We were getting ready for a trip to the Red Hook Recreational Center, Henry and I; it was a hot day, and we were going to spend it in an Olympic-sized toddler pool (oh, if only there were a toddler Olympics—can you imagine such a thing? The track-and-field contenders, wandering off during the 800 to demand some Goldfish? The steroid-fueled tantrums? The swimmers trying to execute a perfect breaststroke while wearing water wings? I COULD GO ON). Ten inches deep all around and surrounded by sprinklers, the toddler pool is sort of like standing in a clogged gutter during a heavy rain storm—but for Henry it means hours of unmitigated joy, so I slosh around while he shrieks and whoops and blaaarrghs.
I was searching through Henry’s various piles of clothing for his bathing suit when Henry came to see what I was up to. As he walked my way, he glanced down, said, “Oh!” and leapt into my arms. “Big bee!” he cried. I looked down at where he was pointing, and hmm, there seemed to be a caterpillar or something on his carpet, what could that be OH SWEET CHRIST OH MOMMY MOMMY HELP ME---
I knew the last time I encountered a waterbug wouldn’t be the last time, literally. But usually, as I have noted in the past, any waterbugs out in the open have had the decency to at least be at death’s door. But this waterbug wasn’t even a little sick. It wasn’t flailing about piteously. It was not coughing. It was ambling across my son’s carpet, perfectly healthy, and heading right toward us.
Clutching my slightly freaked son in my arms, I jumped over it OH GOD OH GOD and ran toward the living room. “Sit here, Henry!” I cried out calmly. “Watch some TV! Don’t move! Mommy will be right back! Mommy wants to die, but that’s okay!”
“Big bee!” he repeated.
“There’s nothing to worry about!” I shrieked. “It’s just a nice bug paying us a visit!"
He didn’t look like he was buying it, so I added, “Ha, ha!”
I grabbed the canister of ant-and-roach death spray, and tried to head toward Henry’s room. Only I couldn’t move. And there was this whimpering sound. Coming out of my head. I had to do something! My child was staring at me. “Just a fly!” he called out helpfully. Yes. Yes, I will pretend it’s just a fly. A giant fly with long spindly legs and inch-long antennae and a fingernail-thick carapace who emerged from the depths of our basement to spread disease and ick all about my son’s carpet, OH PLEASE NO--
No, I would need more than that to go in there and get the job done.
So I named it! A waterbug with a name will not scare me, I reasoned with my usual infallibility! I shall name him Sean! No, better—Shaun. The unfortunately named Shaun lives in his mom’s basement and still feathers his hair; he most definitely cannot terrorize the likes of me. I would enter my son’s room and put poor Shaun out of his misery. Oh, Shaun—you never had a chance in this world.
The story of what happens after this is long and drawn-out and involves much screaming and clutching of the hair and whacking and spraying (while the child sat on the couch, watching Noggin and calling out every few minutes, “Just a fly! Bzz!”) All I can tell you is that in the end, Shaun’s corpse lay underneath a Tupperware container, waiting for my husband to come home and give him a decent burial. As for Henry, he spent the day getting as wet and wild as a toddler can legally become, while his mother followed him around, staring off into the distance with a haunted expression on her face, shuddering at some unseen horror.