It’s late afternoon, and Harrison is sitting on his deck, in a patio chair, smoking a cigar and looking out at the backyard. The sun is beginning to dip low in the sky, and the smell of the foreign cigar, compels him to nestle deeper into his chair. Glancing down beside him, he pops open a cooler, and grabs a beer that he opens with his cigar still in hand. As he is about to bring the cool beverage to his mildly parched lips, he hears a loud crash from inside his home. A near millisecond later, he can hear his wife yelling, “Be careful! I paid good money for this! I don’t want my home destroyed!”
Furniture movers have been bringing in new furniture for the latter half of the afternoon, sweating and toiling under the direction of Harrison’s wife. Brand new furniture in various pastel colors. Creams, mint green, lavender, pink. Shit he hated. What was wrong with the old furniture, one may ask? Harrison doesn’t know. Truly, maybe no one knows, except his wife. His wife says, “The furniture is out dated. We bought it three years ago. The colors are out of style. We need to stay hip and viable. We need new furniture honey, trust me.” And trust her he did. After the appropriate oral stroking, he trusted her three times. Yeah. That night was worth it to him. And even then, he put his foot down. She can put whatever she wants in the house, just as long as she leaves his deck alone. That was his domain, where he kept his grill and his cooler, the source of his household manhood.
Ignoring the mayhem that he can hear going on behind the sliding glass door, Harrison finally sips his beer. The cool liquid is too cold for his front teeth, but its refreshing nature makes it more than tolerable. Taking another deep drag from his cigar, he closes his eyes, as a warm, spring breeze washes over him. After a few minutes, Harrison begins to feel uneasy. Shifting in his chair, he crosses his ankle over his knee, and attempts to ignore that eerie feeling creeping over him. A minute later, he takes a deep swig from his can, and then chugs quickly, following up with a deep belch, trying to shake off the unsettling sensation, nestling in the pit of his stomach. Unable to tolerate it any further, he opens his eyes and looks at the sliding glass door. He completely expects to see his wife or a moving man staring back at him, but no one is there. Still disturbed, he looks towards the six foot fence, surrounding his backyard. Maybe one of the neighbor’s kids is standing on a chair and staring over here again, hoping to get a glimpse of his wife in her bathing suit. He scans the perimeter, but much to his dismay, there is nothing staring back at him. Feeling stupid for being so spooked over nothing, he leans over and opens his cooler, when he takes notice of a bright green praying mantis sitting on the wooden railing, roughly ten feet away. Ignoring its presence with a shrug of his shoulders, Harrison grabs a beer, closes the cooler and swiftly cracks it open, taking a quick, deep swig; reveling with a deep exhalation soon after. Staring at the fence, he continues to sip and chuckles to himself, as he remembers catching two sets of gawking eyes, staring over the fence, as his wife lay sunbathing and topless. Laughing aloud, he takes another sip and inadvertently, glances at the praying mantis, which seems to be staring at him. Slightly curious, he takes another drag of his cigar, and tilts his head to the side; an action that the mantis seems to mimic with its own rounded diamond shaped head.
Surprised, Harrison nonchalantly says, “Don’t tell me, you’re the one that’s watching me.”
“Nothing else is going on in the backyard today. Why not watch you?”
Suddenly, Harrison springs to his feet, and looks behind him, knocking his beer to the deck floor in the progress. Seeing no one there, he quickly walks to the deck railing and looks down at the ground, searching for the prankster; neighbors, kids, anyone. But he soon understands that he is very much alone. Just then, the eerie feeling that he had been trying to ignore morphs into fear, as he slowly looks down to see the praying mantis staring up at him. Quickly backing up, he steps on the half empty beer can and nearly falls to the floor, but he catches himself on his deck chair.
“You should be more careful. Falling and breaking your neck would be a bad way to go.” He hears while still eyeing the insect.
“You… You… You’re talking to me. Aren’t you?” Harrison says tentatively.
“There’s no one else here.” The mantis answers.
Slowly sitting, Harrison says, “I musta had too much beer.”
“No, you didn’t. I’ve seen you drink far more. You’re not even close to drunk yet.” The insect says.
“That’s true. I don’t feel anywhere close to drunk… Hey, wait-a-minute, what do you mean you’ve seen me drink more. Are you watching me?” He asks, making sure to keep his voice low.
“Yeah, I watch you. I find the males of your species fascinating.”
“What’re you watching me for? Why don’t you watch someone else?” Harrison asks, feeling silly.
“You moved your habitat into my territory, and I can watch what I wanna watch.” It answers.
“You territory? This has been my home for four years.” Harrison says, sounding protective.
“No. You’ve been here exactly three springs. I have been here for six springs and I rightfully fought and killed the previous inhabitant. This is my territory.” The mantis finishes.
Somewhat frightened, Harrison asks, “You killed the previous owner?”
“Owner? I killed a rival female for this area. Owner. This was nothing but trees before you. There was no human owner.” The female mantis reminds him, while rubbing her front legs together.
