For Lack of Bug Spray

by Sarah

Whenever my sister and I journeyed around the block - not too far, because the playground was right next to our new house - we would squat by scummy puddles and look for eggs or larvae in their proper habitat.

"You're touching one!" My sister would tease me. Maybe I was and maybe I wasn't. She was nine and didn't mind making her six-year-old little sister squirm in disgust. Off she would go to the swingset while I stood in the swampy earth frantically shaking my chubby little fingers. I missed my old home where it was too cold for little flying beasts and their wormy spawn.

From the warm water, mosquitos would emerge newly hatched. Nobody knew how they got in the house, but they were there. As we sat around the kitchen table, there would be whines and bites at our ankles. When we slapped at them our fingers got smeared with red ooze, speckled with brown shreds of mosquito guts. We had to hurry to clean the corpse from the table, the walls, the banister, just in case our dogs were nearby and found it a taste treat.

It was too hot to wear pants. Less than a week after we moved in, my sister and found the proper dinner-time defense. We sat cross-legged on our chairs, a few inches back from the table to let the light fall on our pink-dotted legs so if a mosquito tried to come for a bite it could be seen and dealt with immediately.

In vain my mother tried to get us to sit properly. When she realized that a little scolding couldn't compete with days of itchy misery, she joined our battle. Mosquito-coils, from the grocery store, stank up the corners of the kitchen, and the thin smoky haze danced around every entrance. There were never any mosquitos by the fatal incense.

But they were still under the kitchen table.

My mother was busy; I think eventually she no longer noticed our breach of etiquette. If she had continued to make a fuss, my childhood would have been quite strained; to this day if you saw me sitting at a table, any table, chances are my legs would be crossed up on the seat.

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