Anthony Picardi : Essay : August 2021

My southern legitimacy Statement: I moved to a small farm on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 2004 on which I put a conservation easement. The community of woods, pond, fields and salt marsh will be forever protected from the ravages of development and industrialized chicken farming flooding in from the north. I practice diversified agriculture like a traditional southern subsistence farmer, raising oysters, soybeans, wheat and corn along with song birds, bass, honeybees, mushrooms, frogs, and hundreds of other insects and weeds. I fish and crab in the ‘creek’ and hunt deer in the woods in accordance with all regulations, of course. It is possible to survive on a small farm these days with a high degree of self-sufficiency save for gasoline, ammunition and the occasional electric freezer. Mostly, however, I consider myself southern in that I ACT like a southerner – there is always time to say a few words and have a conversation before getting to business. There is no political issue more important these days than the matter of how to outsmart our increasingly sagacious population of nocturnal white-tailed deer.

(This essay was written by a particularly astute carpenter ant named Cindi camponotus. I let her use my computer at night to fulfill her literary avocation reporting on natural history around the farm and critiquing the antics of Homo sapiens. In exchange, she promises that she and her 200,000 sisters will not eat my house. Cindi can push down one key at a time, but not while also holding down the shift. *The Mule also published an essay by Cindi in July 2021. She is quite prolific.)

the trial

boss, white house roaches were tried today. i was drafted to be the judge. my elevation to the bench was because the prosecutors figured i was unbiased on account of a carpenter ant can’t eat a death’s head cockroach without the help of fifty sisters. my judicial credentials are a matter of public record after i successfully prosecuted the illicit honeydew traders and their treasonous conspiracy with a carnivorous caterpillar. i insisted the trial be fair, like in an ant colony, with witnesses and evidence.

the fbi parenthesis feral bird investigators close parenthesis found a score of roaches in the woods travelling south. our birds-in-blue had them corralled on the ground. the prosecution consisted of a flock of blue jays locally known as ‘the jeering jays.’

although the evidence was clear – undocumented roaches were caught sneaking through the underbrush, diplomatic complications emerged. i could tell by their ushanka hats they were russians. the suspects in question, a species called blaberus craniifer, aka the death’s head cockroach, are locust-sized, stink like a garbage-pile tramp and are as greasy as a punk’s spiky hairdo. this was going to be dicey and dangerous. events proved me right.

the prosecution periodically pecked at the defendants to keep them cowering in a stinking scrum, ‘jeer jeer jeer down on yer bellies ya stinking roaches jeer jeer.’

the jury assembled in the tree tops. it was a murder of 53 crows. ‘caw caw caw caw off with their heads, tear ‘em apart off with their heads exclamation point’

i had to shout magisterial commands to be heard, ‘the prisoners will stand, raise their two front tarsi, state their names and swear to tell the truth and the whole truth under pain of sextuple tarsal severation.’

the cowed roaches responded one by one – ‘aras, boris, igor, vlad, lev, jared, felix, mikhail, oleg, vitaly, bannonika, dmitry, natalia, konstantin, viktor, ivanka, semion, sergei, vladimir, gennady … your honor.’

the crows dropped down a few branches, ‘caw caw off with their heads.’

i yelled, ‘the jury will remain quiet. the prosecution will present its case exclamation point’

the prosecutor jay landed on a rock facing the huddle of roaches. he raised his blue topknot and trained his white-rimmed black eye on the suspects. ‘the charges are ‘travelling while alien’. we will show that these roaches intend to take over our habitat and ruin our way of life. they plan to perpetrate pernicious crimes. they will upset ecological equilibrium. they will spread deadly disgusting disease, and germs. we ask the jury to consider whether they are safe to eat or will ingestion of them in the community lead to gastrointestinal distress, psychotic hallucinations or even heart disease. we ask for the maximum penalty of death by mastication.’

some of the jury moved down closer, ‘caw caw caw off with their heads. caw caw gobble them up, caw caw caw caw.’

i had to shout again, ‘the jury will remain silent or be held in contempt of court exclamation point to the defendants i said, ‘what is your defense question mark what is a band of super-sized apparatchik death’s head roaches doing in our woods question mark’

the defense was led by the katydid ms. pseudotettigony acrimonius, known for leading the ‘katydid acrimonies’ in partisan chants at pep rallies.

a lime green ms. acrimonius tiptoed out from behind a sweetgum leaf and hung swaying over the defendants. ‘roaches are diplomats from white house. roaches from mother russia here to get kompromat on moose and squirrel. roaches have diplomat immunity, have passports from vladimir, personal-like. you hear truth from rudy boltonnovitch.’

the prosecution interrupted, ‘objection. jeer jeer jeer jeer. no witnesses. no spies telling lies.’

the jury erupted again, ‘caw caw caw caw spies spies caw spies.’
i ruled, ‘overruled. trials have witnesses. the jury will remain quiet. the witness will testify.’

rudy boltonnovitch, his face covered with white hairs and his thorax boasting a black skull looking like the work of a tattoo artist on lsd, stretched up on four feet and waved his front tarsi back and forth in a sign of surrender.

