They drop in the night from the safety of the tree branches. Why? It’s because of the stick. The one I’m holding to be precise. I’m hitting the branches to knock the sleeping bugs onto the ground where foraging children await their dazed landings. With half a green leaf in one hand and a torch in the other, the kids pick up the still-yawning insects. They are destined for the aluminum basin which doubles up as a torture pool for unwelcome guests and bugs.
It’s time for a swim and each rescued bug is ceremoniously dumped into the final race to the death. They swim and shine green in the light of the torch. They look oddly beautiful, as though suspended in liquid air, struggling for life in the water. Their frantic death dance leaves ripples that go nowhere.
It’s raining flower petals now. We are decorating their last few moments alive and watch as their struggles become weaker and they start to float lifelessly. Death floats tonight.
We return to the tree when the boredom of the dead becomes too much. I’m given a bigger stick this time, not a stick but a broom with a grassy end. The little terrors urge me on and on to strike out harder and again and again. We are rewarded with no more beetles. Perhaps they sent out a last dying signal, “Warning! Dangerous man with stick will disrupt your tree house. Attention all bugs! Vacate the premises immediately! We are no longer welcome to munch on the leaves of these trees on this farm. Retreat! Retreat!”
Whatever the reason, no more bugs grace our presence. Instead a flap of wings alerts us to a slightly bigger victim of the stick attack (ahem, broom attack) patrol. It’s a little bird that we knocked out of its nest. I pick it up and feel the beating heart thudding away like crazy. This bird is still dazed and definitely unable to fly. With tears in my eyes I apologize and return it to its nest. Another bird stares wide-eyed at us. I can’t look this other bird in the eye. Instead I slink back inside and whip out my notebook.