Apparently, the proper term for collected ferrets is a “business,” which puts an alarming spin on the phrase “business suit.”
Collected locusts are called a “plague,” which is a bit more judgmental than most collection names. It’s disturbingly appropriate though, which I’m unfortunate enough to be able to assert from personal experience: I’ve survived a plague of near Biblical proportions.
It happened the year before my wife and I got married. Locusts appeared as if from nowhere, and covered the entire town for months. If they had glowed a variety of colors, it might have been festive–a churning cloud of Christmas spirit–but it was just horrifying instead.
I think I good way to illustrate that horror is by contrast: I’ll imagine how much better that summer would have been had my town been visited by a business of ferrets.
Criterion 1: Appearance
Individually, the locusts looked like spindly armored evil, which is bad enough even before considering that they arrived en masse by the millions. They clung to everything; every bush and tree was thick with them. They were like menacing insect snow, except that snow makes things pretty and isn’t menacing. Also, no one in their right mind would want to make locust angels.
Until I saw it myself, I never could have imagined the sort of coverage I’m talking about, so if you’ve never seen a plague of locusts, take whatever you’re imagining and double it. Then realize that you’re probably still not doing justice to the real event. Then just keep doubling what you’re imagining until you can’t sleep anymore. That was what it was like.
About five years before, I had had a bad experience with fleas. (If there is a proper term for collected fleas, I can’t find it. I’m going to call them either a circus or market.) A circus (or market) of them had gathered around a shed near where I worked. They were so numerous that from a distance they looked like a dark gray fog hugging the ground, like the sort produced by dry ice except not white. When I got closer, they covered my pants so thoroughly that I momentarily thought I had worn black, even though I had actually worn light beige. I very nearly wanted to throw myself into a fire, just to be certain that I had gotten all of the fleas off of me. Then I wanted to go back and burn down the shed. (I would have needed a flame thrower though, because I didn’t want to get close again.)
The locusts were worse. