I'm in the backyard engulfed in a swarm of yellow-jackets. This was last Saturday, I was mowing the lawn which had grown to knee-tickling heights due to my negligence. At some point in my passes with the old red Toro I rumbled over a subterranean nest and roused up a tribe of the stabby bastards. I only became cognizant of my predicament when a text message pinged off my Android through the Cypress Hill cranked on the headphones. I released my grip on the Toro and the engine rumbled off. It was a message from the Princess. As I thumbed in a response a yellow-jacket scout landed on the screen. It crawled around the letters before taking off. Raising my eyes from phone back to yard I could see a squadron of them rising out of the brambles and zigzagging through the air. I muted the boasts of Insane in the Membrane. The buzz sounded like a frantic crowd from miles away.
Breathe not so much deep as slow.
A hand grabs me by the back of the neck and starts pushing me forward.
Back in class two hours before the swarm.
The grip on the back of my neck is strong. My classmate, Mjolnir (because he hammers them pads like Thor) has a strong grip on me. They keep pairing me up with the bigger opponents lately. Bad experiences that have nested into my nervous system with the insistence of parasitic worms begin gnawing panic into my reflexes. I step forward into the push. I shoot my arm up, as if I was the first in class with the teacher's answer, press bicep to ear, and trap one of the hands squeezing my neck. I pivot to my right, 'snapping' the grip. I lock up the arm even though I'm not allowed to in this drill and ready to kick out the knee when I'm hit from behind with a pad. I spin around. Hammer strikes. Another pad hits me. Elbows. Another pad hits me and before I can turn to knee it another set of hand wrap around the side of my throat. I go to do the escape but do it too fast and elbow my attacker in the face. Another pad hits me before I can react I spin around and someone jumps on my back. No finesse. No skill. I shrug them off with the adrenaline rush and sidestep around their collapse to the floor. Another pad hits me from behind and I grab it instead of striking and throw it down. I'm ready to attack the student without a pad when the teacher shuts it down with a snatch of my shoulder.
"Calm down," they say with patience muffling frustration, "breathe. Look around. The people you think you're fighting aren't here."
Stammer out an apology. I'm ordered to start again. To focus on control instead of lashing out. To focus. To breathe. To remain in control.
Eyes closed... I wait for the next set of hands to wrap around the neck.
Eyes open... and the swarm is slowing around me. The yellow-jacket squadron has gone from attack formation to patrols around the brambles. One lands on the back of my neck, skitters up the spine, explores the stubble on the back of my dome. I don't move and my breath is sipped gently through the nostrils.
And the yellow-jacket takes off.
The humidity is cooking me up. Sweat stings the eyes. A dog barks in the yard next door. My muscles are aching and at the same time signaling me to bolt for the back porch hopefully outrunning the little fucks. I want to scratch my nose, my armpit, my nuts. But I stand still. Watching, one by one, as the yellow-jackets cease their patrol to return back under the earth from which they dwell.
Finally I'm alone again in the backyard.
I walk to the porch, glug down a La Croix, and then limp a shaky return back to the Toro.
Pull of chord, the engine rumbles back to life, flick through the app, punch in a song. The Exploited's "Alternative" comes on and it's back to the job for me.