Kage Baker loathed bugs.

Not too surprising; most people do dislike them to some extent or another. Millions of people detest and run screaming from them. Spiders are an especially earnestly hated organism; although, of course, they aren’t bugs OR insects. They’re arachnids. The fact that scorpions and lobsters are related to them does not endear them to most people – including me, though I am fond of lobsters both culinarily and socially,

Kage would admire butterflies, but didn’t want them walking on her. And she detested caterpillars. She didn’t like pill bugs, especially when she discovered they are actually wood lice. She didn’t even like trilobites, and those are both extinct and the uncontested King of Cute of Paleozoic sea life.

Bugs didn’t frighten Kage, though. She dispatched them with a cold-eyed efficiency, nothing like my gibbering panic – cockroaches, for example, upset me. Non-furry spiders do it, too. Jerusalem crickets, now – those will send me into hysterics. Not Kage. She was the designated bug-killer in our household, a post she filled with Amazonian courage.

(What scared her was big dogs. I always walked on the dog side of a street, closer to the fence lines and driveways – I like dogs and they don’t frighten me. Kage said she had memories of wolves at the genetic level, and simply could not approach a dog until they had known one another at a distance for a while. She also felt that dogs, as a species, were undignified and silly people, anyway; she only really liked a few extremely formal dogs she met over the years.)

However: Kage couldn’t stand ants. I think it is was because she mostly only encountered them swarming over kitchens floors and counters – hers was the ancient antipathy of the housewife, on whose fecal roster ants occupy a very high spot. When we got ants – and even the cleanest kitchen does, on occasion; the little buggers are insidious – she went off the deep end in assault and destruction. Bleach spray, chili oil, hot water, all matter of herbs and spices and tisanes scattered over lintels, usually with muttered wardings and threats …

Borax was a favourite; in fact, she borrowed its pismire-icidal qualities for the story “The Two Old Women”, and declared it a component in keeping ghosts and demi-goddesses away, too. Why not? Salt works on both ants and spirits; for all I know, Borax does too. I can testify that we rarely had either in our kitchen …

What she hated most about ants was their mindless mobs. Ants get everywhere. As I said, you can scour your floors and counter tops, and some morning you’ll come in and there will nonetheless be a wavering line of little crunchy burglars across the floor. When you pick things up to wash them off, they promptly swarm up your arms: Kage really hated that, even when they were not the biting kind.

It’s all those damned little feet! she would cry, and usually leap straight into the shower. Ugh! I can’t stand them!”

I was therefore the Ant Killer. It was only fair, after all, what with the number of beetles Kage had defeated while I stood screaming on the couch …

I dislike ants pretty intensely myself. However, they don’t horrify me, even when they climb all over my hands; I can deal with them. I resent them too much to be afraid of them, because it is always a pitched battle getting rid of the critters.

Naturally, in the warming weather and in the middle of a lush garden, the house I am sitting came down with ants yestreday. The cat came crying to me, running back and forth frantically – had she been a dog, I’d have automatically assumed Timmy was in the well. But no, her tuna had been swarmed with ants! It was not to be borne. I sprayed (Dilute bleach, not insect spray; I’m kind of green.), wiped, mopped, swept and followed the trail back to its entry point: dealing ant death the whole while.

The cat watched with great satisfaction, purring.

This morning, however – the dastards were back. As all too often happens, with ants. I either missed a few or didn’t trail them back far enough. Again, a great rout and destruction of ants and rescue of the cat dishes took place. And this time I followed them out the back door, down the side of the house, out the back gate and into the flower bed at the side. I disrupted the scent trail, killed every scout I could see and anointed the door step with chili oil … only time will tell. The cat food is safe, at least.

This really cuts into one’s writing time, you know? And it’s hell on one’s back, too. Grumble, grumble. Damned ants.

On the other hand, I also found a lot more ripe blackberries. And the kitchen smells ever so clean now.

I’ll take my victories where I can get them.




About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to Bugged

  1. buggybite says:

    Here in wet Scotland ants aren’t much of a problem. Our problem is slugs. And man. Don’t ever make the mistake of angrily grabbing a slug with your bare hands. I’m sure there must be an industrial use for slug slime. It remains in place until Time, and Time alone, wears it away—from hands, carpets, windows. Soap, detergent, brushes, brillo pads, acid, smoke, flame …nothing has any effect on slug slime but …Time Itself. Meanwhile, don’t expect to be able to hang onto anything without having it slip through your slime-coated fingers.


    • Kate says:

      Aaaak! That is horrible! Thank you, I’ll stick with my ants …. oooog, the very idea of slugs gives me ther creeps. Some animals were just not meant to be naked.


  2. I really appreciate that you differentiate between hairy and non-hairy spiders. I don’t mind hairy spiders at all. But shiny spiders creep me out beyond belief. Oddly enough, it’s the feet. Hairy spiders tend to have leathery pads on their feet. I imagine they feel soft and cool. Shiny spires have feet that end in chitinous points that seem like they would cling and crawl on your skin. Ugh. Not to mention the fact that the really poisonous ones like black widows and brown recluses tend to be shiny. Yuck. No thank you. I’m not saying I would cuddle a tarantula, but they are far less terrifying than their deadly sisters.


    • Kate says:

      The fuzzy spiders also have nicer faces. Wold spider, for instance – still multiple eyes and weird mandibles, but the little faces are just … friendlier. And the furry feet aredifferent. I have actually had a pink-legged tarantula walk on my hand (yes, alcohol was slightly involved). Her feet were tickly, but soft; a little like a kitten who doesn’t quite have their claws under control. And she had an incredibly light touch, almost hesitant. Delicate. Can’t say I enjoyed the experience, but at least I found out how it feels!


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