Caterpillars rained from the sky like the eleventh plague. The Alders surrounding our home waved their white webbed leaves in the warm spring breeze. The ground around our home squirmed yellow and black. The rain continued with the quiet pattering of soft bodies landing on our roof. Not a single bird inhabited the sky.
The walls of George and Bunny’s home across the street turned yellow and black in a slow syncopated rhythm.
“Richard, have you ever seen anything like this? You can’t even see the front yard,” I said.
Richard opened the blinds for a closer look. “It looks like something out of B-grade horror film,” he said. “Do you want to go outside and check it out?” he asked with his wicked smile.
“Sure, right after you,” I said pointing the way. “I’ll get the umbrella, if you’ll get the blower.”
“You’re joking, right?” he asked.
“What, you scared of a few hundred thousand caterpillars?” I asked raising on eyebrow.
“All right, let’s see if you’ve got what it takes to play with the swarm,” he said. “Follow me.”
I put my hand on Richard’s arm stopping him. “You will pick them off me so they won’t get into the house, won’t you?” I asked.
“Quid pro quo, Fannie, quid pro quo,” he said his smile breaking into a grin.
“This is going to be like the first time you had me put a worm on my own hook, only on an exponential scale,” I said with a shiver.
The garage door opened letting a wall of caterpillars collapse into the garage. With a wave of the leaf blower, furry bodies rolled like leaves onto the carpeted driveway.
“You got the umbrella ready?” asked Richard over his shoulder.
“Ready whenever you are,” I said opening the golf umbrella.
“Let’s roll,” he said.
The blower kicked into high gear, Richard cut a path through the swarm. Neighbors peaked from their windows cheering us on from the safety of their homes.
“You know what’s really freaky, no birds. You’d think they’d by feasting on this smorgasbord,” said Richard.
“You know what they say, too much of a good thing,” I said.
We found ourselves surrounded on all sides as a fresh supply continued to rain from the trees overhead.
“Uh, oh, this isn’t working exactly like I imagined it would,” said Richard looking around us. “I really don’t want to step on them and track it into the house either.”
“If you blow a path back to the garage, you know what’s going to happen,” I said. “Do what you have to do to get us inside, we’ll deal with the consequence once we’re under cover.”
“When we get through this, would you call one of the pest control companies and see if we can get this cleaned up? I don’t want to be living this way for the next month,” said Richard.
“Trust me, I’m on it,” I said.
By the time I reached the letter “P” in the phone directory, my gumption hit bottom.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” they said, laughing, “we are booked out for the next two months. This infestation has hit the entire region. You can always climb your trees, cut down the infested branches and burn them if you want.”
Sure, I’m going to climb eighty feet up a tree, dangle over a branch while cutting it and hope I don’t kill my husband or myself as the branches rush toward the earth for our little bon fire.
“Richard, we are too late, everyone is booked out until June. And get this, they said if we couldn’t wait we could always climb the trees and cut the infested branches ourselves,” I said.
“You mean, climb, cut, repeat,” he said trying to get a laugh.
“Nice try,” I said looking out the window as our yellow and black carpet grew taller.
The phone rang.
“Hey Fannie, Aunt Verla’s on the phone for you,” said Richard.
“Hi, Aunt Verla, you planning an early trip or something? I asked. “Do I need to get the guest room ready for you and Uncle Carl?”
“No dear, cousins Melva and Darlene are planning a trip out here from Philadelphia at the end of June and want to see the changes to the house,” said Aunt Verla. “They were hoping we could dine outside? I was telling them about the pink picnic table,” she said with a laugh.
“Aunt Verla, you need to know we are experiencing the invasion of the caterpillars right now and eating outside will be challenging.”
“Fannie, it’s a whole two months away, the caterpillars should be all gone by then. Would you also invite your parents and anyone else who might be available so we can get everyone together?” she asked.
“No problem,” I said, “I’ll make all the arrangements.”
“Richard, we have a problem. Aunt Verla wants us to host a party for some out of town relatives, in the back yard. Our umbrella for the picnic table isn’t going to be enough protection.”
“Well, let’s see if we can find one of those gazebos to cover the patio,” he said. “We better make sure it has some sort of screens on the side, just in case.”
One gazebo and two pith helmets later the picnic table basked from within the confines of its new shelter.
Two hours before our guests arrived, we cleaned the driveway, sidewalk and patio. Ten minutes later the reinforcements landed laying a new carpet on the ground.
“You know, we could get some bug spray and see if we can lay a perimeter. We haven’t tried that yet.” I said.
“They’re falling from the trees not crawling over from the neighbors. Do you just want to call a truce?” asked Richard.
“May as well,” I said with a shrug. “We should get ready for our guests.”
A sun warmed breeze moved the broken clouds, swaying the trees.
My family arrived and rushed into the house.
“I have never seen anything like it,” said Aunt Verla. “Where did all of these caterpillars come from?”
“The trees,” said Richard with a straight face.
“Very funny, Richard. I grew up here. Besides Carl and I lived here for thirty years after that and never saw anything like this,” said Aunt Verla looking to Uncle Carl for confirmation.
Uncle Carl nodded. “You know Richard, you should have called an extermination company to take care of this for you.”
“Thanks, Uncle Carl, it never occurred to us,” I said crossing my fingers behind my back.
Richard looked away suppressing the inappropriate laughter.
“So, who wants to eat outside?” I asked.
The silence of disbelief filled the room.
Melva cleared her throat.
“Fannie, you and Richard went to all the trouble to get the back yard set up, we should at least give the gazebo a try.”
“Melva, I was joking. We’re eating in the dining room.”
“I really want to eat at the infamous pink picnic table,” said Melva.
“Okay then. Richard, would you, Uncle Carl and Dad grab the brooms and clear a path to the table?”
We lasted maybe ten minutes before caterpillars crawled all over us.
“I can’t take this anymore,” said Darlene flicking two more caterpillars from her arm. “I don’t care what you say Melva, I am going inside to eat.”
Darlene lead the revolt as the family moved en mass toward the house. Richard and my father stood guard at the door removing caterpillars as people entered the house.
Two weeks later, Richard found a company who could cut down the infested trees for us.
George and Bunny raised the white flag weeks ago. Their house looked alive.
“Darlings, we would love to go in with you and get these trees out of here,” said Bunny. “I haven’t been able to find anyone to help us no matter how much money we throw at them.”
Twenty-two trees later, the caterpillars disappeared. The birds returned and our neighborhood heaved a huge sigh of relief.