I recall one spring, when we were searching for an appropriate place to hold a human-powered vehicle speed challenge in the Western Rockies. Our two-man team went out to survey roads in Colorado. We were hunting a paved surface with a specific slope (0.66%), 200 meters for the timed stretch, with a gentle catenary curve leading down to it, and as few bumps as possible. How hard could it be, after all?
It would have been a pleasant outing, with wonderful scenery, and purposeful work to survey our candidate roads—except for the biting insects. Deer flies, gnats, and the never-sufficiently-to-be-damned mosquitoes were out in force, and I was the best buffet they had available.
In the prompt this week for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, Charli Mills asks us to include insects in a story. Yet these pests need no invitation; they show up for dinner, and, if we let them, ruin the party!
May 4, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story. Periwinkles, bees laden with pollen, ants building hills. What can insects add to a story? Do they foreshadow, set a tone, provide a scientific point of interest or a mystical element? Let you inner periwinkles fly!
In the end, if you are wondering, we did find a downhill run that met our parameters, and the four-cyclist engine powered their Pininfarina-designed vehicle to just short of a record. Nowadays, these runs are made in Nevada. I fortunately have no idea what pests wait for surveyors in that dry environment!
Surveying SkeetersA spring somewhere uphill feeds a soggy ditch paralleling the road. Every road we've surveyed seems to have its own mosquito bog. I squint downhill through the transit to the rod my partner holds, and, jotting the numbers, spot the blood-sucker on my hand.
Whap! My notebook serves a second function as a skeeter-swat. I turn the transit to the back-line and spot the previously-sited stake. Wiping my sweaty forehead, I dislodge a team of gnats. My hand comes away adorned with another mosquito.
That night, doing calculations from my surveyor's notes, I find more dead mosquitoes than numbers.