The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Ever Done

As a writer, I just had to sit down and type this little mishap up. It was too visceral not to record.

So here’s what happened. Last week, I turned on a lamp in the living room. Flash. The filament cracks to a surge of blue and the light bulb promptly dies.

I unplug the lamp and remove the shade. Here’s where it starts to get ugly: in the white bowl of the lamp shell, when I unscrew the bulb, I discover two deceased insects. “Dead bugs,” you might be saying. “Whoop-dee-frickin’ doo. How old are you again, Julie?” And I would then assure you that I dispatch unwanted spider-guests all by myself, thank you very much, and once chased a cockroach the size of my fist with a can of bug spray. But that’s another story.

These insects– one an orangish lady bug, the other a red-backed, fly-resembling insect I have only ever known as “window bugs”– are fried to a crisp. They are yellow-brown, like straw, and textured as wheat square cereal. It doesn’t take a forensic scientist to see what happened: the bugs had clearly zapped themselves, or for whatever reason become unable to climb out of the lamp bowl, and became trapped at the base where the bulb screws in. By appearances, they have been there for some time: cooking, crisping, browning like the skin of marshmallow held to flame every time someone turned on the lamp.

That’s not even the gross part. The gross part is that in order to screw the replacement light bulb in, I have to take the insects out. I could, I suppose, have fastened the new light bulb in over them, but I didn’t relish the idea of the leg-collapsing crunch this maneuver was liable to make, and now that I knew the bugs were there, the idea of leaving their six-legged corpses to fry every time I sat to peruse the paper was not the most agreeable to me. I decide they’re coming out.

Removal, however, is complicated by the fact that the base of the lamp bowl– the pit in which these crispens reside– is narrow. It is smaller in diameter than a quarter, and only as deep as the base of the bulb. I could probably reach in and dig them out with my fingers, but I am not too keen to get Golden Antennae Crunch stuck under a nail. I resolve to use a tool. Preferably something disposable.

I evaluate my options in the kitchen. Plastic forks and spoons: too large. Straws: no grip. Small spatula/other rubber-tipped utensils: too wide and no grip. It occurs to me that a tea spoon– the elongated tool for stirring beverages, not the measuring instrument– would be both narrow enough to fit and provide some kind of scooping leverage in the sink. But that’s no good; I use these spoons all the time for tea, and would be much happier not remembering the serving of Refried Bugs one of them once exhumed from a dusty lamp crevice, even after washing.

I decide on the pickle fork.

Armed with my weapon of choice, I set to work. The fork is minute and fits easily into the trap, but its collection ability leaves something to be desired: I push the skeletal husks around but they, like the evasive last noodles in a bowl of ramen, refuse to be gathered. Finally I manage to scrape the lady bug, then the window bug, out of the bulb pit, all the way up the side of the lamp bowl, and into the trash.


I then lathered the fork with dish soap, washed it, and put it through the dishwasher for good measure. The insect-picking pickle fork is now back in the drawer, chillin’ with the other silvers. But that’s cool, ’cause I’m exactly not over the moon about pickles. I see no need for anybody who might be to hear this story.


Fourth & Morrison

Freewrites are amazing for when you’ve hit a creative block. The rules are simple: pen. Paper. Go. Like your grade school teacher taught you when you were learning cursive, your tool should never leave the sheet—just keep writing. It’s a wonderful thing for meticulous, self-editing writers like me because it forces you to generate material without stopping to revise.

The freewrite I want to share is a purely observation-based portrait of a place. I had some time to kill downtown earlier this week and went, latest issue of The Atlantic and notebook in hand, to a nearby Starry B’s. It was quiet. I looked up from my magazine when I realized not just what a fantastic view I had of city life rushing by on the street outside, but how perfectly well I could hear the exchanges between baristas and other customers. I pushed up my sleeves, uncapped my pen, and wrote the following (please excuse the lack of punctuation; true to the spirit of freewriting, I went totally freeform):

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Flash, the orange hand

“Can I get your name, please?”

“Decaf, tall, sugar-free vanilla latte.”

“I’m okay, how are you?”

“And there are monkeys all year.” “Aggressive?” “Oh yeah.”

A custodian pulls a squeegee up and down four glass doors. The traffic cone sits alone on the red, brick corner; a slender man in dusk-colored jeans stretches by an older, oranger fire hydrant

“Alex? Your white mocha awaits you.” “Thank you.”

A man in black skinnies, leather jacket and shades sits near the window, daylight glaring on the screen of his laptop. Also black.

Two vans pull up tandem to a traffic light; the red splits to green, they glide through and against them the three-car electric train rumbles to a stop

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

The bell blares thrice

A balding man with a walking stick leans across the walkway, pushes inside and up the steps

Two orange-vested men in white hard hats spin a diamond sign upright—Left Lane Closed Ahead—and post it

“Regular, or reduced fat blue cheese?”

The walking man blinks

High heels clip-clop. Stop. She sits, biting into a steaming egg biscuit in the morning light, brown skirt draped over crossed legs, subtle red lipstick in-tact.

A fire truck fills the window, tiny American flag

Baseball caps pass in pairs and a chessboard man with white headphones on black leather thumbs his phone

The man on his laptop speaks “Sí porque…”

Neon signs buzz on street windows and colored star lanterns with cutting shapes hang near beads, purses with metal studs, and tank tops

Wingtip shoes, brown, light passing through beige sheer and blue-green flowers

A cyclist standing in his pedals coasts by

“You want a lid on it? What was your name? And for you?”

The empty chair on the other side of the table: round, dark, and cold

A wooden tag dangles from the cane, swinging as the man ambles out

The train again rumbles by; the Spanish man picks up and jogs out

A taxi flashes past

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

A woman blows smoke on the corner

“Thanks for asking.”