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The Essay
Show #115
Hermit Lice
David Gunn
One of the lesser publicized actions of the Vermont legislature's past congressional term was the designation of the official state pest. Although numerous nominations were made for a panoply of state senators, flimflam lobbyists, self-serving administrationists, and every telemarketer under the blue-black sun except one, in the end, the honor and accompanying plaque were unanimously awarded to the hermit louse.

First discovered in an M.C. Escher woodcut in 1946, the hermit louse is a parasitic invertebrate the size of a walrus, but without that animal's self-effacing charm. It is the largest insect in Vermont, and one of the biggest in all of New England; when fully fledged, it can weigh 800 pounds Celsius. Such ballast would normally compromise the rapid movements so inherent in a pest's annoying habit, but the louse is graced with an efficient network of interior tubing into which naturally-occurring helium seeps, counteracting much of the insect's weight and actually causing a certain amount of lift. Unlike other members of its phylum, it has no wings, preferring to fly clandestinely aboard commercial air carriers. As its name implies, the hermit louse usually travels alone, shunning social functions and communal activities, preferring to spend its days chewing and sucking on its host, which can be any human with type O blood above the age of birth. In some cases, even prenatal prepersons have been discovered with their pancreases completely devoid of juice due to the labors of particularly insistent louses which, unusual for the hermit family, work in teams of up to a dozen insects. Entomologists call them lice squads. For years, lice were thought to be members of the rodent family because they could spit glue, their compound eyes were the color of twilight in the tropics, and they often showed up in mousetraps clamoring for a lawyer.

A relative by a previous metamorphosis, the wood louse is made entirely of cellulose. Enormously specialized, it glues its newly hatched babies, called dung, to the pubic region of tokamaks. As the fusion device's components flow into and out of focus, the dung steadily mature, until they resemble slope-shouldered cattle with feathers. Sometimes a tokamak becomes so louse-encrusted that it develops the jitters, causing the dung to tumble off. Separated from its host tokamak, the not-yet wood louse usually seeks asylum within one day Fahrenheit.

Hermit lice are found throughout the world -- from Bangkok to Bangor; from Angkor Wat to Anchorage -- but only Vermont has taken time out of busy bouts of governmental hectoring to designate this lousy creature a state pest. And to keep the ignoble louse top of mind -- which coincidentally is the locale to which they most often affix their nettling selves -- we hereby dedicate today, August 2nd, as Vermont State Pest Day.

The hermit louse, by the way, should not be confused with Vermont's state disease, the hermit thrush, a nasty parasitic fungus which causes painful white ulcers to erupt on the throat of area recluses and render them unfit for Gilbert and Sullivan renderings.

And unfit is what Gilbert and Sullivan lamentably are for this, the 115th episodic adventure of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, whose imminent transition to chaotic turbulence from le flambeau oriange is best left to chance, the odds for which we like to stack like LPs of Portuguese pontoon music upon the divergently-balanced shoulders of he who otherwise would be but Kalvos.




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