Okay, I’m going to get real serious with y’all. I hate bugs. Not all bugs. Butterflies and dragonflies are lovely. But the really gross kind? The roaches and the leaf bugs and the cicadas? Nope.
Locusts are right up there with the worst. This is not a matter of opinion. If we go back to Biblical times, we will notice that there was not a plague of butterflies or a plague of ladybugs. There was a plague of LOCUSTS. LOCUSTS are a PLAGUE. THEY ARE DISGUSTING. JUST LOOK AT THEM.
This evening, as I took a delightful walk around the park, I was thinking about everything I have to look forward to: the beach, book signings, new books, etc… when all of a sudden… A LOCUST LANDED ON MY SHOULDER. I WAS NOT HAPPY. I was even wearing bug-spray to deter mosquitoes who delight in feasting on my apparently delicious blood, but there was no deterring that locust!
After I heroically fought him off (read: screamed, slapped him off my shoulder, and ran away), ANOTHER locust dive-bombed me from a tree! I had to fight off no less than SEVEN locusts on what was supposed to be a pleasant evening stroll.
As miserable as that experience was, however, it was nothing compared to what may have been the most traumatizing night of my entire life.
The year was 1999. I was eleven years old and I was out at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with my friend Bobby and our dads. We all loved going to baseball games. It was one of our favorite summer activities.
That night, we were playing Tampa Bay. It started off like a normal baseball game. We watched batting practice, ate hot dogs and french fries, and cheered our lungs out for the Rangers.
Then night fell.
There were always a few bugs flying around the giant lights of the stadium, but they rarely ever bothered us. I usually didn’t even notice them. I was too fixated on the game.
If this was fiction, I would say that the crickets started swarming slowly, with one or two strays hopping around at our feet. But this isn’t fiction. This is real life.
Without any sort of warning whatsoever, crickets began falling from the sky. One moment, the sky was clear. The next, it was literally raining crickets. It was like an air raid of locusts. I was freaking out. One landed on my arm, one dive-bombed my dad’s drink. They were crunching beneath our feet and flying past my ears. After only a few minutes, I sought refuge inside the halls of the stadium, but one glance at the cricket-blackened walls told me I would find no sanctuary there. My only hope was the safety of the car, and ultimately, my home.
Dodging crickets, I ran back to my dad and begged him to take me home. He refused. He, like everyone else in the stadium, seemed totally unbothered by the onslaught of crickets. I didn’t understand why no one else was going absolutely out of their minds trying to shield themselves from the hoards of locusts. Where was their sanity? Did these people have no survival instincts whatsoever?
Upon realizing I was completely alone in my plight, I began to hyperventilate. It would go down as the one time in my life my dad has disappointed me as a father. There I was, panicking and dangerously close to passing out from sheer and utter terror, and he was sipping his cricket-fouled beer and watching the game! Like nothing was going on!
I’m not sure how long I sat there, waiting for the game to end, while the crickets continued to rain down on us, but finally, finally, my dad said that we could go home. I leapt up and clung to him, certain that with his height and strength, he could protect me from any bugs that may have threatened.
That was until a man tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Sir? You have a cricket on your collar.”
DONE. SO DONE.
Walking through the parking lot that night was it’s own special form of torture. With every step I took, I heard a sickening crunch of multiple crickets under my soles. It is a sound that has stayed with me to this day. I will never forget. And I will never fully recover.