The Battle of 2004

January 29, 2008
By Elizabeth Austin, Tulsa, OK

In July of 2004, a battle occurred. No history books will ever record it, nor will a million dollar game show host ask of it. This was a battle between me and an angry swarm of yellow jackets. Yes, I might have recklessly invaded their territory, and I suppose running away like a coward wasn’t brilliant either, but that was then, this is now. My near-fatal mistake of knocking down a yellow jacket nest has turned me into a more cautious person.

That day was hotter and more humid than any other day of the summer. As I stepped outside, I could instantly feel the sweat beading on my forehead. I blinked drearily from the intensity of the sun sitting in a cloudless sky. After growing accustomed to the light, my younger brother reminded me of what we had come out for—a game of one-on-one. He and I looked at each other, waiting for the other to make the first move. His muscles twitched and the race was on. Dashing across the burning cement, we lunged into the garage to get the basketball, for whoever grabbed it first received possession. Alas, he got the advantage. A few minutes and a couple of slam dunks later, the score was tied and my brother had the ball. Being the macho nine-year-old that he was, he attempted to make a three-point shot. Thrusting the ball with all his might, it soared over the goal and into a ditch near the creek in our backyard.

I panicked. There was a forest of thorns and poison ivy, not to mention snakes, ticks, and other creatures that sought my demise, that led into our creek. One of us had to go and get it.

“Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” my brother and I chanted as we played the best two out of three.

…Like a piece of paper would beat a rock in real life. Being the loser, I grabbed my artillery—a trusty tennis racket—and headed towards the overgrown battlefield.

I spied the ball, its bright orange color standing out like a carrot in a salad. I could barely reach it from where I was standing, so the tennis racket came in handy. Stretching out as far as I could with the racket in my right hand, I attempted to nudge the ball closer. Little did I know, I had just fired the first shot at enemy lines. I accidentally hit the side of a ditch with the tennis racket and struck a yellow jacket nest. It was a small hole, about the size of a golf ball, in a wall of dirt. All of a sudden, twenty yellow jackets flew out like darts; I was their target. I ran for my life, stumbling and tripping over myself just to get away, but they would not submit.

“Run!” my brother yelled in reply, making running motions with his arms and legs in case I could not hear him over my deafening yelps.

Taking his advice, I began running around in circles; all the while screaming and flailing my arms. How was I supposed to know that loud noises and sudden movements were threatening actions to yellow jackets? Figuring they would not follow me inside, I flung myself towards the door. I reached for the cold, slender handle and turned it, finding myself standing in the laundry room, free of yellow jackets.

To this day I have not recovered from that nightmare. It has haunted my past and it still haunts my present. Because of my careless mistake, I wince every time I see a flying bug. Although I am more alert and attentive, I still wish to someday conquer my fear and step out onto the battlefield once again.

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