The Unwanted Passenger
By Audrey W.
John Gage listened to the radio in his white pickup truck as he drove along Interstate 10 on his way through Arizona. The paramedic was heading back to California after visiting relatives in New Mexico. The cool flow from the air conditioner blew his hair slightly as he enjoyed the relief from the 110 degree weather outside.
Glancing at the driver’s side view mirror, Johnny noticed it was a little off kilter.
Must’ve moved it when I was wiping it off at the gas station earlier. That’s easy to remedy, he thought as he rolled down the window to adjust the mirror.
The timing could not have been any worse. Just as he got the window open, a black and brown blur flew into the vehicle. Johnny startled at the enormous size of what ever it was, jerking the steering wheel slightly in the process. Luckily, he kept the vehicle inside the lane he was traveling and under control.
“What the. . .?” Johnny forgot about the mirror and glanced over at the passenger door. A two inch long black wasp with brown wings was flying around the window, trying to get out.
Oh Shit. . .
The paramedic kept his eyes on the highway ahead, periodically checking on the whereabouts of the wasp.
“As long as you stay over there, we’ll get along just fine.”
He glanced at the next information sign hanging above the interstate. “Alright. Good deal. Only one mile till the exit for a rest stop. We can respect each other--” Johnny stopped in mid sentence when he didn’t see or hear the wasp anymore. Oh great. I know it didn’t go out my window. . .must’ve gone down--
Suddenly his worst fears came true. As he slowed to get off the highway at the exit near the rest stop, the buzzing sound returned and the big black wasp appeared out from under the bench seat, landing on Johnny’s right forearm. He tried to act like he wasn’t disturbed by this latest turn of events, but he couldn’t keep his heart from beating at a faster rate. The wasp was making him nervous. The paramedic noted the black spindly legs that supported the huge jointed body.
Maybe if you weren’t about the size of a hummingbird. . .
Johnny hoped the insect would fly again and find its way out his still open window. But so far it wasn’t ready to leave his arm. What ever the reason, the wasp appeared ready to stand its ground.
“C’mon,” Johnny whispered between clenched teeth. He tried to stay as still as he could and yet continue to drive using just his left hand to steer, his right hand slightly away from the wheel.
Whether the wasp got angry at where it was or sensed his fear, Gage didn’t know. He let out an involuntary gasp as he felt what he’d hoped to avoid. The insect stung him, immediately sending an incredibly strong and painful sensation through his arm. His first instinct was to brush the offending wasp off, but the size of it kept him from doing so. With the rest stop now in sight, he gritted his teeth against the excruciating pain. The wasp flew off on its own and once again was against the passenger window. Johnny gave every effort to steer the truck into a parking space. But the effect of the sting was so intense, he couldn’t do much of anything.
Parked crooked, the paramedic opened the door with his left hand and stumbled out. His right arm didn’t seem to want to move at the moment. He left the driver’s side door open and quickly stepped away, then plopped down on the curb in front of the truck. Johnny could feel the heat from the sun baked concrete through his jeans.
Oh man. It was the first clear thought he could form. He hoped the pain from the sting would subside, but instead it continued.
At least I’m not allergic to it. . .
When the large wasp hadn’t emerged after a few minutes, Johnny got to his feet and opened the passenger door. He jumped back as the insect flew out and away.
“Far out! A tarantula wasp!” A teen boy exclaimed as he walked past with his parents.
The father looked over at Johnny. “Unwanted passenger?”
Still in agony, though not as much as at the time of the initial sting, the paramedic just nodded. The pain etched in his face brought on another question.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. . .”
The father motioned for his family to go to their car. He had them get inside with the air conditioner running, then opened a Styrofoam cooler in the back seat. The man reached inside and pulled out a can of cola. He also put some of the ice from the cooler in a wax-lined paper cup.
“I’ll be right back.”
Johnny was sitting in his truck again, both doors closed, the windows up and his air conditioning on as well. He looked out as the father approached from the passenger side. Johnny leaned over and rolled down the window with his left hand. The man handed him the cola and cup.
“You sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah.” He held up his right forearm. “Just hurt. . . like hell.”
“How’d you manage to get a tarantula wasp in your truck anyway?”
“Lucky. . .I guess.” Johnny forced an attempt at a smile. So that's what it was. . .
“You’re lucky you kept your senses and didn’t have an accident. Take it easy.”
“Sure. Thanks. . .again, man.”
Johnny rolled the window back up and set the cola on the dashboard. He reached in the cup and pulled a couple of pieces of ice out, holding them on the site of the sting.
After a couple of more minutes, the pain subsided enough that Johnny could concentrate on driving again. He drove out of the rest stop area and soon found his way back to the interstate. When he glanced at his side mirror he remembered he’d never gotten it set right.
Next exit. I’m not opening any windows now.
This story is fiction only and does not necessarily follow how a tarantula wasp would react. I just got the idea when two of them were hanging around our yard and I asked my husband later what he’d do if one ever got in the car while he was driving. He started swerving. lol I know what I’d do. Here are a couple of links about them and a small paragraph.
The brightness of the orange-red colored wings of this two-inch-long, black wasp is a warning to other creatures, including humans, that it is dangerous and should be avoided. Its sting is the most painful of any North American insect (although it is less poisonous to humans than a honeybee).
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