I suppose it started small, like all addictions do. I was in the first grade, having some corner time because I threw a crayon at Brandon’s head. He totally deserved it but that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, I was facing the brick wall, imagining horrible fates for this jerk of a classmate when I heard a quiet buzzing. I looked by my feet to see an old cobweb, spider long gone but the dusty threads still managing to capture a fly. It wiggling and squirmed and if I hadn’t interfered it probably would have gotten loose and carried on with its life. But before I realized it I had plucked the fly free and placed it in my mouth.
It buzzed furiously and it took all my willpower not to giggle, it was really ticklish. If I laughed, I’d end up opening my mouth and away it would go. I prodded at it with my tongue, feeling its wings flap uselessly against my cheek before I ended its life between my molars.
I swallowed and felt a lot better about things. Who cared about stupid Brandon anyway?
To be fair, kids eat stupid shit all the time. Glue, crayons, paper, I used to know a kid who ate sand and thought he was really stupid. Then again, I was only in the sandbox to hunt down ladybugs, so maybe I didn’t have room to judge. But all those kids left their weird eating habits behind. I didn’t. Instead, my habit grew.
At recess I’d spend all my time hunting bugs. I’d bring along a lil bug box and my teacher would just assume I’d want to study the insect world and let me be.
The easiest to find were worms on a day it had just rained. Those lil buggers were everywhere on the paving stones. Unfortunately they also had the least amount of payout. Worms taste like dirt. I mean, who’s surprised though? Caterpillars were a lot better, so squishy but still slow enough for me to catch. Crickets and grasshoppers were a real pain in the neck. I had to learn to be patient and wait for the right moment to strike. If I didn’t wait for the right moment, I would end up clapping my hands down on nothing at all.
But oh man, were they worth the effort. I didn’t like putting them in my mouth alive so much, they kicked too much, but they had so much flavor and crunch. If I managed to find a grasshopper while hunting, I would consider myself one lucky kiddo.
I was never officially caught eating bugs until a few years later. I knew I had to keep my secret quiet. But when I was in fourth grade my class got a pet lizard named Lizzy. I know, really creative on names here, but we were kids so give us a break. But Lizzy needed to eat crickets a few times a week. I felt almost validated watching her munch down on them. But I also felt jealous. She could eat crickets whenever she wanted. I wished I could do that.
One winter day I decided to steal some of Lizzy’s crickets. During recess I’d gone back to the classroom to get something from my desk when I realized I was all alone. This was my only chance to indulge. I crept up to the lizard cage, where the small cricket container was placed beside it. I opened up the top, snaked a handful of crickets, and threw those little buggers right in my mouth.
I had just closed my eyes when I heard someone gasp. I turned and saw Gabrielle, her jaw dropped as she stared at me. I’m pretty sure a cricket leg was poking out of my mouth too.
And of course, Gabrielle being a teacher’s pet, she ran off screaming ‘Keith is eating Lizzy’s crickets!’
I swallowed, feeling a lump form in my chest. My secret was out.
I managed to play it off as a joke, a one time thing. I was just curious as to why Lizzy liked eating crickets so much. I think Mr. Martinez found it hilarious. He ended up bringing roasted crickets to class next week, taking this moment to teach us how other cultures enjoyed eating all kinds of bugs and prepping them in unique ways.
I never felt more sick in my life. Although being salted and cooked did bring out the flavor, I ended up barfing it up later. It just. Wasn’t the same. They were barely even bugs anymore. It was just like eating potato chips or almonds. There was no thrill of the hunt. None of that excitement as they squirm in your mouth. The joy when you bite down, taking out a leg or maybe slicing them right down the abdomen.
I did try to stop after that. I really did. I didn’t want to get picked on anymore and maybe it was a little weird that I kept eating bugs.
But here’s the real problem. If I don’t sate my appetite on bugs, I start craving… bigger things.
The whole glass was horrified to come in one morning to find Lizzy had disappeared, the lid tipped off the cage and our class pet nowhere to be seen. Much to my amusement, fingers were pointed at Gabrielle, as she was the one who fed Lizzy the day before. She swore up and down that she fastened the cage lid on tight, but it didn’t matter. We tore that room apart and Lizzy was just gone.
I participated in the search, although I had no reason to. I knew exactly where Lizzy was. In my belly.
I didn’t know why I had gone back to class that day, I just knew I needed to. I was alone, me and that lizard. I felt like I was on autopilot as I opened the cage and plucked Lizzy out by the tail. I dangled her over my mouth before I snapped her head clean off. Blood dripped in my mouth, a new feeling I had never gotten before with bugs. It felt so damn good.
When the high wore off though I felt so guilty I nearly threw her back up. I didn’t, because that would really be a waste, I just got out of there. That night at dinner I didn’t eat a damn thing, I claimed I had a tummy ache and that wasn’t a lie. But I knew the cause wasn’t that 24 hour flu bug going around.
So yeah. I realized quickly that maybe there are worse things than eating bugs. Winters were always the hardest, I had to make due with ants in the kitchen and daddy long legs in the basement. To my credit, I’ve only ‘snapped’ once since then, it was Christmas vacation at grandma’s house and I just hadn’t had the time to hunt. That poor cat. Everyone just assumed a wild animal had gotten to poor Fluffy, meanwhile I was trying to discreetly pick long white fur out from in between my teeth.
It’s gotten simultaneously harder and easier as an adult. Harder as I need to eat a lot more bugs to keep the cravings at bay, easier as now I can just go to the pet store and clean out their supply of feeder crickets and mealworms. The cashier there thinks I’m cute and usually gives me a discount. She keeps asking to meet my geckos and I have to keep making excuses as to why she can’t.
If the cravings get bad, I hit up another pet store and buy a few mice, maybe a hamster or a gerbil too if it sounds good. I eat those suckers while binge watching Netflix, sucking on the long tails and reducing their skulls to paste. It has worked for me so far. I don’t have a girlfriend, but I have a decent social life. I think it’s probably for the best I don’t have a family. I don’t want to snap one day around a small child, I’d never forgive myself.
But I’m a good uncle to my sister’s kids. I send them gifts and always tell them cool bug facts, which they love to hear, especially the younger one, Ellie.
However… I think I caught Ellie with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar last week. The cookie jar in this case was a spider’s web, and a fly wing poking out of her lips.
She said she was just curious as to why spiders ate flies, but I’m gonna be keeping an eye on her.