I actually used to use an insect fogger around the place, but it tended to kill the butterflies, too, which wasn't optimal when your wife has a giant flower garden and happens to really like butterflies. So I laid off the fog for the last couple of years, and the flying insects have made a magnificent comeback. I was trying to take a few garden pictures the other day and was absolutely eaten alive while doing so. On the plus side, as I was swatting and swiping and swearing, it reminded me of a story.
The Snitch, Houdini and I were in the back yard riding on the whirly bird, and even though Houdini didn't know it, we were trying to make him sick. We were having a difficult time of it though, because it was only the three of us and the thing was completely unbalanced. Every time we got up any sort of speed one of the legs would start coming off the ground and the whole thing would threaten to tip over. We really could have used Markie. With a fourth for balance, we could get that thing moving so fast Houdini would be begging us to stop.
The Snitch and I heard it at the same time, and looked at each other. A faint droning in the distance, a high-pitched whine that sounded a little like a cross between an electric drill and a coffee grinder; a sound that could mean only one thing.
"THE MOSQUITO TRUCK IS COMING!" The Snitch yelled, jumping off the whirly bird without warning, almost sending Houdini and me to the ground in a pile of twisted metal and bruised ass-parts.
We jumped off too, and followed The Snitch as he ran into the house. "THE MOSQUITO TRUCK! THE MOSQUITO TRUCK IS COMING!" he screamed again, like some sort of mid-70s version of Paul Revere.
We had a job to do, and we took it seriously. Whenever the mosquito truck threatened our neighborhood, it was our job to protect our house by running around and closing all the windows. If we didn't, the inside of our house would be filled with dense, white clouds of DDT. The truck would drive slowly down one side of the street, traveling at perhaps ten miles per hour, spouting enormous gouts of fog, then it would come back up the other side and do the same thing again, pointing in the opposite direction. Sometimes we'd catch a break and they'd start on the other side and the wind would be blowing away from our house, but usually they waited until dusk on the most stagnant days, and the fog could sometimes hang around for 30 minutes or more. We didn't have much time.
As we ran around slamming windows, we could hear the obnoxious whine getting closer. It was loud, and the sound bored into your head like a muted chainsaw stuck on full throttle. Houdini ran to the front bay window and closed the bottom sliders and yelled, "I think I can see the fog! Hurry!" You'd think we were in a monster movie or something, and if The Fog touched us, our skin would bubble up and our eyes would pop and we'd instantly be reduced to raw, smoking meat and bones. Actually, the real reason was because my mother hated the smell of the fog, and so we did everything in our power to make sure the house was sealed tight against the poisonous fumes. If we got them all closed in time, we felt like heroes. This time, we made it with minutes to spare.
We ran back outside as the truck turned the corner and headed toward us, belching smoke toward our side of the street. We grabbed our bikes, and waited. Well, the Snitch and I did. Houdini was still a little too young to be allowed to ride by himself on the street. The front door on the house across the street opened, and Markie ran down the stairs. He mounted his own bike, jumped two curbs, rode directly across our front lawn and joined us.
"You guys riding?" he asked, nodding toward the truck lumbering toward us.
"Yeah," I said. "Looks like it'll be a good one, too. It's really still outside."
As the truck crawled by, we watched as the giant cloud billowed slowly toward where we were waiting. The greasy, kerosene-like stink of the fog enveloped us, and even though it burned my eyes and made me cough a little bit, I sort of liked the smell. It was a weird combination of charcoal lighter fluid and bug spray and it smelled like summer. We all thought it was incredibly cool to be standing five feet away from someone you could suddenly barely see. Inhaling poison, but that's beside the point.
But hey, it was 1972. Who knew? They were just figuring out that cigarettes were bad for you. To my mother's credit, she told us that we weren't allowed to follow the truck, but sometimes we didn't listen. If she happened to be away at a neighbor's house, or if we were across the street at Markie's when we heard the distant whine, we'd close all the windows and do it anyway.
We pulled in behind the truck, pedaling hard to catch up. We were in a crowd of about a half-dozen other kids on bikes, and a few more just running behind. It was sort of a mess back there because nobody could see, and we tried to avoid running into each other. Not only were we blind, we were also deaf. The truck was incredibly loud when you were literally ten feet from the power nozzle that was blasting out the fog. I remember that you could feel some kind of warmth, but I'm not sure if it was the hot exhaust coming from the truck, the residual heat from the sun-baked pavement, or some by-product of the fog-making process itself.
"It's gonna turn down Broderick street!" Markie yelled over the incessant whine of the fogger jets. We already knew this, because we were watching the same truck Markie was, but we were so excited to be flying in a cloud that nobody even yelled out the standard retort, "No Shit, Sherlock!" As the truck turned, we hung back a bit, because it was fun to let it get a little ahead so the fog had a chance to build up. Then you could go a little faster and not worry about passing the truck.
We were following the truck down the street and had just started coasting down a slight hill, The Snitch directly to my left and Markie on the right. Markie was probably ten feet away from me, and the fog was so thick I could barely see the outline of him and his bike. Suddenly there was a crashing noise and Markie disappeared behind me. I heard him yell "SHIT!," and The Snitch and I reluctantly peeled off from the pack and turned around, moving back up the hill through the thinning fog toward Markie.
When we reached him, he was just picking his bike up off the street and checking out the front tire. "What the heck happened?" I asked. And then as the fog cleared from both the street and my brain, it all clicked.
"Car got in my way," he said, looking down at the scrape on his elbow.
He had ridden directly into a parked car, and it was awesome.
From then on, we always rode down the center of the street when inhaling our poison gas.
It was much safer.