I march into battle

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
So said Thomas Mann, a German writer who, in 1929, won a Nobel Prize in Literature for his thoughts; those thoughts he recorded on paper.
I am just such a coward, it would seem. And when the war I waged had been won, I ran around my backyard like “Rocky Balboa”—knees high, arms over my head, shouting, as if I had won something.
Let me explain.
I was innocently working on my deck—a deck that is the scourge of my existence; whose paint has pealed just enough to be hideous but not enough to allow it to be stained rather than painted.
Only fools paint decks, I’ve been told by everyone I encounter (the expert and the not-so-expert). But once painted, always painted. So I must, by association, remain in the category of fool.
I had to pound nails in that were catching my sandpaper and tearing it before the paper even had a chance to sand. Who nails deck boards? Isn’t that why we have deck screws for just this kind of situation?
I should mention I already had put in about 17 hours of power washing with a pressure washer boasting enough power to launch the space shuttle. I power-washed, I scraped, I sanded, and now to pound nails?
Alas, three strikes with my hammer and I was swarmed by hornets; swarmed by angry, how-dare-you, we’re-going-to-harm-you hornets—and they did.
I thought I was being electrocuted when I was stung more than a dozen times simultaneously and muddled my already over-heated brain. When I realized what was happening, I rushed into the house and doused my stings with deodorant containing aluminum—the aluminum neutralizing the effects of the sting (it really works).
I also popped two Benadryl to be on the safe side.
I then crawled under my deck to discover a nest the size of a football, and its residents were not one bit happy. In face, they already were organizing maneuvers to reclaim the deck as their own.
This meant war.
I donned my hornet-fighting gear: my daughter’s snowboard jacket, bug hat, rain pants, rubber boots, sleeves tightly clamped down over rubber gloves, plastic bag, and scraper.
I didn’t wait until dark when the enemy would be asleep as I needed the benefit of sight.
I crawled under the deck, “marching into battle on my belly” as Napoleon would have said, and carefully put the plastic bag around the huge nest. All the while the hornets swarmed me with their disapproval; a united effort to do me in.
I scraped the attachment of the nest to the deck and the nest dropped neatly into the bag; heavier than I imagined as I sealed the bag up tight. The bag was vibrating with hornet displeasure—an energy that we might look at harnessing—as I crawled out from under the deck.
My next thought was, “Now what?”
I hadn’t thought my plan carefully through to a happy ending. The euphoria I felt earlier had dissipated and was replaced with a hint of shame.
In my defence, though I’m not sure there is any, the paper wasps have full run of my garden potting shed, the rafters laden with tiny wasp nests, and we work together without causing each other harm.
These hornet fellows were of another mindset.
The deck still calls to me, still sits there with its pealing paint—a sander discarded, a scraper lying quiet, my best intentions put on hold.
It’s much too hot, I tell myself. I’ll wait for a cooler day before I resume my efforts.
As I sip a cool drink, I realize not a hornet is to be seen. I smile.
Perhaps I did win the war after all.

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