I wake up from my second sleep of six plus hours to a grey, humid morning, the grey sky like the grey grog of my grey brain so much so I find I must repeat actions and words again and again so I might hope to comprehend them when I repeat them again. Out on the terrace I water the plants for the second time since I’ve been back and had my two sleeps of six plus hours. That creaky-kratchy scratching noise catches my ear. I examine the bamboo shades draped on the railing of the terrace and there are many of them, the yellow jackets. The grey grog of my grey brain sets down the watering can, the watering can that had caught the corner of my eye whilst putting away uneaten airplane snacks in the kitchen, the kitchen I had been led to upon following the trail of cobwebs in the corners of rooms with the vacuum, the vacuum I had picked up while in the middle of hanging the clean shirts in the closet, the clean shirts I had decided to hang rather than sort through the dirty laundry to put in the machine.
I remove my right sandal and follow the creaky-kratchy scratching noise. I examine. The bamboo shades are under attack. The yellow jackets bounce around until they find a nice, juicy, greying, soft spot. Then they lay into the wood, sawing, ferociously creaky-kratching scratching, zipping away with the products of their labor to do what yellow jackets do with old bamboo, build nests, consume it, regurgitate it, consume it, perhaps in that order. The bastards. I put my sandal back on, go inside and empty out the watering can in the kitchen sink, take my sandals off, run the tap until it’s cold, fill a glass of water, take a sip, pour the rest out, clean the frying pan of its residue from my crumbled bread crumb encrusted sesame seed fried eggs I cooked last night at two in between my two sleeps of six plus hours, shove the vacuum in the corner, put the rest of my clean clothes to be hanged in a pile on the couch in the living room, pick up my left sandal, go back out on the terrace. The bastards.
Before leaving some time ago I put a good dent in their workforce with my sandals. My absence has left them with no natural terrace predator, or at least not any very good ones. They have again become strong. I approach the edge of the terrace cautiously, sandal in hand, hand raised high so as not to alarm them with a sudden lifting movement once I am near. I wait for them to stop bouncing, to settle, to begin sawing ferociously, so enthralled in their sawing, in their visions of returning to their nest and consuming, building, regurgitating, consuming, perhaps in that order, that they do not notice the approaching hand with the sandal raised high. Thwack. One. Thwack. Two. Thwack. Three. Thwack. Shit! Missed! Scamper inside. Hide behind the curtain. No one follows me. I cautiously edge towards the edge again. Thwack. Four. Thwack. Five—
“DEBVOSHKY BVIKLA NABAKODVA!”
A man’s voice coming from somewhere in the courtyard below halts me, sends a chill down my spine. If I had to guess he is at least 50, white hair, gut, big ears, red face. The grey grog of my grey brain searches for a logical explanation. Do you remember hearing people yell often before you left? No, I don’t remember that. What time is it? Nine in the morning, maybe ten. Construction much louder than I has serenaded this courtyard as early as eight. I lean over the rail, looking for the source of the mysterious voice. Five dizzying floors down I see only cement. I edge back from the edge. I check the windows of the other apartments that face the courtyard. There is no one, no white-haired, big-eared, red-faced old man wagging his fist at me. The creaky-kratchy scratching sound catches me ears once again. The bastards.
Thwip. I try to pat my sandal lighter to keep the noise down. The yellow jacket falls to the ground injured. Thwip. I finish him. Six. Thwip. Seven.
The chill down my spine. How could he have possibly heard me? It was only a thwip, no louder than a fwith, much quieter than a hwoot, and I’ve hwooted and fwithed on this terrace before and nare heard a peep from a soul. The grey grog of my brain searches again. Is he angry? Is he going to call the police? Is he going to ring my buzzer? I can’t answer the door right now. Am I doing something wrong? Has my time in America made me forget something vital? Or has something changed since I’ve been gone? Is there a new courtyard noise ordinance against thwipping and thwapping? Maybe that’s what one of those letters in my mailbox said?
Or maybe if I could understand him, he would be cheering me on. “Yes! Get those yellow jacket bastards! You use your sandal well!”
To which I would respond, “Why thank you! I’m sorry if I’m making too much noise!”
And he would say, “Don’t worry! I won’t come ring your buzzer!”
And I, “I’m so glad we speak the same language! Literally!”
And our laughter would echo through the courtyard, off the empty windows, the yellow jacket nests, wherever it is the bastards are regurgitating, building, consuming, consuming.
But it’s a chance I can’t take, not now, between sleeps, the grey grog of my grey brain telling me this place I’ve returned is strange and easily irritated, and the grey clouds shrugging in agreement. I peer over the edge again, down to the dizzying cement. Nothing. I edge back from the edge and into the kitchen, where the faint stench of the tofu that rotted in the refrigerator while I was away catches my nose. I will have to go downstairs and throw it out. The refrigerator is empty except for beer. I will have to go to the store. I should make a list. I should make two lists. The first list is the things I need to do. The second list is the things I need to buy at the store. Going to the store will be on the first list. The creaky-kratchy scratching noise catches my ears. God damn bastards.