“My years (and years) of practical, hands-on engineering experience (changing light bulbs, cleaning out the crumb tray in the toaster, and rewiring the power cord on my Hoover Acc-u-Vac) had enabled me immediately to grasp the potential of this gadget for my particular purposes.”—Ross Konikoff
West Side Stories
By Ross Konikoff
MANHATTAN New York—(Weekly Hubris)—August 2017— In an effort to disrupt the monotony of news regarding our country’s decline into aggressive nationalism and the downfall of Western civilization, I’ve decided to announce an exciting technique I have discovered and refined, one that has brightened my tedious life of champagne, carnal pleasures, and exotic adventure. See if you won’t join me in my newest passion, which involves but one prop.
When the occasional gigantic Musca domestica Linnaeus (common house fly) or enormous, blood-thirsty mosca-ito (little-fly or, as you refer to it,“mosquito”) somehow gains entrance to our quarters, pestering us to the point of madness, our first response is generally a concerted, mutual frenzy to bash it flat, spattering its tiny yet colorful innards out onto the walls; knocking over lamps, vases, wives and husbands in the process.
Anything goes, in our all-out effort to snuff bugs’ tiny lights.
But . . . when word spreads regarding my practical and carnage-free solution to this universally annoying problem, I fully expect to be named PETA’s “Humanitarian of The Year.”
It all began the day I first wandered through a hobby shop in Florida’s Aventura Mall, in search of another stuffed and mounted Alaskan Wolverine to add to my collection.
As I turned a corner, I spotted a large-mouthed butterfly net. At first, I breezed right past it, subconsciously dismissing it as the tool of eccentric introverts bent on kidnapping one of nature’s more delightful creations, the fluttering Macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera of the order Lepidoptera.
The common butterfly is a creature that, while mildly amusing to observe for a moment or two, certainly holds no allure powerful enough for me to suddenly set off after one through an arboreal dell, risking scapular dislocation.
There may be those who salivate at the concept of capturing, killing, and flattening one of these beauties for the purpose of pinning its remains to a cork board for display, but that is not I.
Still, some mysterious instinct stopped me dead in my tracks. I backed up, grabbed a net off the shelf, and gave it a few McEnroe-quality forehands and backhands before the full potential of one of these babies came into clear focus.
My years (and years) of practical, hands-on engineering experience (changing light bulbs, cleaning out the crumb tray in the toaster, and rewiring the power cord on my Hoover Acc-u-Vac) had enabled me immediately to grasp the potential of this gadget for my particular purposes, leading me to conclude that, no matter how inaccurately aimed, the wide radius of the net’s mouth would capture even the quickest of insects.
Since my bride and I had just spent $25,000 skim-coating every room in our apartment, I was loath to begin again fouling our smooth, clean surfaces with insect epithelium, so I said, “What the hell” (but softly, Floridians taking a dim view of profanity) and took the plunge.
I couldn’t help noticing the cashier eyeing me suspiciously as I handed over the net for price-scanning. I was dressed in a Miles Davis T-shirt, torn jeans, and flip-flops, hardly matching the stereotypical profile of the lepidopterist.
Handing him my credit card, I mumbled something about my nephew, a manly little fellow, who had only recently discovered the joys of burning ants to death by means of focusing sunlight onto them with a magnifying glass, and rather than allow him to continue down that depraved path, I thought it my duty, as his sole non-molesting uncle, to steer him in a less gruesome direction, that of chasing down butterflies and crucifying them for decorative purposes.
My explanation did little to soften the squinty, accusatory look on the clerk’s face but, after handing back my Visa card, he rang up the next customer’s item, a shaker of fish food, giving him the same suspicious perusal: I had to assume this despondent cashier had grudgingly accepted his gig in order to pick up a few bucks during his summer vacation from Embalming School.
Once we returned home to New York, I unpacked our suitcase and grabbed my butterfly net with the enthusiasm of a twelve-year-old unboxing his Star Wars Lightsaber. I waved it around the room, warming up for my first hunt; miming some of the legendary hunters from the golden days of flying insect collection.
Deborah observed me for a moment and then issued a dire warning that I be heedful of my gestures, lest I pay the severest of penalties for destroying any of her prized possessions. After reminding her of my spotless record of discretion in all such matters, I began leaving our front door open longer than was necessary, opening the screens on our windows, and bringing assorted potted plants into the apartment, all with the hope of welcoming my first victim. To my chagrin, not a single creature made itself apparent for the next several days.
Then, one day, I noticed a large something-or-other buzzing overhead while we watched the evening news. I slowly rose from the couch, gracefully grabbing my net from its resting place in the corner, all the while whistling innocently so as not to arouse any suspicion in the mind of the bug.
After locking onto his flight path, I gently swung the net in his direction, easily scooping him in. I was ecstatic. I rushed to the window, opened it, and released him back into his ancestral surroundings. I turned and proudly gazed at Deborah, fully expecting a look of respect and admiration, only to see her shake her head slowly, astounded that such silliness had brought me such a grand swell of pride. Either way, it had and, over the following weeks and months, I proved again and again my great skill as an eco-friendly hunter, with tight control over his environment.
These days, whenever I spot something in my no-fly zone, I grab my trusty net, gently wave it in the general vicinity of the UFB, capture it, and then release it back into the wild, watching as it happily flies off with a backward glance of gratitude for my having spared this father of several thousand.
At this point, I must admit that I am not always perfect, having been responsible for a few very minor mishaps. It’s true that as careful as I try to be, I may still knock over the occasional priceless Lalique vase, smash the odd antique Tiffany lamp, or dig ugly scratches into the rare African Zebra-wood cabinet doors but, when all is said and done, not unlike the G-men of Eliot Ness fame, I always get my Fannia canicularis.
Editor’s Note: When I read Ross Konikoff’s latest for Weekly Hubris, I immediately thought of his progenitor-among-the-wingéd (and fellow Russian-American), Vladimir Nabokov, a photograph of whom (cum butterfly net) illustrates this essay. Those interested in reading what the author of Lolita, among other masterpieces, had to say about . . . butterflies (and their pursuit) may wish to click on “Nabokov’s Butterflies, Introduction.”
Note: Click on the cover of Ross Konikoff’s latest novel-on-Kindle to buy the book: