Like all tragedies, small and large, it started innocently enough. I traveled down to Saint Mary Parish to work with a group of volunteers with the Techeland Arts Council on how to conduct interviews. I had met with the organizers a month before, and I was fairly comfortable that I knew what to do with the group. I do these kinds of presentations and workshops often enough that I look forward to the hour or so spent talking with people about this strange new form of interaction they are about to learn how to do. (And I never charge for these things, preferring to make my contribution an entirely in-kind expense that they can use to balance their grants.)
So with all that bonhomie with me, I decided to leave a little early for our meeting at the Baldwin Public Library so that I could get to Franklin and put new flowers on my grandparents’ graves. On the way to the cemetery, I stopped off at the Popeye’s on the north side of Franklin to pick up a bit of lunch to enjoy while working at the graves — today was a beautiful, autumn Louisiana day with a cool breeze offset by a warm sun.
I turned into the cemetery and parked in front of the Mason’s section where my grandparents are buried. The crew from Oubre’s were working in the section between the two drives that fronts onto Main Street. A few other folks were in the cemetery and appeared to be doing much the same thing I was. Having been in the cemetery the week before and almost gotten my foot stuck in some very soft earth, I picked my way to my grandparents’ graves, flowers and remains of lunch in hand. I put the flowers for both down on my grandmother’s grave, along with my root beer, and walked to the head of her granite slab. When I had refreshed the flowers in my other Grandmother Drobish’s grave a few days before, I had been greeted by the fetid smell of organic matter too long in water when I had pulled the artificial flowers from the vase. This time I grabbed the flowers quickly and tossed them on the ground nearby to drain a bit before I did anything else with them. I then looked into the vase to see what needed cleaning.
As I did so, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the bouquet on the ground was, well, moving. I turned my head slightly to get a better look and saw that the whole thing was seething with *hornets*.
And that’s when I get in trouble, because as the hornets began to gather up steam and want to discover who had disturbed them, I backed up and said what you should not. I’ll leave the exact word to the reader’s imagination, but nevertheless I said it. I said it in a cemetery. I said it in front of my grandparents’ graves, and, more particularly, I said it in front of my grandmother’s grave.
The minute the word escaped my lips, I knew I was in trouble. I immediately crossed myself, looked heavenward, and asked for forgiveness, worrying all the while that I was going to end up smoking a turd in purgatory for my gaffe.
As I recovered, I crept back to the head of the graves, where the bouquet lay. In something of a dance with the hornets, I sashayed forward, kicked the bouquet further away from the graves, and then sashayed back. Sashay, kick, sashay. When the bouquet finally rested a good six feet away, I moved to pull the old flowers from my grandfather’s grave. As I reached … a hornet. *Yikes* I thought. They flew from the bouquet on the ground and are looking for a new place to take up residence. The hornet flew away. I reached again. Another hornet. It too flew away. Okay, I just needed to resolve to grab the bouquet firmly and toss it.
Which I did.
And, lo, another hornet’s nest.
*Why didn’t anybody tell me to bring a can of wasp spray to the cemetery?!*
(This seems like some pretty fundamental advice that was withheld from me.)
The combined fury of the two nests took some time to calm, but calm they did. When I finally worked up the nerve to look into the granite vase on top my grandfather’s grave, I saw a single, yes, hornet, crawling around in there. *How could I get rid of it?*
With no spray, the only solution I could imagine was to wet the thing down so it couldn’t fly and I could squash it with a stick. Hmmm. My nearest source of moisture was … my root beer. (*Oh, nice,* I thought, *the ice will maybe chill the thing a bit and give me some extra time to make sure it’s dead.*) So, there I was pouring root beer on top of my grandfather’s headstone. To any onlookers it might have looked like some weird libational rite, perhaps made worse by the fact that there is in fact a drain hole in the granite vase and root peer immediately ran out and puddled onto the granite slab. Oh, not so nice.
Still, the hornet was stilled and then, with a little careful effort using the slanted end of an artificial sunflower, I managed to grind it in half.
That hornet will harass graveside visitors no more.
All that remained was to decorate the graves with the new flowers: hydrangea for my grandmother and sunflowers with some greenery for my grandfather. With that, it was time to get on the highway to Baldwin and my meeting.