Small Talk

You know what bugs me?

Jean is enjoying the first fruits of summer. This is one from her archives.I never thought I would find myself feeling genuine empathy and admiration for a chicken. That was until I read about the Sentinel Chickens.

The name sounds just like the super heroes that they are. These brave, ill-fated fowls have been chosen to stand guard on the front lines against the spread of the West Nile virus. While the disease can hit any animal including humans, birds seem to be highly susceptible, so these noble cluckers’ jobs are to hang out in a cage along the banks of area lagoons, waiting to be bitten by mosquitoes.

I realize there really isn’t anything terribly funny about the West Nile virus. I have to admit, though, that I am finding it equally amusing and terrifying that cage or no cage, based on mosquitoes’ lifelong attraction to me, I might just be North County’s Sentinel Human. If there is a mosquito or flea within 100 yards, it will soon catch my scent and hustle on over for a snack. I will never forget one dreadful night in Spain. I had forgotten to pack bug repellent and my room was filled a dozen voracious whining beasts that circled my bed all night long. Of course it was a hot night with no air conditioning. I was driven sweltering under my sheet, leaving only a minimal bit of face and mouth out for breathing. It was a very long, very itchy night.

Another of my favorite bug attack stories is the time my friend had been living alone in an apartment for a couple of months with no pet. The previous tenant, however, had a cat. The cat had left and all his flea friends who missed the kitty train had apparently been just biding their time in the rug. They did not choose to bite my friend. No, they continued on their hunger strike until the right pair of ankles came along — mine.

I also wince each time my husband, also of the tasteless-to-mosquitoes variety, tells of his venture into the swamps of Florida. Alone, he rented a motorboat and headed in. Just before dusk, as he was ready to turn around and head home, his engine quit. If he stayed in the middle of the canal, his boat was pulled farther and farther into the swamp by the current. If he pushed over to the banks out of the current, thick swarms of mosquitoes quickly covered him. He eventually got the motor running, and escaped with but a few bites. Had it been me, searchers would have simply found a bumpy, white husk of a person in the bottom of the boat, sucked completely dry.

For now I stay armed and ready with my can of hairspray. I have found that a couple of broad, sticky blasts in the direction of a sited mosquito bring it down like a rock. They die, but hey — they die with every hair in place.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer and bug hors d’oeuvres. You can contact her at


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