By Roy Isen
Hostilities broke out in my backyard when two opposing powers, the cicadas and the spotted lantern flies, claimed sovereignty over the tenth of an acre. I tried to arbitrate a settlement between the species by using Google Translate’s insect language add-on.
Through the app, they reluctantly agreed to sit at the miniature picnic table I bought for the squirrels, who knew enough fly and beetle dialects to declare their neutrality. It was clear that both militant sides had the support of their respective extremists, who demonstrated violently near the summit conference. They struck each other with tiny placards that condemned any two-backyard solution.
A cicadan diplomat rubbed his legs together over my phone. It said, “We’ve been here for seventeen years and—”
He was cut short by the spotted lantern fly spokesbug who chittered,
“With all due respect, the SLF understands that you have been underground, like the worms you bed with, during that long period of time. You have no claim to the surface area.”
I spoke calmly into the speaker, “We all understand that, but the SLF is an invasive species from China so—”
Bad diplomacy on my part. The flies were indignant and walked out on the peace talks. Later that afternoon, cicadan military forces emerged from the soil and occupied the hostas, the aucuba, the butterfly bush and the herb garden. They set up a radar station and a perimeter of tic-tac sized land mines to secure their base.
An SLF recon team was hiding in my barbecue grill. They had tapped into my wifi network and reported the cicadan incursion to their commanders who had created their own internet hotspot.
Spotted lantern fly troops were immediately deployed to the magnolia, pine, dogwood trees, and the outer edge of the patio by the garage. They built barracks and raised a flag that had the polka-dot colors of their wings.
I stood in the middle of the yard and, into my phone, pleaded for calm, twice, so each army could understand.
“Fellow sentient beings,” I said, “have we learned nothing from history?”
The cicadans rubbed their legs in unison. The ear-piercing whistle, not unlike an ululation, was a call to arms. Their front line moved forward, where they fired teensy mortars at their enemy. The SLF charged into the neutral zone and squirted steaming black goo from their butts.
I was alone on the battlefield. Some land mines and mortar rounds stung my ankles, the dark slime stained my sneakers. The dog next door barked and resumed his sunbathing.
I gathered my meager belongings, the phone, a magazine, the beer, and fled to the nearest safe haven, the garage.
I had become a war refugee. My homeland was being destroyed. My grief would never end, existence was only cruelty.
Then I noticed the propane weed burner. Yes, the nuclear option. There was no other way to end the insanity.
For mercy’s sake, I considered burning some moss to demonstrate the deadly power I possessed. But would that be a strong enough message to establish backyard dominance? I lit the flame, and like a god of death, incinerated both armies.
Would history judge me harshly after I fried the warring insects? I wish I could forget the crackling of the burning exoskeletons with the whistling that turned to screams of agony.
Ten bloody minutes later, there was silence. Wispy smoke from the dead curled around burnt leaves and twigs. Such is the price of war and gardening. I can only hope that future generations of cicadas and spotted lantern flies will learn to live in peace.