mosquito eyeing several female mosquitos primping outside the window. “So will you please ask the question?”
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I thought you would never ask!” the mosquito shouted, and jumped to his feet beating his wings ecstatically. He flew straight toward me, but this time I ducked thinking he was going to attack my neck again, but he stopped and hovered inches from my nose. His voice boomed through the megaphone, “I’ve got a message from the Big Guy. He told me to tell you to seek not life’s Holy Grail, the silver bullet of success, or the secret of perfect banana pudding.”
“Banana pudding?” I questioned.
Trying desperately not to be distracted by the multitude of wings beating against the window, the mosquito shook his head to clear his mind. “Well, maybe not banana pudding,” he said, his eyes darting back and forth from me to the window. “I can’t remember the third thing he said, but it doesn’t really matter because he gave me this sponge scroll that contains ‘The Secret of Life.’” The mosquito pulled a tiny scroll half the size of a child’s fingernail from his back pocket.
“The secret of life?” I asked. “Wait a minute! Out of all the creatures under the sun, why would the Big Guy entrust ‘The Secret of Life’ to you?”
“He held an election.”
“An election,” I laughed, “and they elected you, a self-serving blood sucking mosquito?”
“Well, kinda, sort of,” shrugged the mosquito.
“Either you were elected, or you weren’t,” I said. “Which one was it?”
“Kind of both I guess,” the mosquito replied waving to a female admirer rubbing herself seductively against the outside of the window.
“You either won or you lost,” I insisted, “you can’t have it both ways.”
“You sure?” the mosquito said. “You feed the monkey long enough anything can happen.”
“Well, you see,” said the mosquito, “there was this primary election that I deserved to win and did, that turned into a runoff election that I deserved to win but didn’t, that turned into a lot of hoopla about nothing, that I would not let die, that everybody got so tired of hearing, that they finally figured out the only way to shut me up was to hand me and my dead horse the election, which of course I accepted.”
“Did you stop to think that may hurt your credibility?”
“Who cares as long as I win,” the mosquito shrugged.
“I see,” I said, “it’s all about priorities.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” the mosquito said throwing a kiss to a fellow blood sucker outside the glass. “Oh, I think I remember the Big Guy saying something about not worrying him with the small stuff, so he can deal with the big things like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and famine.”
“He said that?”
“Something like that,” the mosquito said, his eyes fixed on the females outside the window. “Well, I think that is what he said,” he continued less confidently while loosening his collar. He could hardly focus on anything but the growing pitter-patter of wings against the outside glass. Every time one of the female mosquitoes lay a kiss on the window leaving the red outline of her lips smeared on the glass, the poor little guy moaned heavily and wiped his forehead with a tiny blue handkerchief. “It doesn’t really matter?” he moaned pitifully as his whole body began to quiver. “Here, take this,” he said thrusting the scroll at me.
“How can I possibly read something this small?” I asked raising the tiny object directly in front of my eyes.
“Just add water,” the mosquito said, staring longingly at the window.
“Water?” I questioned.
“Yeah, water,” he said his wings beating faster. “If you haven’t noticed, the scroll is a sponge. Do you have any other questions?” he asked impatiently.
“Don’t think so,” I mumbled looking at the tiny sponge scroll.
“Yes!” the mosquito shouted pumping his fist, and with a furious thrust from his wings flew off the handle and spun in joyous buzzing circles about the room before heading back toward the window. His female friends cheered and called excitedly to him from the other side the glass. The party was on! His long awaited prize was finally within his grasp. He hurled himself blindly toward their outstretched arms. Unfortunately, he slammed full speed into the glass window pane never knowing what hit him. The female mosquitoes recoiled in shock and disgust as green and red splatter oozed slowly down the glass. Hovering around the bloody spatter, which a simple DNA test would have shown to be blood from my neck, they assessed the situation for a moment and then sped off in search of a livelier male partner.
After cleaning the mess from the window and flushing it down the toilet, I took the tiny scroll to the kitchen and used an eye dropper to apply a single drop of water to it. The scroll swelled until it reached the size of a legal sheet of paper. On the enlarged scroll four lines of print could be easily seen. At first I was confused by the simplicity of the message on the scroll, but the more I read it, the more the wisdom of the Big Guy showed through. Later against my wife’s objections, I framed the scroll and hung it in our bedroom.
To this day, the first thing I do when I rise each morning is read those four insightful lines. As a result, I strive to be straight forward and to the point when I speak, I try not to let my ego get the better of me, I try my best to keep the women in my life happy, and I strive to be slow to anger. I don’t always succeed in all these things, but every morning I am reminded to try harder, and who knows maybe one day I will get them all right.
The Secret of Life
- Thou shalt always ask the obvious question first. Avoid beating around the bush.
- Thou shalt not feed the monkey. Even an ego can be an addiction.
- Thou shalt never keep female admirers waiting. A man’s happiness depends on the happiness of the females in his life.
- Thou shalt be careful before flying off the handle. Remember the old adage – Think before you leap.
© Jack Linton, July 4, 2014