University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2005)

Arnold, Autumn
Epidemic,   pp. 37-41


Page 40

tictioLWn 
0   0 
I turn around slowly to see a man standing across the 
clearing, watching me. He is wearing the same 
uniform as yesterday's crew, but he is no longer 
weighed down with black plastic bags and orange 
vests and the slowness of mandatory labor. 
but I don't see until it's too late that 
there's too much ether in the funnel, 
spilling the clear, cold liquid over the 
edge and onto my hand. I rub my hand 
while it's still wet and try to feel how 
deeply it would numb me. 
WRIER 
COe   ALA 
Coeherth  innr  fou  hr 
story an  potr cotssrada -ato 
The next morning is so hot I roll the 
windows all the way down and let the 
wind push across the space between. I 
can barely feel the gust through my 
long-sleeved shirt and heavy jeans, and 
I put my hand on my neck to spread the 
sweat that clings underneath my plain, 
straight hair. The heavy clothing is for 
protection; the first time I went into the 
woods, the mosquitoes ravaged me, 
raising a hundred hot welts on my arms 
and neck and face. I was surprised by 
how quickly they sensed me, drawn to 
the sweetness of carbon dioxide in my 
breath. David was the one who told me 
that there are always insects surround- 
ing us, always, hundreds of them within 
three feet, even in the most pristine 
moments in which we live. 
I keep my eyes on the narrow roads 
that cut the steaming earth into fields 
and parcels, careful of what might come 
bounding out of the woods. In these long 
trapezoids between empty highways, 
it's cheap to buy land and bulldoze 
skinny pine trees that are dark and 
brownish gray. Their trunks are scaly 
and almost silver, but these are not mag- 
ical forests where light glimmers and 
glances off of sparkling needles. It 
creaks slowly on the edge of the swamp. 
Deep in these woods, people hunt and 
have houses they build themselves. 
They keep dogs that bark at the silence 
of the forest and the noise of cars that 
streak along the highway. The knot in 
the back of my throat when I drive 
through this place has the sickly sweet, 
metallic taste of Coca-Cola. 
I pull over to an unmarked place on 
the side of the road, slip my green mos- 
quito net over my head, and take my 
backpack into the woods. I don't bother 
to lock the doors. The only people who 
see me out here are children, small 
brown boys who stand motionless and 
barefoot and stare at me from their front 
yards. Then I try not to look back at the 
car. It looks broken down, abandoned, 
leaning to the slope of the ditch on a 
quiet stretch of county highway. 
The mosquito traps are arranged in a 
rough semi-circle on the springy ground, 
underneath tall pine trees in a forest 
alive and writhing with the hiss of 
insects. They are plywood boxes 
painted black, as big and heavy as apple 
p 
40  SUMMER  2005  WISCONSIN  ACADEMY  REVIEW 
crates. They are open on one side to let 
the mosquitoes hang upside down 
during the night; the ones I will trap 
have stayed well into the morning. Next 
to each box is a tight-fitting lid, which is 
where I pour a splash of ether before 
clamping it down tight. I let the anes- 
thetic work quietly inside each trap, 
then I return to each one to loosen the 
still mosquitoes by pounding on each 
side of the painted wood until my palms 
are raw. I shake the small, loose bodies 
into a metal box with sharp corners, 
then into a sealed glass jar. Even when I 
pound wildly on the traps, I can hear the 
whine of mosquitoes hovering in the air. 
Sometimes when I count, I will find one 
that is fat and slick with my own blood, 
some small part of me that has escaped 
into the trance of ether and the sleep of 
early winter. 
My hands hurt and I'm dizzy with heat 
by the time I reach the last box, but I can 
sense as plain as day that someone is in 
the forest with me. I hear a rustle on the 
dry ground and a change in the sharp 
pitch of my hand against the box. I think 
for a moment that it might be Richard, 
but he would not know where to find me 
unless he followed my car. 
I turn around slowly to see a man 
standing across the clearing, watching 
me. He is wearing the same uniform as 
yesterday's crew, but he is no longer 
weighed down with black plastic bags 
and orange vests and the slowness of 
mandatory labor. 
Even with the distance and the dis- 
tortion of light through my net, I can see 
that he is sweating in this searing June 
heat. His collar is damp from a strong 
neck that looks reddish brown against 
his green uniform, and his hair is shaved 
close to his skull. He glares at the air in 
front of him, unable to focus on the drift 
of mosquitoes in the soft gray light. 
"Goddammit!" he cries out, breaking 
our silence with a hard slap on the back 


Go up to Top of Page