Insects thrive among us, whether we welcome the buzz or not. Butterflies flutter, bees bumble and ladybirds amass. We can slow down and watch, or shriek in terror. How we react is part of the story.
This week, writers find out what bugs characters (or inspires). The stories that unfold will surprise you. A few might leave you squirming. Hopefully these tales of 99 words will get you observing and curious about things that crawl, fly and sting.
The following stories are based on the May 4, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include insects in a story.
The Hum of the Sea by Sherri Matthews
Fingers of sea-mist stroked her face as it rolled in across the harbour. She shivered.
A distant fog horn played its mournful warning. How many lives had it saved? Certainly not the one life that had mattered most to her. Her husband, her best friend, her rescuer. But he had rescued others; on wild nights at sea, a lifeboat volunteer, until the sea claimed him also.
A faint humming, all afternoon, still played with her thoughts. What was it? There, up high by the church spire. Mason bees, in and out of their nest.
She smiled. Relentless, life moves.
The Sting in the Tail by Geoff LePard
Mary sighed. Rupert. This time she needed him. ‘Can you watch Charlotte? I’ll drop Penny at her dance class. Tea after.’
She was delayed and hadn’t brought her phone. In the kitchen she found a scribbled note on the fridge said ‘hospital’ with Rupert’s number. There were 8 missed calls on her phone.
‘It was a bee sting. She began to swell. Mum was allergic so I knew the signs. They’ve given her adrenaline; she’ll be fine.’
Mary sat in traffic her mind a jumble. If she was going to have a guardian angel, why him?
The Sting by Jeanne Lombardo
Cleaning day in the new house. The feel of fine grit in the bathtub. She scrubbed, like a woman she’d seen in Oaxaca grinding corn on a stone metate.
Then, Ow! What the hell? A sliver of glass? She turned to the sink and threw her rag down. Inspected the finger. No blood. Only a suffusion under the skin, as if the tip were blushing.
She did other chores. The finger grew numb. Still she didn’t realize. Returning, she picked the rag up. The evil thing lay in the bowl, flat, segmented, pincered, its barbed tail ready to strike.
Girl on a Swing (haibun) by Oliana
Emily eats her cookie on the swing in back of the cottage surrounded by rose bushes, plum trees, a cherry tree and several milkweeds. She loves how the grass is tall and she can crawl on her tummy and pretend she’s in the jungle. The grasshoppers often play dead on a blade of grass and she can outstare any bug and make it jump away.
The blossoms sure looked pretty, she thought as she passed a fallen petal gently on her cheek; it felt like Mommy’s silk scarf.
No Bad Luck by Anthony Amore
“Dad,” she screams. “Get up here now.”
What now, I thought and flew up the stairs. She stood outside her bedroom dripping in her towel, head wrapped up like some ancient fortune teller. “Problem,” I ask as she points.
“There,” she says fidgeting. “Gross. Eww, so gross.”
In the shadow of the room’s corner a hundred creeping black and orange dots.
“Kill ’em,” she squeals. “Just kill ’em all.”
I grab some Kleenex, her desk chair and stand on the dresser. “I can’t”
“What do you mean can’t,” hands folded, begging.
“Can’t kill ladybugs,” I tell her. “Bad luck.”
Lift Off by Ann Edall-Robson
From beside the deck, I watched the Bumble Bee foraging on the thick, creamy blossoms of the Goats Beard plant. Harvesting pollen and leaving their scent on the buds they had already ravaged. Hind legs laden with generous amounts of rich, yellow treasure.
As I stood in the sun, enjoying Mother Nature’s spectacular performance only a few feet away, I wondered if this tiny insect would be capable of taking its booty back to the hive.
With very little effort, and a quiet buzzing, lift off was achieved before my eyes. Hovering only for a second, the bee disappeared.
Achoo by Ruchira Khanna
“Achoo!” Patricia gave out a couple of continues sternutations, and it made everyone in the audience silent.
She was embarrassed.
While wiping her nose and fidgeting with her slides she speculated over her decision of taking a spoonful of honey made from the local bees for the last few months or popping in the anti-histamine each day to avoid this moment.
“Jeez! it sure is not an easy decision when one chooses to go the alternate route to fight pollen allergies, huh!” she snickered with a sniff and watery eyes while commenting over her act of sneezing.
May the Butterflies Land by Susan Zutautas
Dad how do you make the butterflies land?
You have to be oh so still and quiet. Watch and listen to what I do.
Dad extended his arm out and barely whispered to the Monarchs saying, simmer down, simmer down, simmer down. Patiently we waited and dad repeated simmer down several times.
I began to chant simmer down, and after what seemed like an eternity a butterfly landed on my shoulder. I was ecstatic and tried so hard to be still. I looked over at dad and he was smiling.
That’s how you make a butterfly land sweet girl.
Box Elder M-O (Montana) by Elliott Lyngreen
Smothering in unconditioned Long John Silvers, fries aftertaste is flies. Free substance rots, overwhelms, smashing bug squishes airs pavement. Wipers smear mayflies across the windshield. “Never see those flying. Or swarming. It’s like the invasion spontaneously envelope everything.” Treck’s ride has bee carcasses across the area above the back seat. Whenever staying at Treck’s, his basement bedroom, earwigs and bedbugs, silverfish randomly appear in exposed wall portions where the furring and paneling are unfinished. Box Elders cloak bright windows.. Read his walls; covered with writings. Cuz Treck always plays this one song. We cruise. Find reasons, places, the masses…
Is There Laundry in Heaven? by Kerry E. B. Black
Sun couldn’t warm Serena as she cloud watched. Her hair splattered the grass about her head. Moving hurt, so she allowed the spring-damp earth to hug her back. Momma would have hated how the mud stained her clothes, but Momma didn’t need to worry about washing any more. “Wonder if there’s laundry in Heaven?” Serena thought. Pain stabbed through her. Springtime blurred into opalescence. A tear trickled over her cheek. Something tickled, little feet alighting and scampering to gather her tears. Serena opened her eyes. A butterfly crafted her sadness onto a strand. Serena’s soul followed its lead Heavenward.
