It was a big wasp, more than half an inch long. It couldn't fly. It could barely crawl. It was trying to crawl up the frosted glass of the toilet window. Every movement of its six legs seemed deliberate, a conscious effort.
It got maybe a foot up the glass before it fell back down. What it was trying to reach, I can't tell you. What are any of us trying to reach? Maybe it just felt the sunlight on the window, warming the glass, warming the pads of its feet and the urge to live surged.
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As it clung to the glass I could see its every bright-lit detail: the bank-robber mask, the black feelers like detached eyebrows, the wings of veined and delicate cellophane laid flat along its body, the three pairs of legs, the front ones shorter than those behind.
And in the sunlight, if I donned my glasses, I could even make out the mass of dark and tiny hairs on the thorax, each the endpoint of an evolutionary journey spanning millions of years, each encoded only to be itself, each, in its way, perfect.
And dragging behind the thorax the wasp's signature, the body part we know it by, its abdomen, a curved and tapered cylinder of black and yellow concluding in the thing we know it for, the sting.
Yellow jacket is the American name for them but I prefer the onomatopoeic wasp. Wasp from the Latin vespa, Vespa vulgaris, the common wasp.
I suspect I've told you before how 40 years ago one of these lovelies stung me on the back of the neck and half an hour later I was in hospital with my ears swollen shut and my eyes swollen shut and my windpipe on the point of joining them and only a vial of adrenaline administered straight into the bloodstream spared me from the eternal landfill. But hey, it mattered to me at the time, if not to the cosmos.
And what a fittingly ironic death it would have been, the large ape brought down by the small insect. We fear the big things, the sharks and wolves, but it's the little ones that we're most vulnerable to.
The most poisonous creature on earth is a frog that would fit on your fingertip. Though for serious lethality you need to go microscopic. It's the viruses and infections that get most of us, and we can't even see them coming.
Blue the dog, lost, running from the storm in fear, panic
Still, a wasp causes a reaction out of all proportion to its size. If a wasp enters a classroom the teacher has two choices, and neither of them is to carry on teaching. One is to let the kids turn into a lawless posse and go clambering over the desks to harry the thing down and beat it joyously to death.
The other is to adopt the adult mantle and usher it out through an open window - though only of course after several comic failures as the wasp flies out of reach and butts madly on closed glass.
It's the same at a picnic. A single wasp can force a whole tribe of humans up from the grass, wildly flapping with hats and paper plates, the womenfolk wrapping themselves around their offspring, desperate to defend their genetic legacy.
My toilet wasp, having fallen from the glass, lay in the metal runnel that captures condensation. Further along the runnel were the papery corpses of several flies ranging from a creature the size of a dot to the hairy brown husk of a blowfly.
But the wasp was no more discouraged than we are by a visit to a cemetery. Up the glass it started again, to no possible purpose but because that's what you do until you can't. Wasps that gave up easily went extinct early. A large part of survival is insisting on it.
It's the first wasp I've seen this summer and I suspect, having just looked up the life cycle of wasps, that it's a queen. Queens hole up for the winter then head out to start a nest. All other wasps live less than a month.
The males have no sting. They mate with the queen then die. The girls do all the work. Their sole purpose, like ours, is to help the species go on going on.
But this queen won't be going on. I've just been up to look at her again and she's back in the runnel underneath the window and I think she's dead.