What can YOU say in six sentences?
The genesis of the experiment could be traced back to a card game, a game of pinochle played by the adults while us kids pretended to watch television, but really we listened to our parents cursing and laughing and smack-talking and telling stories.
I don't remember who it was that brought up the subject of unusual insects or how it turned into a discussion about potato bugs, an insect that, we learned, had the face of a baby, a baby for God's sake.
We sat so still as one of the adults talked of this strange creature with the baby face and its segmented black and gray body, a nightmarish invader crossed over from some piebald underworld.
"Did you know they scream when they're burned," said my mother, her sweet voice carrying cruel gospel to my ears, and us kids swore if we ever saw a potato bug we'd capture it, put it in a ring of fire, and listen to it scream.
The day came we had a potato bug in an empty Folgers can--looking exactly like the grown ups said--and we squirt a circle of lighter fluid on asphalt, struck a match, watched the flames rise, and quickly dumped the bug in the middle to face our makeshift, flaming arena.
There was no screaming, just panicked scampering, that expressionless baby face searching for a break in the heat, finding none, eventually choosing to burn, and we watched as he did, still waiting for a scream that never came.