Doom on a Hot Summer Night

flyBefore going to Africa a few years ago, I had numerous concerns. Elephant foot disease. Sleeping sickness. Malaria. Diseases that haven’t yet been discovered.

We stocked up on drugs like we were going to war and were going to be miles away from any field hospital. I committed to wearing stockings, pants and long-sleeved shirts in any weather, even if it meant that my space-suit outfit turned into a sauna on most days. There were lots of things we couldn’t control but being bitten by a mosquito or a tsetse fly wasn’t going to be one of them.

On the flight over, I thought about how so much misfortune could come from something so tiny and how was it that we didn’t bring our own mosquito net.

When we got there, the first thing I noticed in our hotel room was an anti-mosquito aerosol called “Doom.” I thought the name was more than promising and insisted on turning our room into a gas chamber every night while we went to dinner. We’d come back to a faint smell of “Alpine meadows” and dead bodies on flat surfaces.

Then one day we came to a new national park with black and blue flags all around the hotel’s campus. It’s like someone was doing target practice, which after a story about a leopard that liked to drink from the hose at night somehow seemed fitting. It turned out that the flags were actually targets for tsetse flies. The cloth contained a chemical that tasted great but nixed reproduction. The flies didn’t know about it and enjoyed the feast and the fun.

But I wasn’t content with just waiting for them to go extinct. On a drive through the park one afternoon, I realized that our jeep was filled with tsetse flies, their stingers out like little swards. We’re not talking about the little, delicate looking organs of our normal house flies. Did you ever have to get your finger pricked for a blood test? If yes, do you remember the metal stabber with a sharp edge that the nurse had too much fun jamming into your fingertip? That’s what tsetse flies have. Steel stabbers connected to a deviant brain.

The second I realized what was going on, I grabbed a nylon binoculars case and became a woman on a mission. There was nothing I could do about the myriads of them circling around antelopes and water buffalos, but if they were in the jeep, they were fair game and would be smashed against the windows. I disposed of bodies by returning them back to their natural environment. At the end of the trip, our driver said that they might ban me from the national park for tipping the delicate environmental balance. But we didn’t get stung. And no sleeping sickness (well, napping is another issue).

Last night I was thinking about my obsession again as a lone mosquito buzzed around us in bed. We turned the light on and attempted to kill it because it was impossible to fall asleep with it going round and round like a little jet airplane. We knew that if it landed, it wouldn’t deliver malaria in its stinger and the most we could expect was a nasty welt.  What to do on hot summer night? Do you hide under a sheet and let it win or do you lay there exposed and commit to slapping your most tender parts? “B said. “Where’s Doom when you need it most.”

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