“Bed Bugs” by Josh Olsen

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I was headed towards a garbage can, to throw away an empty cup of coffee, and suddenly caught a strong whiff of mint. Before I even saw the young man brushing his teeth over the garbage can, I had smelled his toothpaste, and there he was, in faded blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, a full backpack slung over his shoulder. “What are you doing, you fucking bum?” an assertive male voice inquired from a distance, and the young man brushing his teeth took a swig from his water bottle, spit a mouthful of foam into the garbage can, and laughed so hard he nearly choked. “What the fuck does it look like?” the young man replied. “You’re gonna be late for class, dude!” the distant voice chimed in, and the young man who had been brushing his teeth jogged away from the garbage can to catch up with his classmate and disappeared in the crowd.

With the garbage can no longer occupied, I dropped my empty cup into the foamy puddle of spit that had already begun to attract bees. Several of them lazily flew up out of the can, and when I felt something crawling on the lobe of my right ear, I tried, at first, not to panic, but being deathly allergic to bees, couldn’t stop myself from swatting wildly at my head. Luckily, it was only a ladybug. “Another fucking ladybug!” I said out loud, to myself. They were coming off me like spores. Already that day, I had found at least five of them on me. Or maybe it was the same one, returning after I brushed it off the sleeve of my moth-eaten sweater.

Later that afternoon, while walking with my partner, one of those rare moments when we were able to synchronize our schedules and grab lunch together, I mentioned that ladybugs were flying out of my orifices and was deftly corrected. She said that they were more than likely Japanese Stink Beetles, which didn’t sound nearly as magical, but did, in my opinion, seem more appropriate. “And speaking of bugs…” I grumbled while nudging KT’s elbow and nodding my head in the direction of a large, white truck being loaded up by men in coveralls and rubber gloves. Two by two, they paraded from a student apartment complex a series of twin-size mattresses wrapped in plastic. “Bed bugs,” KT gasped. “Ugh, that’s gonna give me nightmares,” I said, and it did.

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

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