Wilderness Wimbledon

Sam leapt gracefully through the air, arm thrown back, and brought the tennis racquet down against the window pane, subtly buffering his force just before impact.

Sam leapt gracefully through the air, arm thrown back, and brought the tennis racquet down against the window pane, subtly buffering his force just before impact. He landed with a thud on the plywood floor, causing a minor earthquake in the cabin, as the racquet smeared yet another mosquito against the already blood and bug juice stained window.

“Got it?,” I asked, my hand shooting out to one side.

“I did,” crowed Sam, proud of his prowess on this, our very own backwoods tennis court. This game was played with bugs, not balls, and infinitely more serious and challenging than any Grand Slam.

I twitched my hand in the air and then quickly opened my fist against my leg, grinding the caught mosquito against my pants. It’s almost a nervous tick by now, limbs darting erratically through the air. Probably the kind of thing you would expect a wilderness hermit to develop. Nonetheless I was feeling self-conscious: soon, visitors would arrive.

Our cabin could be euphemistically described as rustic, with a creative atmosphere. My inner voice, which sounds a lot like my mom, told me that “very messy” and “in desperate need of a thorough cleaning” was more like it. Usually, I didn’t notice it much—the gentle dusting of fine sawdust and pollen everywhere, the little piles of dog hair banked like driftwood in all corners, and the still life of a spoon, broken lighter, 3” screws, dog claw cutter and mugs on our coffee table (for brevity’s sake, I’m leaving out the other 30 odd items on it). The house-of-horrors window panes, though, had drawn my attention for a while already. Yet it seemed so pointless to clean them when every day, more bugs met their maker on them.

What with people from the Outside world about to pay us a visit, it seemed only prudent to whip things into shape. Otherwise, anyone with a dust or dog hair allergy would immediately need to be medevaced out, or else we might find ourselves committed to an institution because of slovenly living conditions. Not wanting to cause this unnecessary expense to our already ailing health-care system, I set to work wiping down the logs, re-painting the floor, washing the blanket from the couch … the kind of thing you tend to do when someone wants to come and stay with you.

The bug situation kept worrying me, though. Would a citified person be able to handle this or would we find a shrivelled shell one morning, sucked dry of all its juices? Without any training in catching and killing mosquitoes, survival depended entirely on the religious application of poisonous bug dope. If it melts a plastic bag, what will it do to a Southerner?

The tennis racquet might be their salvation.

Doubtless they would be proficient players of squash, badminton or tennis and able to handle our electronic mosquito swatter.

I had given Sam such a hard time for buying that thing a couple years ago, deeming it a useless sales gimmick that was a complete waste of money. Sam had protested that an old Native lady had bought two of them and when he asked her if they actually worked, she had assured him that her family used them all the time. If it was elders approved, he claimed, it had to be good. With thousands of years of experience, nobody could possibly be better versed in mosquito warfare.

And indeed, it works like a charm. Buzzing bugs can be caught and electrocuted in the air, dogs can be cleared just like airline passengers going through security, and there is a certain charm to it—it makes you look very sporty, quite in contrast to the twitch-and-grind method of catching bugs.

Since visitors are always keen to see wildlife, this would be their chance. There was an element of tension to it as well, not to mention the chance to live out any dormant great white hunter fantasies. I do wonder if the outfitter industry will eventually catch on to the marketability of the northern mosquito hunt. Well, maybe once everything else is depleted; though taxidermy will be a challenge.

Our guests had asked if they could bring anything. First I had thought that we didn’t really need anything but then it struck me: if they would bring up three more electronic mosquito swatters, we could play a double.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who

lives at the headwaters of the

Yukon River south of Whitehorse.