Thud. A sudden noise from above me. Something akin to a rock bouncing against wood. Then away it flies, a sizable creature, smaller than a hummingbird yet larger than most common insects. I squint through summer sun and watch the shadow vanish around the corner.
This odd encounter gives rise to yet another similar incident, then another and another and another, until finally, some days later, one of the kamikaze brutes rebounds off the side of the house and lands just outside the patio fence.
Even as I lean over the ligneous obstacle for a closer view, the little giant pushes its way beneath a bit of fur and dirt and stone and twig. The brightness of the day already falls upon its position, so I understand its desire to escape the searing Texas sun.
Nevertheless, I want a better look, a view more respectable than what I can see. So I intrude upon its hidden afternoon, pull it from its half-covered lair, and pluck away the wildlife hair that clings to its body.
It scrambles over rocky terrain until coming to rest in my shadow. I move to give it light, so it moves to regain its shaded position. I give up trying for better light and allow it the comfort it seeks.
Something about facing down a scarab beetle fascinates me, something more than the thrill inherent in such beautiful creatures. The idea of scarab beetles somehow has taken on an air of danger, of flesh-eating monsters poured into sarcophogi where mummies were interred, where really bad people would suffer endlessly as these critters nibbled their tender bits. Of course, sarcophogus means “flesh-eating” and I suppose the insects got a bad wrap based on that alone.
Still, I giggle childlike as the beetle hunkers down in shade cast forth from my body. I think to myself how I can brag later to friends that the demon came and I stood my ground, and all my flesh remained intact throughout the encounter.
I make an effort to put the green June beetle (Cotinis nitida) back where I found it, back in its haphazardly dug lean-to made of debris.
The sun falls slowly and shadows become long. For just an instant, the beetle is as tall as I am. Then I leave it to its late August evening.