A Praying Mantis Entered Our Minivan by Mark James Andrews
I had finished pumping gas
slid in the driver’s seat
& a praying mantis entered our minivan
& landed on my clenched fist
white knuckles on the steering wheel
safety belted in the Captain’s seat
chomping at the bit
to begin our American journey.
The mantis swiveled his head 180 degrees
fixed me with his monster wide set eyes
& told me I was dying
that my wife in the passenger seat
digging in & inventorying her purse
full of life in tank top & cutoff jeans was dying
that our 3 kids in the back seat
laughing & sucking at Slurpee straws
flipping through super hero comics
diapering baby dolls
fingering plastic worms & fishing lures
were circling the drain
on the fast track to pushing up daisies
or the convenient crematory reduction.
I snatched the swivel headed bastard
& shot him to the outstretched fingers
going “Gimme Gimme” in the back seat
waiting to pass him around & inspect
gripping the slim long thorax
going eyeball to eyeball with him
jamming him in a plastic cup to get cooled off
in the last of the red shaved ice.
The praying mantis survived the family vacation.
I don’t know how but he did.
I was through with him & his sorry reminders
but the kids confined him to an unused aquarium
on an aged leatherette playing card table
in a damp corner of our screened summer porch
40 gallons of empty algae glazed glass & red gravel
where he was confined for the duration of summer
standing statuesque on a grid of branches.
Through most of the day the praying mantis was alone
& I would sneak peeks at him staring back at me
proud & defiant with his portents of death
but in the late afternoon or early evenings
he was visited & sustained by neighborhood hordes
led by my offspring & heirs with their presentations to him.
At day’s end the children caught honey bees,
yellow jackets, bumblebees, & sweat bees
in jam jars, Dixie Cups, any available vessel
& released them through the screened flip top
that imprisoned their silent & rigid pet.
The captured bugs fell in the glass box dazed
for they were rough caught & stunned senseless
but gradually they came back animated
& totally unaware of the stick figure
with the recumbent spiked grasping forelegs.
The mantis never failed to stop praying
when frantic weakness was on display
flying or crawling within his range.
His response was lightning quick
& he was always successful striking out
with his leg hands no longer posed in prayer
always making good on his word
as the laughing cheering young looked on.