Grandpa was babysitting while Mom and Dad went Christmas shopping. Carrie went too. Grandpa wouldn’t admit it, but he was probably slightly relieved. Carrie didn’t like being left with babysitters, not even Grandpa.
Jim was working on a report for school. “I have to write all about bugs. It’s kind of interesting.” He flipped through the pages. “They’re everywhere, you know. And they can do good and bad things, just like people.”
“Like what?” Neil closed the book he was reading.
Lynn snorted. “Everyone knows that insects can spread disease and eat crops or they can work as pollinators. Some insects eat other, more harmful insects.”
Grandpa nodded. “Yes, I remember when bugs were invented.”
“Insects weren’t invented.” Lynn rolled her eyes. “That implies that they’re machines, and they’re not.”
“Shhhhh.” Neil scowled. “It’s a grandpa story, and I want to hear the rest of it.”
Jim put down his pencil. “But who could have invented bugs? There are so many types.”
“That’s because they were invented by a committee. No one could agree on anything, and so they tried to do everything. But in their rush to be the first to complete the project, there were a lot of errors.” Grandpa shook his head. “That’s why people talk about errors as bugs sometimes. Some of those insects were so buggy it was terrible.”
“They shouldn’t have released them if they weren’t made right,” Neil said. Jim nodded.
“Yes, that was yet another mistake. The air holes on the holding tanks were much too big. So they all got away. The later committees that formed to fix the mistakes came up with crazier and crazier solutions, until they all finally gave up and let the bugs run wild.” Grandpa wiggled his fingers and waved his arms like bugs running away.
“What were some of the solutions?” Jim asked.
“Mosquitoes are really susceptible to viruses, you know.” Grandpa frowned. “I think it might be due to an error in their programming. They used to also have a terrible craving for cheese. They would raid cheese stores in giant swarms, carrying off wheels of brie and Camembert and cheddar. They would leave viruses in the cheeses they didn’t take, like feta, which is crumbly and hard to carry away.”
“So what did they do?”
“They left a trap for the mosquitoes. A gigantic pile of spoiled cheese. The mosquitoes all got food poisoning and haven’t eaten a bite of cheese since. Unfortunately, it made them angry. Now they bite people, and anything else that moves. I don’t know if they’ll ever stop being angry. It must be another error in their programming. Mosquitoes are just made of errors.” Grandpa sighed an shook his head sadly.
Neil laughed. “Tell us another one.”
“Spiders. They came up with spiders to catch flies. Some of the committee members thought it was working too slowly and developed poisonous spiders. I don’t need to tell you what a mistake that was.” Grandpa paused and the children shook their heads. “Exactly. Some of those spiders are worse than the flies. One of the committee members was particularly impatient and started swallowing the flies herself.”
“Spiders don’t swallow flies,” Lynn said. “They digest them first by…”
“But what happened to the lady that swallowed the flies?” Neil interrupted. “Did she die?”
Grandpa shrugged. “Not right away. She swallowed a spider to catch the flies…”
Jim laughed. “I heard this story. She kept swallowing bigger and bigger things, like cats and dogs and horses.”
Lynn rolled her eyes again. “Ignoring the impossibility of swallowing something as large as a cat, let alone a horse, once they were swallowed, they wouldn’t be alive anymore. She wouldn’t need to swallow anything else. The digestive juices in a person’s stomach…”
“So did she die?” Neil interrupted.
“Of course she did,” Jim said.
“It was a shame. If only she’d been a little less impatient,” Grandpa said sadly. “Insects aren’t all bad, you know. I really admire bees. They pollinate flowers, have a well-organized society, and produce honey. They are tiny little marvels of efficiency.”
“But they sting people.” Neil frowned. “That’s not very nice.”
“Bees only sting people to protect themselves and their homes,” Lynn said.
“Not like wasps. Those are the mean ones. They can just sting people for fun.” Jim turned to Grandpa. “Which came first, wasps or bees?”
Grandpa tapped his chin and thought for a moment. “Ah yes. They were in development at about the same time. The wasp team cut corners to finish first. It’s too bad. If the developers were more careful, maybe the wasps would have turned out better-behaved.”
Lynn sighed loudly. “You are all so silly. You do know that insects have been around for millions of years. Grandpa couldn’t have been around before insects were. That’s impossible.”
Neil shrugged. “No it’s not. Grandpa’s older than dirt. Dirt has to be older than insects, so Grandpa is too.”
Grandpa nodded. “That’s right. Did I ever tell you the story about how dirt was invented?”
Just then, they heard the front door open. Mom and Dad and baby Carrie were home. Grandpa stood up and picked up his jacket. “Oh well, maybe another time.”