Killer Instinct


“Bye-bye, spider. Have a nice day,” I say cheerfully as I toss a mangled eight-legged carcass into the bushes. Sally wants to see it; I tell her it ran off very quickly. “Yes,” she surmises, “he wants to go see his mommy.” I nod thoughtfully. I suppose he did go to meet his maker.

photo: istock, erichood

photo: istock, erichood

I lie to my daughter quite a bit, almost always to avoid the topic of death. She’s 2: she can’t grasp it and doesn’t need to try. I have always maintained that if I roam into the great outdoors, I’m fair game for any animal to kill. I expect them to have the same respect for my territory. You come in, I can kill you. End of story. And until Sally, I lived out that philosophy with brutal fervor.

When I got cockroaches in my first apartment, I went straight for the five-gallon, pump-action, industrial strength tub of death juice. The most disgusting lifeforms on earth were making sandwiches in my kitchen and taking spa days in my shower. Answer: KILL. Spider in your house? Squash. Ants? Poison. Creepy Silverfish? Stomp.

These days, our policy on home bug invasions is just one of the many aspects of our lives that have changed. We relocate just about every living being. . . . At least, that’s what Sally thinks. My parental poker face expertly hides the truth: I simply want her innocence preserved. “Wow, the spider is taking a water ride down the drain!” “I’m just going to scoop these ants up and help them get to their house—this spray helps them hold on to the paper towel.” “Bye, beetle, say hello to your mommy for us!”

My secret serial-killer tendencies were under wraps until one recent evening. While Sally brushed her teeth, a small moth repeatedly buzzed by us, taunting me with a promise to keep my daughter awake with the fear that it could eat little girls. I instinctively slammed the palm of my hand onto the bathroom mirror, then callously wiped guts on some toilet paper. “Got it,” I sighed. Then I looked at Sally. She stared at me, toothbrush frozen in mid-scrub, saliva running down her chin.

“It was just a moth,” I said, too defensively. Radio silence. “Okay, who wants to race to bed? Yay!” (insert monkey dance for maximum distraction). I’d just introduced my toddler to death and then glossed over it. I expect my parent of the year award will arrive any day now.

I probably should feel bad about how I handled the whole thing, but my only real regret is that I couldn’t think of a cover-up story faster. Someday I’ll have to explain why the pine needles she leaves on the back porch aren’t growing into Christmas trees; why that snail can’t just build a new shell; and why Mommy has zero sympathy for any creature with more than four legs. But right now I don’t have to. There will be enough time for death—bugs and more—so for a bit longer I’ll give her a world with no such thing.

As for the moth, I just high-fived him. No biggie.

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4 responses to “Killer Instinct

  1. Well done.

    This should be an End Note — did you submit it to the powers that be?

    • Thanks! I’m barred from Endnotes for a while – already have done two. There’s only so much alums want to hear from one crazy ’99er. But I’m glad you liked it!

  2. Thanks for the laughs. When I am living those moments of sheltering my kid I can’t think of a single funny thing. But somehow you manage to make me laugh because I know all too well what you are going through. Keep up the posts! I love them!

  3. These days, our policy on home bug invasions is just one of the many aspects of our lives that have changed. We relocate just about every living being. . . . At least, that’s what Sally thinks. My parental poker face expertly hides the truth: I simply want her innocence preserved. “Wow, the spider is taking a water ride down the drain!” “I’m just going to scoop these ants up and help them get to their house—this spray helps them hold on to the paper towel.” “Bye, beetle, say hello to your mommy for us!”

    GENIUS! applause!

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