My Father's Garden: Wasp Nest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Wasp Nest is a chapter in R J Dent's novel-in-progress, My Father's Garden.

Submitted: May 04, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 04, 2016



My Father’s Garden: Wasp Nest

by R J Dent


1: Location


There was considerable excitement in our family when my father cautiously mentioned that there might be a wasp nest in the garden.

– Where?

– I just said: in the garden.

– Any chance you could be a tiny bit more specific, father? my brother asked. The garden’s ninety feet long and thirty feet wide. There are twenty trees, several unidentifiable objet d’art, three buildings, two tall hedges and a partially cut down pear tree. It’s not going to be possible to pinpoint a carefully disguised wasp nest without a clue as to its location.

– I’m not telling you where it is, my father said. Wasp nests are dangerous.

– I thought wasp nests were just harmless wood pulp structures and that it was the wasps themselves that were dangerous, my brother said.

– There’s no need to try and be clever, my father said. Wasps will attack and sting humans, particularly if they or their nests are threatened, so care should be taken around wasps and their nests.

– I’ll take the risk, my brother said. I want to see what a wasp nest looks like at close quarters.

– Well, don’t come crying to me if you get stung, my father said, as my brother dashed out into the garden.

I followed my brother outside. He was dashing around the garden, peering in every corner, diligently searching for any sign of the new garden interlopers.

– Where do wasps like to nest? I asked.

– Wasps have been known to build their nests in a variety of places, my brother said. They most often choose sunny spots. Nests are commonly located in holes underground, along riverbanks or small hillocks, attached to the side of walls, trees or plants, or underneath floors or eaves of houses or garden structures such as sheds, summer houses, or greenhouses.

We searched for an hour, in all of those places apart from the riverbank (because there wasn’t one in our garden) but we couldn’t find a wasp nest anywhere.

We used the remainder of the day to search, but we simply could not find the wasp nest.


2: Balaclavas and Mittens


One Saturday morning, as my brother and I were about to search around the garden again for the wasp nest, our mother came out of the house holding some items made of gauze-like cloth.

– Before you go looking to be stung by angry wasps, she said, put these on.

We reluctantly took what she handed us. I was horrified to discover three items made of fine netting. I immediately knew what they were, but pretended I didn’t.

– What’s this? I asked.

– It’s not this; it’s these, my mother said. These are items of protective clothing. Face masks, or balaclavas and mittens.

– Lovely, my brother said.

– I don’t know about that, but if you’re going wasp nest hunting, you’re going to have to wear them.

– I don’t think I’ll be able to wear them, my brother said.

– Then I don’t think you’ll be allowed to look for the wasp nest, my mother countered.

My brother chuckled uncertainly.

– What exactly do you mean?

– What I mean is exactly what I say, my mother responded. If you don’t wear the protective clothing I’ve provided, you’ll be grounded and not allowed back out in the garden until the wasp nest has been removed or destroyed.

We quickly slipped the netting bags on over our heads and exchanged humiliated glances. I put the mittens on and my brother copied me.

– That’s better, my mother said. You’ll be safe now.

If I looked anything like my brother at that moment, which I’m sure I did, then I looked like a netting-coated ninja about to take up a fencing stance.

– Don’t forget, our mother reminded us. If you take them off you’re grounded indefinitely. Clear?

– Clear, we affirmed.

She nodded approvingly.

– Right, you can go and look for the nest now, if you must. Your father’s around somewhere.

And off she went, back into the house.


3: Smoke


We found our father by the wood pile behind the shed. He was stacking some sticks and paper in a small pile.

He looked at us as we approached.

– What’s this, early Halloween?

I noticed my father had put his netting items on the ground near to the pile of sticks.

– They might burn, I said, pointing at the netting.

My father nodded.

– They might indeed.

– So where’s the nest? my brother asked.

My father pointed up at the corner of the shed.

It was a small, but dangerous-looking wasp nest. It was a beige sphere, slightly smaller than a football. Its surface was rough-looking, as though it needed a jolly good sanding-down. One or two wasps crawled over it. Every couple of seconds or so, they took off, flew around and landed again.

– Two wasps.

– The rest are inside, my father said.

– And you’re going to smoke them out.

– That’s the plan.

– Don’t they like smoke?

– Do you?

– No, but I’m not a wasp.

– No, my father sighed. And no, they don’t.

Moving slowly, my father continued stacking the sticks. Then he started adding old and rotten lengths of wood from the woodpile. Finally, it was ready and he lit it.

Fifteen minutes later, it was burning well. And that was when my father threw water on it.

Smoke billowed up and engulfed the wasp’s nest.

My father coughed and the wasps buzzed faintly.

More smoke billowed and engulfed my father.

I walked away before I was enveloped in smoke.

As my father flailed his way out of the smoke cloud and stumbled towards the house, I decided to go for a walk, far away from the wasp nest.

So that’s what I did.

When I returned, the bonfire was out, the smoke had cleared and the wasp nest was still there, as menacing as ever.


4: Hosepipe


My father’s next attempt to remove the nest occurred one Sunday afternoon. He unrolled the hosepipe, attached one end of it to the outdoor tap and then started hosing the wasp nest down with a constant jet of cold water.

– They hate water, he told me, as I wandered over to see what effect the water was having on the wasps.

– Do they? I asked, surprised. I thought it was just soapy water they hated.

