Jet emerged from her morning bath and noticed that her toenail polish had worn away. “I need new toe polish! Fix it, Grandma!” She sat on the couch with her feet extended, and I sat on the hassock in front of her.
“You need to hold really still while I do this, okay?”
Jet agreed not to move and I and took her foot in one hand and the brush in the other. As I concentrated on her tiny smallest toe, she wrenched her foot from my grasp and issued a high-pitched scream. I looked up in alarm. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Did I get nail polish on a boo-boo?” Jet waved her arms frantically and continued to wail. I put down the polish and took her face in my hands. “What IS it? I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong!”
“Bug! A BUG is here!”
“A bug?” (Seriously?) At age three, Jet’s mother had been interested and excited to see bugs. She liked to catch them and keep them whenever she could. Jet has always asked me to remove insects from the house but the only time she showed fear was when a butterfly landed on her last summer. Terrified might be a better word today. Jet’s eyes were wide and she writhed as if she was being poked with pins. Her screams were so shrill I was sure they must hurt her throat!
“Where is this bug?” As if on cue, a fly buzzed the top of Jet’s hair and she screamed more loudly than I thought possible.
“Get it! Get it! Get it OUT!”
I went to the closet and pulled out a flyswatter. “Do you understand that you are asking me to kill it? I really can’t catch a fly. I have to hit it and squish it.” Jet nodded vigorously in complete agreement with the planned execution.
The fly was quite energetic. It darted and zoomed around the house as I chased it with the swatter but it rarely landed where I could reach it and never stayed in one place long enough for me to carry out the sentence. Finally, I had to give up. I gave Jet the swatter to hold. “I can’t catch it. It’s too fast. Just hold this and if it comes back you can waive it around and it will fly away.”
Jet thought about this for a minute. She wanted to hold the swatter, but she wasn’t sure she could handle the thought of the fly touching her again. “It’s just a fly, Jet. It won’t hurt you. The worst it will do is tickle you.”
“I don’t want to be tickled by the fly.”
“I know. Just waive the swatter and it will go away. It is more afraid of you and the swatter than you are of it.” I’m pretty sure that statement was untrue but what’s a Grandma to do?