Welcome to the last week of Story A Day May. As always, I’ve enjoyed the exercise, and I hope you have, too.
Today’s story is based on a true encounter last night and this morning, although I assure you Charlie is fine.
And now you know where writers get their ideas.
11:30 and Change
At about 11:30, while his current girlfriend was still streaming Netflix with her earphones on so she wouldn’t disturb him, Rufus Pentato woke to find he had been changed into a stinkbug. Not a giant stinkbug, which would have been kind of interesting, but a regular one.
It made him think of his grandmother. She had always called him Stinkbug, as a kind of pet name.
For a minute, he totally panicked. He flew up — flying was awesome! — and tapped out S – O – S on the bong above Whatever-Her-Name-Was’s head. He was grateful to the Boy Scouts for teaching him so many things, including Morse Code.
Apparently, Mimsy or Becky or whoever hadn’t been a Girl Scout, though, because she just gave an exasperated glance and sigh and went back to her show.
Pentato, as a last resort, flew into her hair.
Without sound, the pictures on Whosis’ tablet were mesmerizing. In spite of his adrenaline rush, Pentato crawled closer for a better look.
She absently reached up and brushed him away.
He fell down her back, between her teddy (he had given her that teddy, but it didn’t turn him on now) and the pillow she was propped up against. The warmth was like a drug, and he snuggled down to sleep again.
He woke up when What’s-Her-Face got up to pee before she settled in for the night.
“Rufie?” She knocked on the bathroom door. “Rufie, you’ve been in there, like, a million years. Are you okay?”
“I’m not okay, you ditz! I’m a goddamn stinkbug!” No sound came out when he said it, except maybe a little hissing.
She opened the bathroom door to darkness.
After she had taken care of her bathroom needs, she wandered through the house, calling his name. She opened the back door and called, opened the front door and called. The neighbors would love her for that.
She came back to bed, muttering, “Whatever. What. Ever.”
As she reached for the pillow to plop it down into sleeping position, she saw him.
“Ugh!” She flipped him off the pillow.
He bounced off the wall and onto the carpet, landing on his back.
She turned off the light and flopped into bed. After a count of ten seconds, she said, “I’m sorry, stinkbug. Stick around until morning, and I’ll put you outside. I promise.”
He couldn’t stay where he was. She’d forget he was there. She’d step on him or ignore him again.
He thrashed his legs, but the shape of his body made it impossible to rock himself over off his back. He had never felt so vulnerable in his life. If stinkbugs could get in, why not mice? Did mice eat stinkbugs, though? His luck, probably.
It didn’t really help a whole great big lot to remember he hadn’t gotten in as a stinkbug.
Then he remembered his wings. How loud were they? He didn’t want to get Whatever-the-Hell-Her-Name-Was’s attention at this point. After what felt like hours of experimentation, he unfurled them just enough to lever himself over onto his legs. One hurdle … hurdled.
The carpet was hard to walk over, like picking your way over boulders and shit, like that time the family had gone camping and poked around in where a mountain had been blown up to make way for a highway that never got built.
“They snakes are all out sunning themselves,” Dad had said. “Just watch where you step, and don’t stick your hand in a hole.”
How old does that joke say you are when you realize your father isn’t an idiot? ‘Cause he wasn’t there yet.
Pentato easily fit through the crack between the floor and the bottom of the bathroom door, grateful for the relative ease of walking on linoleum. He tucked himself into a corner (Didn’t Mrs. Cleaning Lady ever get into the corners?) and hunkered down for morning.
At first light, Pentato shook the dust of decades off his feet and flew onto the sink counter. Little Miss Whoever was such a good girl, she always washed her hands after using the potty, so he knew she’d see him. What she would do then was anybody’s guess. He knew how it was to make promises at night you didn’t think twice about breaking in the morning.
She came in. She did her thing. She came to the sink. She saw him.
“Oh!” She gave a little laugh. “I promised I’d put you out this morning, didn’t I? Okay. Stick around. I gotta get dressed.”
She’d forget. Bottom dollar, she’d forget.
He crawled up the fixtures onto the top of the silver-tone tap, where his dark shell stood out like a zit on your nose on date night.
She came back, wearing blue jeans and one of his Jayne Cobb t-shirts, looking right at where he had been. Trust this one to be the one who could stay on track for ten minutes in a row.
He changed position, and she spotted him.
“There you are!”
She scooped him up and closed her fingers around him. Her palm smelled like soap and fingernail polish. Chick must paint her nails, like, every other day!
But he wasn’t complaining. If he couldn’t be a person, at least he wanted to be a stinkbug in the wild, not crawling around in some house where he could get Orkined or Black Diamonded to death. Better prey than poison. Maybe that ought to be the Stinkbug Motto.
He heard the door squeak open. He was never gonna oil it, now, that was for sure.
She opened her hand and tossed him.
At the top of the arc, his wings engaged, and carried him over the porch and onto the bark of the river birch.
So here he was, free. How long would he live, best-case scenario? Would female stink bugs turn him on? Did stink bugs mate for life? Would he know what to eat? For the first time in years, Pentato took a genuine interest.
As for his ex-girlfriend, she would have to wash her hands again. He had left her a present: All the stink juice he could spare. It might make him vulnerable to predators until he could make more, but it was all he had to give, and she deserved his best.
“Hasta la vista, baby,” he said in Stink Bug, and flew off into the woods.
So I went to this outfit called Polish Pickup and got this tri-thermal polish, which means it can display up to three tones, depending on the heat level it contacts. And, before it arrived, I broke a nail. I still used it. Product names follow the pictures.
Lucky 13 Unacceptable! is the tri-thermal. My accent nail is Orly’s Feel the Funk over Maniology’s Monarch Dream, stamped with Maniology’s Bam! White. Only one coat of each, y’all! The plate is Valentine’s Day BP-L001.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: An encounter with a bug or insect.