Another day in the life

So, this is what I did this weekend, in case you were wondering-

We can’t have furry pets in this house because of dander/allergy issues so instead we have become a foster family to a Russian Tortoise in the boys’ room and a Leopard Gecko in my daughter’s room. Despite some early trepidation about keeping reptiles in the house I have to admit that I love them as much as I would any kind of furry pet, more or less.

The tortoise, Turles, is pretty low-key, forgiving and quiet. I swear that she looks forlorn most of the time but I think that’s just the look on her face. I can relate. Scully, the Leopard Gecko, is also fairly low-key. The only trouble we’re having on that front revolves around his food source, keeping crickets. It’s a constant dialogue now that Scully has grown. He goes through crickets like the boys go through snack food, except when he’s shedding and then, nothing. This means that the food supply present in the little plastic box we bought specifically for this purpose starts to die off and no matter how well I think I’m treating those pesky crickets they just die off after a few days if not eaten. And dead crickets stink, in case you were not aware.

I always feel a little bit bad for the crickets and I imagine what kind of life this must feel like to them. They’re born or hatch or whatever crickets do to come into the wide world and then are shipped off to pet stores to be placed in bags with cardboard, taken to someone’s house, placed into a spa-like environment with food and water and hiding places and then unceremoniously removed to the cage of their predator for consumption. I’m pretty sure this is the plot of a sci-fi movie I saw once.

I try to talk to the crickets and apologize for the harsh life. I tell them it’s a food cycle kind of thing but really, it’s unnatural if you really look at the big picture. And so, I always feel a little bit bad about it even as I sit and watch Scully enjoy the hunt.

The latest adventure came this week, though, when I decided to order a larger quantity of crickets for home delivery. I know, it sounds weird, but I really thought that maybe getting the crickets directly might mean they were healthier and last longer in that plastic utopia death chamber in my daughter’s room. When the box arrived the mailman held it by the edges. A metal screen covered the front of the small box and the crickets were clinging to the screen, trying in vain to escape. The first thing I noticed was that they were not the large crickets I’d ordered but small ones, about the size of the button on my sweater. Fine, I thought, he’ll just have to move a little faster to catch ’em. The next thing I noticed was that there was no easy way to open the box for transfer to the bug house without letting them or at least some of them escape. My clever solution was to open it on my back porch and just dump them quickly into the bug house. Flawless plan, huh?

Except, not so much.

If you don’t have a need to keep crickets for any reason you won’t realize that they usually come with some egg carton cardboard. They like to chew on the cardboard. In the case of this box the egg carton cardboard itself could fill the bug house and there was really no way to get the crickets from the cardboard to the bug house with any efficiency. So, here was me on my back porch opening the small box, seeing the mass of small crickets streaming out from all open areas like the scene from the Ten Commandments when the locust descend upon Egypt. And I am dumping crickets and cardboard into the plastic bug house with a real fury and determination, trying not to pay attention to the number of escapees, trying to shake off the renegades who are climbing on my hands and arms and pant leg, trying to keep my bug panic contained long enough to get the job done. It was kind of awful.

The escapees outside seem to have taken up residence in the garden, eating some of my plants, building their own version of utopia I suppose.

But wait, there’s more.

To make matters worse, the bug house apparently was not made for these small crickets, you see. After a day or so we started to find them here and there around the house. They have been finding cracks we had not considered before because of the larger cricket population that Pet Smart provided and every couple of hours I’d hear a kid bellow out, “Here’s another one!” We began to call it Cricket-pocalypse. I made an executive decision. The crickets had to go outside for the night until I could figure out what to do about their housing situation. We dumped a load of them into Scully’s cage to keep him happy and then I took the bug house outside to the back porch for the night. Was it shirking my pet owner responsibilities? Yes, probably.

I’d forgotten that it was meant to rain that night.

In the morning when I found them the majority of the crickets were drowned in what must have felt like a flood of biblical proportions to them. Some were still clinging to the soggy egg carton cardboard that rose just above the three inches of water in the bug house. It was again, kind of awful.

In the end, I did the only thing I could think to do. I opened the top of the bug house and dumped the whole mess into the garden. A kind of cricket Garden of Eden for those who survived. This is probably where I’d draw some metaphor for life and living, some deeper implications of that whole endeavor but really, all I can think is that it’s another day in the life, for me and the gecko and the crickets who found their way into the promised land this morning. That’s all I got.