I sighted down the shiny black barrel and held my breath. I'd only get one shot. Gently, I squeezed the trigger.
The praying mantis toppled off my desk lamp. Once again the bedroom of this 8-year-old boy stood safe from the invasion of ugly bugs. And I hadn't even knocked any pictures off the wall this time.
I slammed another rubber dart into place and scanned the corners for spiders.
Slowly my gaze returned to the majestic, green mantis. They weren't federally protected insects, were they? Would Mom block the FBI when they stormed the house? Or just point them to my room? Oh man.
The mantis twitched. It shook its triangular head and wobbled to its feet.
I scooped it up and set the critter on the outside windowsill. It unstuck its wings and sprang away.
Narrowly avoiding prosecution, I dropped back into bed and once again wondered why none of my uncles schlepped me along on their deer hunts.
Until they did, I'd keep our house safe from the tyranny of insects and spiders.
A few days later, a fly terrorized the living room. When it paused on the bulb of a table lamp, I drew my weapon and sighted down the clear blue barrel.
Schwoomp! Splat! Pfffffft! Ssssssssst!
Who knew that hot light bulbs exploded when doused by a squirt of cold water? Or that lamp shades were so fragile. Good thing I had a few more shots left in the squirt gun before I took the fly outside and buried it.
It spurred the debate but it wasn't the moment when Mom instituted gun control inside the house. That happened after the mosquito landed on the African violet planter. I raised the wooden stock of my rubber band rifle and thwipped the bloodsucker right through the purple posies. Mom made a federal case out of it and my bug guns were gone.
Flash forward 45 years and a wondrous package arrives on my front porch. It appears to be a cross between a pump-action shotgun and a machine pistol. It's designed to shoot houseflies. It fires table salt.
My household Second Amendment rights were restored.
I emptied the salt shaker into the Bug-A-Salt, pumped a pinch into the yellow and black plastic chamber, clicked off the safety, rested the gun on my shoulder in my best Chuck Norris ''Delta Force'' impression, and patrolled the perimeter. I was ready to wage a savory war on flies.
Turns out that flies are hard to come by in the middle of winter. Finally, I hung a toy Spider-Man from a string ''web line'' from the ceiling as a bug stand-in.
Rrrrrenk! Click! Pooompf!
Spidey danced and spun as I regained the accuracy of my aim. Grains of salt tinkled off the ceiling and cascaded to the floor.
My wife called me to supper. After grace, she reached for the salt shaker.
''Allow me,'' I said.
I pumped a round into the chamber. Rrrrrenk!
Kicked off the safety. Click!
Sighted a target full of gravy.
And squeezed the trigger.
In my defense, most of the mashed potatoes, gravy and a good deal of the salt remained on Terry's plate. Yet once again, I'm living in a household restricted by gun control.
But only until spring. That's when the flies come out. I might even hold the door open for them. Then we're locked and loaded. At least until Terry comes after me again with the flyswatter.
----- Engage the mighty insect warrior at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.