Buzz by Jane Dougherty
I have always loathed spiders, squished every one that got too close, mercilessly. Not surprising this drifting, restless dream, probably inspired by indigestion, has a big, fat spider in it. Its eyes, red and globular stare into mine, its hairy mandibles fidget. Its awful bulk scuttles closer. Even though it’s a dream I feel sick. I moan and try to wake, struggling against some tough, sticky stuff, binding my arms and legs. I hear the click click of those awful jaws. The eyes hypnotise. I try to scream, and my voice is the faint buzz of a dying fly.
Surprise! by Norah Colvin
It took just one, then the word was out. The streets were abuzz with the news – a triumph of social media.
“Kyle’s having a barbecue. Tell everyone. Don’t bring anything. There’s always plenty.”
The excitement was palpable as guests swarmed towards Kyle’s. Some, initially unsure, flapped about nervously. Others, more experienced, felt they were dancing on the ceiling. Eventually all were on their way. The waft of seared flesh left no doubt about the location.
Kyle was ready when they arrived. “Who invited you?” he grinned and waved, as he knocked them out with the can of spray.
Surveying Skeeters by Pat Cummings
A 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.
Leaving by Irene Waters
“You’ve changed. I’m sick of it. I want you to go.” He spat the words at her before storming from the room.
He’s right, Bee thought. I have changed. Once I had butterflies in my stomach, fireflies in my eyes and crickets in my heart. Now I’m a moth, bordering on insanity as I flit around an external light, my heart crawling with worms, maggots eating my brain. The goodwill that once was is no more. He’s right. It is time to go. We’d both be happier. Some wine, a bottle of pills and oblivion will be mine.
My Giddy Ant by Anne Goodwin
“Because it works! Look around you! See what following the leader achieves.”
Tony wasn’t sure. Each time the line detoured around an obstacle, he was tempted to break ranks and beetle over to explore. Each time the queue paused, he wanted to wander off, to rush past his brothers and sisters to glimpse that mythical creature at the head. But he never dared. His mother had told him that, if he did his duty, he’d be reincarnated as a human. “Consider this life an apprenticeship for the next. In the glorious worker’s Republic of North Korea.”
Flight by Larry La Forge
“It flew. I swear, it flew.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Edna. Roaches don’t fly.”
“Well this one did.”
Ed didn’t believe it. “It probably just leaped.”
Edna shook her head. “It flew.”
“Well where is it now?”
“How should I know? Maybe it flew into another room. Maybe it flew out to get its friends.”
Ed looked around but couldn’t find any sign of a flying roach, or any other kind for that matter.
That’s when Edna began frantically pulling clothes from her closet.
“What are you doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Edna screamed without looking up. “We have to move.”
Night Sounds by Bill Engelson
Hank and Merle Taylor proved to be considerate hosts. They’d fed Aggie a filling meal of cornbread and frijoles, and then left her to her own company.
A dry evening wind slipped in through the window of her temporary bedroom.
The night was crackling loud.
She prayed for Dobbs, weighed down by his violent and cheerless mission.
Her senses primed, she was sure she could hear scratching in the walls.
Her dancing candle cast a long shadow to the floor.
They were foraging with military precision, venomous, unassailable.
“Damn fire devils,” she cursed quietly, futilely, “Get thee to hell.”
Celebrate Celastrina by Jules Paige
I found Periwinkles in Indiana. They like pussywillow. The
bushes lined the walkway from the back end of the garage
all the way to the family room’s sliding doors – twenty or
thirty feet of overgrown bushes.
In that time of spring when the fuzzy bud blooms there were
hundreds then – they must have been catching the last rays
of day, decided in unison that they were finished and fluttered.
I didn’t know what they were at the time. And was never
able to recapture that magic moment. I guess I was in the
right place at the right time…
When the Sidewalk Ended by C. Jai Ferry
The calloused skin of my bare soles was no match for the sidewalk’s permeating heat. I jumped from side to side along the concrete stretching through the sandy loess.
And then the sidewalk ended.
I sunk my feet into gritty sand, sighing into the shaded coolness. But as my soles welcomed the relief, the heat latched onto my ankles, its fire crawling along my skin and spiraling up my calves.
Shrieking, I windmilled my arms, brushing at the fire ants swarming my legs. I raced back to the burning concrete’s safety, resigned to follow the well-traveled road.
Hail From Hell by Charli Mills
“Thunderheads, Nancy Jane. They’re so black.” Sarah scanned the sky where clouds spread like spilled ink. No wind, yet the clouds grew.
“Get on your horse, now Sarah. We gotta ride like them Express fellas.” Nancy Jane had already unhobbled the two horses and was handing the reins of one to Sarah.
“But the elk?” Sarah had ridden out with Nancy Jane to hunt the migrating herds near Rock Creek Station. She’d half dressed the one she’d shot.
“No time, Sar. Them ain’t clouds.”
The horizon darkened; the black expanding. “Not clouds?”
“Ride! We gotta outrun them hoppers hell’s released!”