– Where’d you hear that rubbish?

– I read it in How To Get Rid Of Wasps, I said.

– I suppose that some sort of book written by a so-called expert, is it?

– It is a book. I don’t know if the author’s an expert or not.

– It doesn’t sound like it. Not with advice like that. Soapy water. That’s for ants. Anyone knows that.

As he poured scorn on the author of How To Get Rid Of Wasps, my father continued dousing the nest with the jet of cold tap water from the hose. After twenty minutes, he turned the tap off and put the hose away.

The wasp nest dripped.

There was no sign of any of the nest’s inhabitants.

My father walked over to the nest and peered inside.

– Nothing, my father said, shaking his head. The blighters have abandoned it.

– So there was really no need to hose it down.

– I wouldn’t say that. It doesn’t hurt to discourage ‘em. He chuckled. Well, they won’t be back in a hurry.

He was right. They didn’t hurry, but they did come back.


5: Return of the Wasps


– Those damn wasps are back, my mother said to my father one morning.

– Is there another nest? I asked.

– I didn’t see a nest, my mother said; just a lot of wasps. Anyway, I don’t want you going out there without your anti-wasp gloves and mask on.

I decided to stay in – at least for a while. Later on I went out for a walk and returned to find my father standing in the garden by the rotary line. He had large wooden box at his feet with a few items in it. He was holding a stick.

– Where’s the nest? I asked.

– It’s there, my father said, using the stick to point at the ground.

I looked at where he was pointing, but couldn’t see anything – and then a lone wasp buzzed slowly out of a hole in the ground, hovered for a moment, and then flew off.

– It’s a hole in the ground.

– What did you expect? A mansion made of honey?

– That’d be quite nice, I said, imagining what a mansion of honey would look like and nodding appreciatively at my father.

– It’s just a hole in the ground, he said.

I looked at the tiny entrance to the underground nest. It looked ordinary, but menacing. There were now three or four wasps buzzing about it.

– How are you going to get rid of it – them? I asked.

– I’m going to teach them a lesson they’ll never forget, my father said, tapping the box with the stick.

– Oh?

My father nodded.

– I’m going to fight fire with fire.

– Do wasps control and use fire? I asked, intrigued. Are their stings outmoded?

My father sighed.

– Don’t take everything so literally, he said. It’s a figure of speech.

– Oh, I thought you were misquoting Shakespeare.

– Did he say that?

– Almost. In King John

– Didn’t know he’d written anything called King John, my father said disinterestedly, as he reached into the box and pulled out a metal funnel.

I began to get the gist of my father’s fighting fire with fire plan…

My father crouched down and jabbed the end of the funnel into the entrance hole of the wasp’s nest. He then went back to the box and lifted out a petrol can.

– Stand back, he said, as he unscrewed the cap and walked back to the funnel, then crouched down and poured petrol steadily into the metal cone. The petrol flow looked like a length of silver rope disappearing into the earth.

Once he’d poured half a can into the nest, my father stood up and replaced the can lid, then pulled the funnel out of the ground and put it and the can back in the box.

For a moment, he paused, then he moved the box about half a metre more away from the nest. He stood by the box and pulled a box of matches out of his pocket. He shook the box and it rattled woodenly. He opened it, pulled out a match, struck it and it flared up and burned hungrily along the match.

I looked at the nest. A few wasps milled angrily around the hole, taking off, flying around, then landing. They looked agitated.

My father threw the match at the nest and nothing happened. I waited.

And then there was a dull bass whump and three pieces of sod were lifted out of the ground by a bright blue flame cushion.

– Will that kill them all? I asked.

My father grinned.

– Well, it’ll certainly annoy ’em. He paused. It’ll kill some, injure others and irritate the rest. I’m hoping for regicide.

He looked carefully at the smoking nest, pleased with its destruction, happy that there was nothing left of it but a tiny smoking hole in the ground. As I watched, it became obvious he was listening for something.

He dropped the matchbox into the wooden box and reached down, picking up something that looked like a small badminton racket.

– Here we go, he said, pressing a button on the handle. The device hummed and I realised it was not a badminton racket.

– What’s that?

– It’s a wasp zapper.

– What does it zap them with?

– Electricity. Enough to kill them outright.

And then it happened.

A flame appeared at the entrance to the wasp nest. It was a burning wasp. It launched itself into the air and flew in an angrily buzzing flaming arc, straight at my father.

My father brandished the zapper.

– Say hello to my little friend, my father said softly.

He swung the zapper in a graceful underhand arc. It hit the flaming wasp, there was a crackle, some blue sparks, and the wasp/flame arced away through the air.

At the entrance to the wasp nest, another wasp determinedly launched itself on burning wings at my father.

He swung the zapper again and it connected in mid-air with the wasp. Another crackle, some more blue sparks and another ball of flame flew through the air in a yellow arc. This one landed in the fish pond with a tiny sizzle.

A steady stream of angry and determined wasps, some aflame, some smouldering and some barely smoking, all buzzing furiously, flew at my father, determined to sting him.

For the next half an hour, he batted burning wasps away in all directions.

I finally went indoors, leaving my father happily crackling, blue sparking and zapping flaming wasps, as he batted them away in tiny yellow arcs through the fading evening light.





My Father’s Garden: Wasp Nest

Copyright © R J Dent (2014)



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