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The Unfortunate Heartbreak of Faritook the Earwig by Jason Sturner

Faritook stood on an old log in the woods of a campground, cleaning one of his antennae. Shanamook was about to come along at any moment, and he knew he had to look his absolute best if she were to stop and talk with him. When finally she emerged from the decaying bark, Faritook released his antenna and it sprang back into place. His thorax tightened with anxiety and he edged closer to where she would pass.

But Shanamook shuddered when she saw him. She was creeped out by Faritook, uncomfortable with the way he always stared at her, his mandibles moving as if eating something invisible. And although they’d seen each other a few times in passing, nothing more had ever transpired between them. They were just two earwigs that passed on the log.

Faritook wavered nervously as Shanamook drew closer, his prepared compliment ready to be spoken. But Shanamook was desperate to make him understand that she just wasn’t interested.

An idea came to her, one she knew would forever rattle Faritook’s central nerve cord. When she got close to him she stopped, casually plopped her reddish brown abdomen against the bark, and excreted explosively, causing a nearby centipede to bolt away screaming. She wiggled out the last of it and proceeded on her way, convinced Faritook would no longer want her after such a gross-out.

But Faritook’s antennae began to twirl with excitement. “Hello Shanamook!” he said as she passed. “You’re looking quite beautiful this afternoon.”

Shanamook’s compound eyes double bugged out. Was he blind? She was in disbelief and could think of nothing to say, so she ignored Faritook altogether and kept walking. What else could she do? After reaching a patch of orange fungi she glanced back: Faritook just stood there with extended mandibles, staring at her cerci. “What a roach!” she clicked to herself.

After Shanamook disappeared behind the orange fungi Faritook raced into a nearby fissure, not wanting to be seen. He paced along the length of the crack, antennae dragging, trying to figure out what he’d done wrong (the image of her unladylike excretion now a suppressed memory). Had he not spoken the words correctly, politely, and genuinely? Why had she ignored him? Perhaps it was the way he looked?

Faritook got an idea, and a short time later, was rummaging through the closet of his bachelor chamber. “Where is it? Where is it?” he muttered, using his pincers to toss out all kinds of crap he’d collected from a nearby campsite. “I know you’re in here somewhere!”

It was only after he’d made a complete mess of the place that he found what he was looking for: a piece of red frill taken from a discarded toothpick. He went over to a shard of mirror and wrapped the frill around his neck like a scarf. I look good, he thought to himself. Sophisticated. Debonair!

“Yes! This is it,” he said with confidence. “Now she’ll just have to stop and talk with me!”

At about the time Shanamook was due to return, Faritook stood on the earwig trail with his slick new scarf blowing in the wind. “Any minute now,” he said with eagerness. But after half an hour, Shanamook had still not returned. Faritook began to worry. Was she lost? Hurt? Drained by a spider? In the belly of a woodpecker?

Faritook cried out. “Shanamook, where are you? Why have you not returned?”

A passing banana slug stopped in front of Faritook and said, “Hey…Fari…took. Saw…Shana…mook…not…long…ago. She…is…okay. Do…not…worry. She…is…—”

“She’s what!” Faritook interrupted.

“She…is…at…—”

“She’s at what! Where is she? You fool!”

“Minta…mook’s…place,” the slug finished.

“Mintamook’s place? But what would she be doing at Mintamook’s place?”

“I…don’t…—”

“Never mind!”

“Right. No…time…for…chit…chat,” the banana slug went on. “Got…to…be…at…end…of…log…by…twi…light. Sons…of…bitches…rac…coons.”

But Faritook was already on his way to Mintamook’s, out past the orange fungi in a heavily decayed area beyond the earwig colony. When he arrived at the entrance he noticed a peculiar thing: the hole leading to Mintamook’s chamber was stuffed with moss. That’s odd, Faritook thought, it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain.

A moan came from deep within the hole, and Faritook ran around the moss in distress. “Shanamook!” he yelled, “What is Mintamook doing to you!”

But Faritook knew. He knew because he’d seen it all before: the cruelty of his species, the pain they often inflicted upon one other. Yes, Faritook knew – knew that his beloved Shanamook was being tortured in the dark wet depths of the underbark!

“I’ll save you!” Faritook yelled as he pried out the moss with his pincers. As soon as the hole was open he leapt in, legs-a-blur as he ran to Shanamook’s rescue. His antennae flew back, his fluids raced beneath his exoskeleton; his scarf blew off. Nothing could stop him.

The passageway was very dark, lit only occasionally by the smeared bellies of fireflies. Light from a chamber at the far end fluctuated with movement and Faritook sped towards it, determined to become Shanamook’s hero. When he reached the entrance he enlarged himself and burst into the chamber.

“Take your filthy legs off her, you damn dirty bug!”

Shanamook and Mintamook turned their heads with a screech, their antennae shooting straight up into the air. But Faritook screeched loudest, for Shanamook sat limberly on a patch of moss, her six legs spread eagle. Mintamook was in front of her, leaning forward, her head near Shanamook’s ovipositor.

“Get the hell out of here, Faritook!” they yelled.

“Or I’ll tear your puny thorax out!” Mintamook added, opening her pincers.

Unable to regain his composure, Faritook turned and ran down the corridor as fast as he could – completely confused, totally heartbroken, his reproductive organ stiff as a rose thorn.

————————

The Unfortunate Heartbreak of Faritook the Earwig is a true story. It was told to me by Faritook himself on the morning of June 9, 2009 at the Yellowstone Lake Campground in southwest Wisconsin. Oh wait, I dreamed that. The dream took place in a tent at the aforementioned campground, which was crawling with earwigs.

Jason Sturner was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago, where he has worked as a grocery bagger, pizza delivery boy, elevator operator, rock n’ roll drummer, music store clerk, graphic designer, naturalist, and botanist. He has published four books of poetry. In addition to poetry he writes flash fiction, short stories, music lyrics and nature essays. His poetry and short fiction appears in, or is forthcoming in, such publications as Black Petals, Death Head Grin, Penny Dreadful, Space and Time Magazine, and Thirteen Myna Birds. He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. His website is http://www.jasonsturner.blogspot.com

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