©1999 Bonnie Wren
Babies on Board
"You want some heavy firepower? Take a gander at these babies."
The sales clerk extracted the latest in bio-weaponry from her arsenal and waved it at me. It looked like a small blob of that expanding insulation foam they sell at Home Depot.
Desperation had brought me here. Some pretty nasty neighbors had moved into our new housing development right after we did. Without even asking first, they used our yard for an orgy of dining and reproductive practices that would've put Caligula to shame.
I considered contacting a local syndicate to put out a contract on them, but that seemed too lethal, even for me. I decided instead to hire mercenaries to do the dirty work.
"This egg case," the sales clerk continued, "contains hundreds of preying mantises--effective predators of practically every insect pest." She showed the oversize picture of the killer bug to my two boys, who gaped in admiration.
"They'll hatch this week." She leaned close and whispered the magic words that closed the sale: "Half price!"
I bought three and tied them to bushes around our house.
A month later my son was impatiently poking at one of them, convinced the mantises were going to be the next best thing to his plastic army men.
I tried to let him down gently. "Sorry, sweetie, but they probably hatched weeks ago."
His face fell in disappointment at missing the war, but almost instantly it popped back up again. "Can I take this to Show and Tell then?"
"Sure," I said, untying it. "But put it in the Caravan so we won't forget it tomorrow." He carried the egg case to the van and tenderly placed it in the cup-holder.
Later that afternoon I stopped hyperventilating long enough to grab the exploding egg case and fling it into the bushes.
A platoon of dime-sized baby mantises had shinnied up the dashboard and was deploying all over the windows. Some decided to tunnel out through the ventilation system and were dropping into the defrost vents.
All of them turned their tiny heads and stared at me as one, as if to say, "where's the chow?"
"Quick," I ordered the boys, "Go get every kid in the neighborhood!"
Soon a crowd of high-pitched kids surrounded the Caravan. Lucky for me they were all willing to act as troop transports for the thousands of baby grunts eagerly climbing onto their outstretched hands.
"Put them on plants!" I instructed. "Spread them around!"
To my great relief this baby drop seemed to be working. A few kids were even grabbing mantises and skipping back to their own yards. This was fine with me until I saw how they were passing all their shrubbery and heading instead for their front doors.
"No, no, no!" I squealed. "Not inside!"
This only made them run faster. Within seconds, ambushed mothers were screaming all over the cul-de-sac.
I'd apologize later. In the meantime I was up to my ashtray in baby foot soldiers.
It took an hour to evacuate most of the babies. The rest bailed out of the vents when I was finally forced to drive the Caravan again, but none of them had the bad manners to crawl up my skirt. I thanked them for this courtesy by stopping near some greenery and letting them out.
Since then, whenever I find a grown mantis in my yard I have to smile and nod. After all, there aren't too many midwives out there who can say the babies they brought into the world stuck around long enough to off the pesky neighbors.
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©2003 Bonnie Wren. All Rights Reserved