We are crowded around my uncle’s shed like a group of angered peasants attempting to oust a monster. Hefty rocks clenched in our tiny fists, my brother with the stolen handle of our mother’s broom, fervor and bloodlust in our eyes as we stare up at the three grey dome shaped paper mache treasures hanging on the eve of the shed.
We haven’t been up here in a few days and the wasps have set up house, once again forgetting our previous brutality in pillaging their villages.
“Once I saw my Uncle Ed spray stuff into the little hole in a wasp nest while he held a lighter up to it and it burned all the wasps inside, and the ones that tried to fly out got their wings burned off.” I mutter aloud as I examine the nests and plot out how to effectively demolish them.
“We can’t do that!” My cousin, Tonya squeals. “We’ll burn down my Dad’s shed!”
“I know that,” I mutter exasperatedly. “Beside, we’re not even allowed to have matches and your mom would see us out through the window and get us in trouble anyway.”
It’s true. We are disciplined on a daily basis based purely upon acts that we are caught in by Aunt Vonnie. We have searched the back of her head for the eyes that she claims she must posses in order to mind us.
“I have matches…” My cousin, David pipes up, pulling a crumpled blue packet of water proof matches from his jeans pocket. His green eyes are sparkling with intrigue.
“No.” I say with the decisiveness that only the oldest of a group of children can get away with. “We’re going to do this the usual way. Let’s get the big one first.”
The four of us stand and take aim. I give the count down and the rocks fly, most thud against the press board side of the shed chipping away great chunks of pale yellow paint, but one is a direct hit, crumpling the side of the nest and tearing half of it away. We cry out in excited panic as we scatter in different directions, sneakered feet pounding fast on the hard packed earth in order to escape from the buzzing fury spilling out of the partially destroyed nest. We sit on the side of a hill watching from afar, arguing over whose rock was the one that connected until the wasps fly away.
When we are sure that they’ve dispersed we creep back toward the shed to survey our damage. We are careful to watch for any stragglers who might be sitting and waiting for us. I take the broom handle from my brother and use it to knock the rest of the nest down to the ground.
Now we move on to nest number two.
I pass the broom handle back to my brother. “Danny, you should hit it with the stick.” I advise.
My cousins agree and under our recommendations my brother, the youngest and most easily influenced of us all, steps up and we step back, readying ourselves to run.
He is short and has to reach up with the broom handle in order to hit it. His first swing is wild, missing the nest completely, as is the second. For the third he steadies himself, carefully aims and jumps as he swings. Like a baseball the nest flies through the air, landing about
The third nest is small. We contemplate whether or not to take it down using rocks, or just hit it with the broom handle like before, and we decide it is better for everyone to launch their rocks simultaneously like a barrage of canon fire. The third nest is demolished in record time and we go off in search of better things to do.
Because we haven’t filled our day’s quota with danger and excitement, we decide on bee races. Much like destroying wasp nests, the reward for winning a bee race is not getting stung. We scour un-mowed gardens filled with dandelions and capture fat yellow bees in baby food jars left over from our baby sister’s meals, shake the jars vigorously, then smash them on the ground and run like hell. Bee races can provide hours of quality entertainment when you are 9 years old.
Later that day, when the thrill of hazardous insects has worn away, we are playing near my cousin’s house. We are playing a particularly quarrelsome game involving baseball bats, hockey sticks and a tennis ball. At some point the ball bounces away and my brother runs to retrieve it. He does not notice a new wasp nest; this one built on the ground, because it blends in too well. He does not hear the agitated buzzing over the crunch of driveway gravel under his feet, or notice the single warrior hornet flying under the hem of his light blue baseball jersey.
Suddenly he is screaming and crying, thrashing and flailing, and running as fast as he can up the road toward our house.
We stare incredulously for a few seconds, then follow after him.
Inside our porch my brother is standing shirtless and wailing, with three angry red welts rising on his pale torso. Mom comes bustling toward us holding an aerosol can that she sprays on the welts. My brother gasps as the first cold blast hits his skin.
“You were at the wasps again weren’t you?” She says scolding. We deny it, but my brother nods his head yes, as he wipes his hand across his face, leaving a trail of tears and snot across his cheek.
Later when my uncle gets home from work we tell him about the wasp nest in his back yard because we have been ordered not to go near it ourselves. He walks up to the nest and places his giant steel toed work boot on it, crunching it into the ground and scuffing his foot into the dirt producing a sense of finality. It is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.