The Winged Crusader
by Bobbi A. Chukran
The little girl with the cerulean blue hair peered into the rosebush by the front porch. Because of her hair, which was natural, her grandmother called her "Blue." An avid bird lover, Blue had heard some peeping noises coming from inside her grandmother's rosebushes the day before, and wanted to check to see if there were any baby birds living there. She knew it was almost Valentine's Day, time for her grandmother to trim the bushes, and she didn't want the birds to be harmed.
Sure enough, there was a nest with some blue and white speckled egg fragments and four tiny purple bird babies, and they were peeping and cheeping up a storm. No sign of mother bird, though. Blue thought that the bird babies must be hungry, but knew better than to bother them.
Blue pondered and thought, and pondered some more. She knew that her grandmother was deathly afraid of snakes, so she went down to the local hardware store and bought one of those squishy rubber snakes you put in your garden to keep the birds away. "How ironic," thought Blue, "that I should use a rubber snake to keep my grandmother away from her bushes, instead of keeping birds away." Whatever works was Blue's motto in life. She'd do almost anything to protect the birds. In her experience, the birds just ignored the snakes anyway.
The next day, sure enough, Grandmother came outside with her clippers, her yellow elbow-high rose cutting gloves, her twee, red little trug to hold the cut roses and an orange plastic trash can to hold the trimmings. Grandmother also loved birds, but not as much as her roses, and couldn't see well enough to avoid the nests built in them. She could see the bright fluorescent green snakes, though, that Blue had put in the midst of the fuchsia flowers.
Her grandmother reached out for the bush, saw the snakes, screamed, and keeled over. Blue was watching from the living room window. She smiled then walked outside. The mother bird flew into the garden and landed on Blue's shoulder.
Mission accomplished---the baby birds were safe. Blue pulled off the little girl mask then flew off into the distance.
Revenge of the Ulagu
by Bobbi A. Chukran
"Hon, I wish you wouldn't use chemicals around the house. It's not good for the kids, or for us," Ora Mae complained.
"You've read too many of those tree hugger magazines," Herbert said, wagging his head back and forth and aiming an aerosol can of wasp spray towards a huge nest of yellow jackets up under the eaves of the farmhouse. "That's just a load of horse-shit, you ask me. Now you get back, you don't wanna get stung. You know how yeller jackets are. When I spray 'em, they're gonna go crazy!"
Ora Mae stepped back inside the safety of the screen door where she cast a wary eye on Herbert. He sprayed the nest full of yellow jackets, and sure enough, they went insane, flying straight for him. He dropped the can and ran, almost escaping. One of them, however, was faster. It landed on the side of his face and stung.
"Damn!" he yelled, slapping at the wasp and knocking it to the ground. He ran back into the house and into the kitchen. Ora Mae shook her head, hating the fact that the nest had been destroyed and hating the fact that her husband was so ignorant when it came to using toxic chemicals around her children and her garden. She knew there were better ways. Her native ancestors believed in living in harmony with the insects, birds and wildlife, and she believed the same thing. She shook her head, but made up an ice pack and applied it to the side of Herbert's face, feeling sorry for him.
That night, Herbert's head throbbed, and his jaw was swollen to the size of a baseball. "I think the stinger's still in it. We need to get the stinger out. My grandma says if you don't get that stinger out, other wasps will come back for it later."
Herbert was mule-stubborn and wouldn't let her look at it. "That's just an old wife's tale," he grumbled, took a few allergy capsules and went to bed. He tossed and turned for a while. The pain was almost unbearable but finally he fell asleep.
About 2 a.m., Herbert was awakened by a thumping at the bedroom window. There was a small tree beside the house, so he assumed it was a branch tapping against the windowpane. He turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Then he heard a buzzing sound, so loud that it reverberated in his head and filled his brain with nothing but the loud buzzzzz. He got up and walked to the picture window. He saw a large shadow, thought he was dreaming, but it became obvious that he was not. Herbert, not being terribly smart, opened the window to get a better look, and at that moment an enormous yellow jacket, the size of a large dog, flew in and attacked him, its huge stinger pressing itself into the side of his neck over and over until he was paralyzed from the venom. His wife lay asleep in their bed, not twenty feet from the window, but she didn't hear a thing.
The yellow jacket wrapped its legs around Herbert and flew out the window, carrying him with it.
The next morning, Ora Mae called the Sheriff and reported Herbert missing. She told them that he had disappeared during the night, and as far as she knew, he had. The only other thing missing besides Herbert was his ugly plaid pajamas, which she said he'd worn to bed that night.
Three days later, while searching for Herbert, the Sheriff found a cave filled with hundreds of man-sized cells, each holding the white grub-like larvae of oversized yellow jackets. In the back corner was a human skeleton, wearing Herbert's ugly plaid pajamas. The body was identified by dental records (and the pajamas). His bones had been picked clean. No obvious cause for Herbert's death was ever found. As for the large larvae, entomologists were called in, but their only theory was that a few wasps had mutated because of something in the local environment. They'd never seen anything like it!
After Herbert's funeral, Ora Mae sat on the front porch rocking, watching the wasps hover around the door. She remembered her Cherokee grandmother telling her the story of Ulagu, a giant yellow jacket that would snatch small children and take them back to its nest to feed its young. She remembered the story about the stinger. She believed that the old stories had basic truths at their very roots. She didn't know what had really happened to poor Herbert, but she had a good idea.
In no time at all, the yellow jackets rebuilt their nest beside the front door, and as far as Ora Mae was concerned, it would stay there. She vowed that never again would a nest be destroyed on her property.
She smiled, and rocked and rocked as the yellow jackets gently buzzed around her head.
Bobbi A. Chukran is a writer and poet who lives near Austin, TX in a tiny town that is full of fodder for her flash fiction. She herds six cats, blogs and carries on at Grackle Stew.