‘we look a little funny but we don’t tell any lies.
we are honest diplomats who never work as spies.
all the crimes you hear about us are done by other guys.’

the jury got agitated. they hopped from branch to branch over the defendants, some moving closer. they pecked at leaves and bark which fell down on the defendants, ‘caw caw caw no witnesses, eat them eat them caw caw caw.’

the prosecution jay cocked his head and considered the murder of crows, ‘the prosecution will admit no witness testimony. these roaches are lying spies.’ with that, the big blue jay hopped down from his rock and impaled rudy boltonnovich with his stiletto beak, thrashed him against the rock until he broke into several pieces and then gulped down rudy’s parts. the jay wiped drops of saturated fat off his beak and called, ‘jeer jeer jeer jeer.’

concerned that i was losing control of my trial, i responded, ‘i remind the prosecution to maintain a civil demeanor in these proceedings. we will hear from witnesses and they will not be eaten unless convicted. ms. acrimonius, call your next witness.’

council for the defense, with only her green eyes peeking over her sweetgum leaf, ‘mister lev will tell story of white house.’

seeing his comrade succumb to whatever laws of nature operated for the prosecution, lev sang like a sparrow at a seed-fest. ‘white house dangerous. full of rats. is battle of rats. back biting, treachery, murder, poisoning. blood up to our tarsi in computer server room. moose like raging bull. rats purged for being ‘enemy of the people’. sending messages leaves bloody roach prints on computers. we send for help to volodya, parenthesis who is president putin to you close parenthesis. he says abandon mission. get out of town. run for mara largo. hide in palm trees. become tree roaches and listen for kompromat. we make tracks south for mara largo.’

once again, the jury erupts, ‘caw caw caw eat them eat them caw caw.’

‘silence’, i yell.

in a desperate attempt to turn even one juror in favor of the friendless roaches, ms. acrimonius delivers a poetic plea,

‘we are honest little bugs, who do not consort with thugs.
we are having many scruples while we launder all our rubles.
there is nothing that’s illegal from our alternating facts,
that we spin into conspiracies and send to you with pacs.’

all of the prosecution jays screech, ‘jeer jeer jeer no witnesses. guilty guilty. eat them eat the green female liars. eat the green liars exclamation point’

i shout, ‘order order order orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrdeeeerrrr exclamation point’

ignoring my pleas, the prosecutor jay jumps up and snatches ms. acrimonius, beating her on a rock before swallowing her head first, whole. several other jays snatch up the rest of the green defense team before they can spread their wings. i consider what to do since it appears that the case for the defense is literally devoured.

seeing the demise of their roach comrade, the collapse of their case and the courts’ inability to enforce rule of law, the roaches lose all faith in the criminal justice system. they break out of their huddle. they charge a jay en masse who jumps up, opening an escape route. roaches rush out in panic, scrambling over each other to get out from under the jury and into the shadows. the jury erupts in a cacophony of caws. ‘caw caw caw caw eat them eat them grab the stinking bugs caw caw eat them all lousy spies don’t let them escape. chew before you swallow. caw caw caw.’ a flapping mass of black crows descends upon the fleeing crowd of deaths’ head roaches like a tornado in a black squall. wings bat branches as a waterfall of jurists descends screaming, ‘caw caw.’ beaks thrust, snap and clack. roaches are flipped up, snatched and cut in two. the murder of crows herds the pitiful band of comrades into the open, jabbing with the pent-up energy of frustration, hunger and wicked table manners. soon the kerfuffle abates. black feathers float down. fifty-three crows crowd on the ground pecking at the remains of former diplomats, ‘caw cawing’ among themselves. ‘did you get the one with the long red scarf. how did that taste question mark. these are greasy little buggers. hey can i get more than just legs over here caw caw caw question mark’

none of the suspects made it to mara largo. as i write this, i imagine the basement of the white house full of bloated dead rats and bloody roach prints on the computer server. i imagine a bull moose kicking over lamps and breaking china in a stalinesque rage about ‘enemies of the people’.

boss, we got rid of aliens. but my judicial proceeding turned into a feeding frenzy. i should have expected that given the tenuous status of the rule of law these days. once a murder of crows assembles for a jury, there is little hope that reason will prevail.

factually reported and respectfully submitted as per agreement by

cindi camponotus,
official holly point farm investigative reporter and amateur magistrate