Guest Commentary

The Non-Toxic Avenger goes on a life-saving (not really) killing spree

I know that hair-raising whine--not mechanical, but animal. Specifically, a parasitic insect. A bloodsucker has come.

Usually I attempt to kill every mosquito I see, as a matter of principle. I figure nature intended us to be mortal enemies, what with the bloodsucking/hideous disease factor and all, so I may as well accept my role and strike back with enthusiastic precision. Pierce not my flesh, tiny demon, lest my blood color thy shmeared corpse!

These days, I have added incentive: the dreaded West Nile virus. Unfortunately, here's the boring and dramatically challenged truth about West Nile: Only a fraction of mosquitoes carry it; only a smaller fraction of people who get bit by a tainted skeeter actually contract the virus; only 20 percent of those people get sick enough to even know they have it; only a couple percent of those people get seriously ill with meningitis or encephalitis or somesuch; and only a fraction of those people actually die.

Let's face it, folks: More people die of (insert astounding scientific trivia here: rabid frog attacks, falling condor poop, infected snail bites) than West Nile.

Not that mosquitoes don't kill people. Millions die of malaria every year, and relatively little is done about it, perhaps because the victims tend to live in countries where most everyone's skin is dark. Here in the Prophylactic Society, the Whiteys lose a couple oldsters to the little buzzers, and it's full-on chemical warfare. Spare not taxes nor toxins! Pestilence is afoot!

So I kill not out of fear, but as a public service. Call it "integrated pest management": more hand-slapping equals less poison. Plus, with the aid of some rather intricate reproductive calculus, I figure if I kill a few dozen mosquitoes early in the season, I will be sparing my neighbors and fellow Tucsonans 3,275,981 bites over the course of the season. (Grateful remittances can be forwarded to "The Non-Toxic Avenger," c/o the Tucson Weekly.)

This year, what with the rampant West Nile plague, I decided to adopt a bit of the hysterical attitude some have displayed in calling for aerial pesticide baths and kill every mosquito I see, before it has a chance to bite me, as if it were truly a matter of life and death.

Warfare commenced in late January (spring, in these parts). The first few seemed like biological anomalies: scattered, desperate loners, foolhardy, almost kamikaze. Flew in straight, with no regard for my defensive capabilities. Easy kills. I left the stain of the first victim on the wall to serve notice. Enter not my domicile, eager vermin, lest ye be dealt a righteous and terrible blow!

But soon, frequency increased, and the parasitic little pokers seemed to get craftier, as if word was out in the Mosquito Underground that Casa Serraglio was a bona fide challenge.

Even so, I continued to kill without fail, employing the white walls in my apartment to great effect, not unlike a "hitter's background" at the ol' ballyard. Then the heat arrived, and the infernal swamp cooler caused so much turbulence that flight patterns became erratic. Patience, grasshopper. Be as one with the bug.

The body count rose into the teens, and still they came. On one occasion, two set upon me simultaneously, but I heard their synchronous vibrations, lured them into the bathroom (a ruthlessly efficient killing chamber), shut the door and dispatched them each in turn.

Then the dreaded "ankle-biters" began their sorties, flying low against the brown floor, much harder to hunt. Inspired, I bore down and kept the streak alive, reaching 20 without a single pierce.

Twenty! Now I know how it might have felt to be DiMaggio. (That is, if he had been a paranoid-obsessive neo-hippie who had seen one too many apocalypse movies.)

Finally, late one June night, in a moment of extreme distraction that could only be characterized as en flagrante derelicto, I felt the hot sting below my shoulder blade. At last, alas. I regret that I have but one life to give (and 20 to take) in defense of my species. I can feel my brain swelling now ...

With my dying breath, and the monsoon mosquito explosion at hand, I implore, Arise, Tucson! Arise and destroy the demon spoor, lest ye too be damned! ¡Viene la chupacabra!

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