(This story was first posted on my old blog in 2011)
It’s random tales from the field time again, children. Gather round.
The last time I was in Sudan (2008) I got really, really sick. Flu with complications. Wound up leaving our excavation site for about a week to go back to the capital in Khartoum to see a doctor and get meds and junk. Got to feeling slightly better, didn’t want to come home to Chicago, so went back out to the site. Before you yell at me for the stupid, bear in mind it was January. No one in their right mind would go back to Chicago in January if they could avoid it.
Anyway we got back and I was still weak and woozy as all hell. The day after I got back, the rest of the team went on a day trip to visit some other sites, some of which I had seen before. Having just done the 8 or so hour journey from Khartoum the day before I was like “y’all have fun now, don’t fall in any tombs.”
So it was me and our cook, Hashem left at the house. As an aside, Hashem is a genius. My god that man can cook. He made fried chicken! In a dirt kitchen! With just two propane burners! And soup! He spoke almost no English, but so what. He would wipe the floor with that Colonel dude from Kentucky. If he ever for some reason wants to move the the US I will be at whatever government office necessary waving my cane around and yelling about how we need his awesome cooking for the good of the nation.
Anyway, I had stayed in bed a little late that day until I felt like getting up. Then I staggered over to the dining room part of the house to see if there was tea left in any of the carafes and maybe some packaged cookies or something. Hashem sees me and conveys very clearly that no, skinny foreign woman who looks like she may pass out at any moment, you are eating real food. Off he goes.
I take a seat in one of the plastic chairs and hang out, sort of idly watching flies get caught on the fly-tapes we have hanging from the ceiling. (Remember the fly tape, it’s important later.)
Hashem returns with enough food to feed like 8 people. I express appropriate awe/gratitude and start eating hoping I can at least manage to force down enough not to offend him. It was good, I just still felt like ass. He wanders off again, probably to mix his 87 herbs and spices for his magical, magical fried chicken.
There is suddenly this awful, loud buzzing noise. Enough that I jumped up and away from the fluorescent light we had for use at night even though it wasn’t turned on. Then I look at one of the fly tapes. A small bird appears to be stuck in it. On closer inspection, it turns out to be some sort of gargantuan bumble bee.
I’m thinking “Chainsaw Bee” is a good name. It’s stuck to the fly tape, but is so heavy it’s pulled the thing down almost to the tabletop. And it’s pissed and sounding even more like a chainsaw. And skeezing me out, big time. And shaking and jerking on the fly tape threatening to pull it down and/or release the lifeless but still disgusting bodies of its predecessors.
So, after rescuing my plate of food from possible contamination by the chainsaw bee, I look around for a way to kill it. I was wearing flipflops. No way. All the books available 1) belonged to me and 2) would have been ruined by Chainsaw Bee guts. Other options included plastic chairs, plastic tables, or either of 2 laptops. There was also the option of yelling for Hashem, but I didn’t know the Arabic for “the sickly crazy foreigner is a chickenshit and there is a huge fucking Chainsaw Bee up in here.”
Then I spotted a hammer. Score!
At first I tried smacking it with the hammer while it was still on the dangling fly paper. In retrospect, this is probably the most obvious evidence that I was still pretty unwell, because even I would ordinarily recognize that as a bad idea.
My feeble swipes at it finally knocked Chainsaw Bee to the ground however. Victory was to be mine!
There I am, crouched on the ground with a good-sized hammer in my hand, raised over my head prepared to strike with a no doubt manic/feverish gleam in my eye when Hashem comes back. He stopped and blinked. I waved my free hand feebly and gestured at Chainsaw Bee. He sort of nodded. And went away.
I smashed the fuck out of Chainsaw Bee.
I considered finding Hashem and trying to explain but, again, wasn’t sure how to express “I’m stupid and there was a bee” in either Arabic or pantomime without making myself look even crazier.
Instead, I finished my brunch.