Feeling stupid for fear of being murdered at the hands of a mantis, Harrison asks, “So why are you watching me?”
“To be an apex predator, you don’t retain information very well. I said I find the males of your species fascinating.” She reminds him again.
“What’s so fascinating about us?” Harrison asks while picking up the beer can.
“Your useless sense of purpose.”
“Useless?” Harrison repeats, sounding a little offended.
“Yes, useless. If the majority of human males were mantis’, they would never mate. Females would kill you before you had the chance.” The female mantis informs him.
“I thought the mantis males were killed after mating.” Harrison states.
“They are. Sometimes during, but what I said, is that you would be killed before you got the opportunity.” She repeats.
“Why? What’s so wrong with me?” Harrison asks.
“You’re gullible. And you’re weak. Don’t feel bad, it’s true of all the males of your species.” The female mantis informs him.
“Fuck you. I’m not gullible or weak.” He boasts proudly.
“Yes, I am effectively convinced. I can prove it to you.” She says.
“Alright; then prove it.” He says, while retaking his seat.
“Ok, human. I have been paying close attention to this furniture situation. She wanted new furniture, no matter what. And you were against it. You said it was unnecessary; it was a waste of money. You told her that she should stop trying to be better than the neighbors.” She pauses.
“Damn. You really do watch me.”
“Then what happened. She got sad, and leaked some of that fluid from her optics. You felt bad and gave in to her demands; only informing her that she could not alter your deck area. Where we happen to be currently resting. Then to seal the deal, you two participated in mating practices.” She finishes.
“We did not mate to seal any deal.” He explains, “Mating practices are what married people do.”
“That’s what you think. But your wife said that she gave you good head so that you wouldn’t change your mind. Apparently good head is a fair trade for several thousands of dollars in ugly furniture.” The mantis informs.
“You’re making that up.” He says with more dread that assurance.
“No, I’m not. I heard her tell someone through the communication device. And that is why I believe that human males are weak. And not worthy to mate with.” She says.
“But true. You human males will give in it to anything as long as you receive your mating practices. And then you live in denial, like the deal you made means something.” She says with a slightly audible chuckle.
“What do you mean like it means something?” He asks.
Only slightly moving her head, the mantis says, “You will see shortly.”
Before Harrison can inquire as to what she’s talking about, the sliding glass patio door opens. Talking in a loud voice his wife walks out on to the deck, followed by a furniture mover.
“Ok.” She says, “You can take the grill and move it down to the yard, right down those stairs.”
As the furniture mover obeys, two more movers slowly step onto the deck, carrying a large glass patio table, which is placed precisely where the large outdoor grill formerly resided. Then all three men go back into the house, followed by his wife.
“What just happened?” He says aloud.
“It looks like she got one of those patio tables. The one with the hole for a big umbrella.” The mantis says.
Standing, Harrison says, “But that’s not what we agreed on.”
Next, a mover walks out and sticks a huge umbrella in the center of the table, and the last two men bring out two patio chairs; they are all white and powder blue striped. Once the movers re-enter the house, his wife steps outside and Harrison quickly takes her by the arm.
“This is not what we agreed on. This is MY area, honey.” He says sternly.
“I know it’s your area. This is a surprise. See this way, if you have the guys over or we have a little patio dinner party, we can have somewhere to sit.” Stepping closer to him, she takes her left hand, she gently strokes Harrison’s crotch and smiles seductively. “Or you and I can crack open a bottle and have a romantic evening, before having some well deserved dessert. How does that sound to you?”
Smiling, as his eyes slightly roll, Harrison says, “That sounds really good.”
“You can cook us up some steaks, and then we can break in this table properly. You know, give the neighborhood kids something to watch.” His wife finishes.
Breathing deeply, he says, “Yeah, when you put it that way, it’s a great idea.”
“I knew you‘d think so.”
Smiling, she backs up and re-enters the house, just as Harrison retakes his seat. Reaching for the cooler again, he suddenly has to lean back as a ladybug nearly dive bombs his face.
“Damn ladybug! That’s the fourth one to do that today. They seem to be out heavy this year.” Harrison says nonchalantly.
“You know, female humans are a lot like ladybugs. They are nice to look at; beautiful; and seemingly harmless. But you need to be careful. You never know what they are capable of. She’ll be moving that nice comfortable chair off the deck soon. Then your only refuge will be the garage.” The female mantis says.
“She is not moving my chair.”
“She already moved your grill and dressed your deck in ugly colors, and she also re-negotiated your deal in her favor. And all she had to do was stroke your mating area. You are weak. At least, when I bite off a male’s head, they die once. Your wife will devour you over and over again. At least a male mantis has initiative, and they’ll finish the mating job, even headless. You all don’t finish anything. Just like ladybugs, she smiles while she plots against you. I wonder who else she is also devouring.”
With severe alarm appearing on Harrison’s face, the female mantis takes flight, quickly moving away and blending into the far greenery. Slowly standing, he looks from where the mantis was, to the patio door, where he can see his wife on the other side, laughing while standing beside one of the movers, and gently draping a hand on his shoulder.