Like a prayer

Praying mantisBack when I found my first tomato hornworm, my buddy Cole posted a comment about a praying mantis she found in her house. “We watched him for a while in the grass and then he/she hopped away,” she said. “I don’t know how he got on top of our water cooler in our kitchen, though…”

Last weekend, Cole posted a story about a praying mantis that’s taken up residence in her yard. “I’ve always wanted to see one in person, but still haven’t managed to spot one in my neighborhood,” I said in her comments section.

When I left the comment, Steve and I were sitting in a coffeeshop in downtown Iowa City. He was hard at work on his thesis, and I was hard at work on…reading blogs. Although, ostensibly, I was sitting there working on my own writing.

Around 9 p.m., we decided to shut down our laptops and stop by Whitey’s, an ice cream shop in the middle of town, before heading back to our car. We navigated the gauntlet of flavors, made our selections, and took them outside the shop to a sidewalk bench.

About two bites into our ice cream, Steve said, “Hey. Whoa. Look at this.”

I looked over toward his left arm and did a doubletake. If I hadn’t just seen the photo on Coles’ blog, I might not have even recognized what had landed on him: a huge praying mantis. It rubbed its legs together and looked up at him, then vaulted up to his shoulder.

“I want to keep him!” I said. “I want him as a pet!”

It’s amazing how little it takes to turn me into a four-year-old. A little ice cream and a cool bug, and bam. I’m back in pre-school.

The Amazingly Tolerant Steve sat very still as the mantis clambered around his shoulders. “What would we put him in?”

“Finish your ice cream,” I said. “We’ll put him in our ice cream cups. We just have to get him from here to the house and then we’ll set him free in the garden.”

Steve nodded. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Let’s just eat, and if he’s still here when we’re done, we’ll take him home. We’ll consider it a sign.”

Just after that, the mantis took off, soaring into the air across the street. “Oh no,” I said. “I didn’t even get a picture.”

We continued eating. “I cannot believe that,” I said. “It’s like magic. I told Cole I had never seen one, and then one lands on your arm. I mean, not an hour ago, I was writing a comment to Cole.”

I finished my two scoops. “Can we just go see if we can find him? I saw which way he flew.”

“Sure,” Steve said, and we crossed the street, eyes down, looking for the mantis.

We spread across the sidewalk, walking in circular patterns as we looked for the insect.

“This is smart,” Steve said. “How are we going to find a praying mantis on the sidewalk in the dark?”

I looked up at the black glossy window of the bank on the corner. There it was: the praying mantis, still and silent.

“By looking at the window,” I said.

“Hot damn,” said Steve.

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