Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Bloodsuckers”

I love vampire movies and I love vampire bats, but when motherfuckers want to bite me or suck my blood I lose my mind. Yesterday I found a snake’s skin in the grass and a tick embedded in the flesh of my stomach. I pulled the tick out. In a panic. In the heat of wanting it out of my body. Snakes I’m fine with. Except copperheads. (If you think all snakes want to be left alone you haven’t spent much time with copperheads.)

At the end of spring here in the country you get all sorts of shit you’d rather be without. Everything wants to suck your blood or bite you with their horrible poison mouth. If you think about it too much, you’ll never leave the house.

My god-sons Willy and Johnsy are here on the farm for another week and a half. Eight year old Johnsy had a tick on his neck under his hair last night and it was a terrible ordeal. Joking around, his mom Frankie told him, “There was someone’s HEAD inside your head,” and as you might imagine that didn’t go over well. The boys are terrified of ticks. They should be. A tick is a fucking asshole. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes? I don’t wish genocide on any species but those three … I don’t know. If I had that particular red button I can’t say I wouldn’t push it. On these long hot nights when walking outside you enter the swarm? Yeah, I’d fuckin’ push it.

Once it’s hot enough the bats come out. You see them swooping all wild and hungry through the dusk, eating mosquitos by the dozens. “A bat is a fuckin’ hero,” I tell Alison as we stand at the fence line watching them dip and flit through the purple sky. She agrees. Tells me I am right. Tells me that a bat is indeed a fucking hero.

One of my favorite topics of conversation after a glass of mescal and a long exhausting day is which animals and insects are heroes. Bats, yes, definitely, possums, guinea fowl, chickens eat ticks, so do wild turkeys. What else? Dogs are heroes for many reasons, earthworms too. Don’t forget purple martins, cats, barn swallows, chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, geese, bees of course, bees forever and bees eternal. I get passionate about this. They all do good and important shit and I can’t remember the last time I did anything good or important. I want to. I believe I will someday. But good and important? Naw, I’m just trying to get by, trying to get out of bed in the morning, trying to muster the verve and determination to feel okay.

Am I okay? Yeah. I am. I am because I’m trying. Believe me, I am trying so fucking hard. I’m trying every damn minute of every damn day.

Adam Gnade

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