THE WASP by Tyler Engström

I look out the kitchen window and wonder why the flowers won’t grow. I can’t even remember what I planted, what sort of beauty I’m disappointed in not receiving. I’ve given them plenty of water. Was it too much water? I don’t know. I’ve never known. What life does water make, anyway?

Anyway, a wasp comes up to the window and lands on what would be my nose, if not for the window. I lovingly watch his little hands scrape against each other. Adorable! “You look like a fly,” I tell him, “like all the little flies that crowd every rotting meal.”

I tap gently on the window and say, “Little wasp, I love you!” and the wasp zips off. I lose sight of him and miss him already. Has anyone ever kept a wasp as their own? I would’ve been the first. How about an equal? There’s potential there. I think about all the things we could’ve been together and hear a pop against the window. The wasp is back, but this time as a lifeless little Rorschach test exploded against the window. The kind you only ever see on your windshield driving Highway 9 in the middle of July, but I wasn’t going anywhere just now.

If you love something, you’re supposed to let it go, and if it comes back, it’s yours forever. It’s something that doesn’t have to be true to feel good, so what remains of the wasp was my responsibility now. I owe him that much.

I step outside and pick the pieces off the grass. His head, thorax, other parts I’m sure I learned the names of in school, but some things are so easy to forget. Most things are like that, I guess. I wash everything that was once inside of the wasp off the window and place the wet tissue and his little body in the bin. “Back to the earth where you came from,” I say. I throw a handful of dirt in the bin with him for good measure. He was a very good wasp, as wasps go. We had a great time, once.

My neighbor notices my funeral procession and walks over. The down trip must be palpable from across the street, I figure. He asks what I’m doing. “Well,” I say, “I’m tending to the garden and doing what mother nature never had the guts to do, no pun intended. Do you think the wasp would be offended by that? God, I hope not.” He stares through me and I can tell I’ve shared more than I care to. There are no shadows on the ground and the air is damp. His eyes are so glassy, and he looks like he’d been crying. “What’s this about a wasp?” he asks. “The one in the compost, and never mind about that, anyway.”

He starts telling me about my flowers, “They need water,” he says. But what does he know about it? What does he know about the life water gives? What does he know about smashing your head through the glass pane of the world?


Tyler Engström's first book, Think of How Old We Could Get (Frontenac House) is coming Fall 2021. Twitter: @_stromo_

Art by Eli Sahm

Read Next: THE FIRST TIME I PERFORMED by Benjamin Niespodziany