I love Spring. I’m a summer baby, so I feel disloyal saying this, but it’s true: New Jersey in the spring is delightful. You got yer daffodils and yer tulips for sale all over Shoprite, the magnolias start having a party, the willows drift happy green branches at you, and teeny little black ants start to colonize my countertops again.
Really; even when I’m good and don’t leave the dishes for a day (or two). They must send out scouts… “Agent Warrington, looks like she was binge-watching Inspector Lewis again last night; probably some good leftover chicken nuggets and ketchup by that sink. Go check it out.” “Roger wilco.” So far we haven’t had a swarm of them, thankfully, just these few guys. “Hey, Bert, get over here! Apple core! Go tell the chief!” I won’t tell you what I do with them. Suffice it to say that environmentally friendly kitchen spray ain’t friendly to everyone.
At least these guys are small. I will warn any English person looking to emigrate now: the bugs around here. Are. HUGE. Ohmygosh they’re sooo much bigger than I was used to. Two words: cave crickets.
And let me introduce you to the polio of our generation: the deer tick (okay, tiny insect but giant impact so it’s the same thing). Fancy a nice walk into the abundant and beautiful NJ woods on a hot day? Looking to avoid the sun, maybe find a nice stream to paddle in, a thoughtfully placed picnic table and bathrooms nearby? Sure, go right ahead. Just make sure to cover every inch of your body in clothing so that the dreaded—and I mean dreaded—deer tick won’t get you. There are three different sizes of tick (or something): skeevy, gross and wait, was that a speck of dirt or did I just catch Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is the funnest disease New Jersey’s got. It’s so fun I’m not even sure what it does to you because it seems to do so many insidious things and they can take years to develop. Another fun fact: you MAY get a bulls-eye mark on your skin, which is a dead giveaway, BUT it may not be where the tick actually bit you, so if it’s on your back and no-one’s looking, you won’t know until the disease is so far gone you might want to start selling your Bon Jovi albums because you’re going to need the cash for health care. So, brave explorer, stock up on the bug repellant (which will probably kill you some other way), take off the clothes you wore to the park as soon as you get home, and make sure you have a very close friend waiting at home to check your naked posterior for nasty specks hanging on by their disgusting mandibles. Euww.
(Post-script: I moved twenty minutes west from my previous town a few years ago, supposedly into the ‘country,’ but really, twenty minutes away how country can it be (just enough for my purposes, is the answer), and I swear to Tetley, the bugs are BIGGER. And I don’t recognize half of the ones that spit at me as I drag the dog inside at night. The other night there was one about two inches long and the dog wouldn’t even go past it. And it fizzed at us. So help me, fizzed!)
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe, is now available from Crimson Romance.