You have your New Year’s Resolutions, I have mine. If you do not have the blight of Stink Bugs in your home, count your blessings. These walking shield-shaped sons of guns may not be poisonous biters, nor home destroyers, but they swarm our Midwest homes, and fill me with hatred. Christianity tells us not to bother with reincarnation myths, but indulge my fancy just this once. It’s as if disgraced sons of Sparta, whose mothers parted from them crying, as Plutarch says, “Come back with your shield-or on it!” came back on their shields, were reincarnated to wear them and now crawl my walls to fight another day. Previously, my attitude toward the vile creatures has been that of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I might have noticed one in the evening, and said to that particular “I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” But no urgency lay upon me to bring the hammer of death that instant, and if aforementioned insect were nowhere to be seen when rosy-fingered dawn greeted me, then so be it.
That was before one of the villains climbed by dead of night into the French press, and lay in wait for the morning coffee. It literally gave its life to be buried under the medium roast and then boiled. It stunk up the entire pot, stealing from my husband and me that most precious brew which we share every morning before the children wake. No more shall I carelessly allow the enemy to walk my walls.
I see myself as Sallah, turning in confusion to Indiana Jones to say “Indy, Why does the floor move?” It may be only a speck on the floor, but I feel Indy’s frustration and despair when I answer myself “Stink bugs. Why’d it have to be Stink Bugs?” I have wondered “Why is the star on the tree moving?” and “Why is the statue’s arm moving?” and “What is that blot on the baby Jesus’ head?” and the answer is always the same. Stink Bugs. They cluster in doors and windows. They hide between bookshelves and the wall. They hide inside books (is nothing sacred?), between title page and cover. I have felt feverishly for the cause of the scratch at the back of my neck, only to find myself ready to kill my scapular. It has simply gone too far.
Here indeed is a creature of the fall. Before the Fall of Man, “God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good” (Gen 1:31). But then sin entered the world. The original harmonies were broken: Man and God, Man and Woman, Man within himself, Man and Creation. The purposes of all creatures were warped by sin, original rolls were thwarted. Perhaps before the fall, the Brown Marmorated brought sweet fragrance of Damascus, or the light scent of lilacs as they fluttered into the faces of the stewards of the earth. Now the spawns of hell seem to accept death as glibly as a cup of tea (“don’t mind if I do”), knowing that their greatest victory lies in death. Is there a lesson for us here? I do not know. One thing I do know, there is enmity between these bugs and this woman.
I think they secretly laugh when they see a furiously florid human approach with his or her soapy bowl of water, patiently knocking stink bug after stink bug into the wet death. They know that when you open the door again, or touch the window, or turn around: there will only be more stink bugs. Crush them, and they stink. Throw them in the garbage, close the lid. Still they reek. Vacuum them, and every time you vacuum you will face the aromatic reminder of the carnage you inflicted. I have flushed them down the toilet to erase the stink. To no avail. Lady Macbeth, I sympathize, as you scrub your ever-filthy hands:
Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two… What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him… The thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?—What, will these hands ne’er be clean?
I never have killed a man, nor intend to ever do so. But as I scrub my hands, frantic to rid them of all traces of Halyomorpha halys, I feel at one with that frantic Scottish Lady.
I turn to another Lady, more admirable, who won back her home. Queen Isabella of Spain brought an end to over 700 years of war. And though my Reconquista may be less grand, less noble, still I look to her example and to the example of her people. I have sons, I have daughters. I will raise them up to crush the Stink Bug. I have a two-year-old son who takes the hand held vacuum, wielding it, claymore fashion, in two hands, as Wallace himself, and runs to the rescue when Stink Bugs appear. We will win this war, and 2018 will be our year.
If you’ll excuse me, I have a mission to fulfill.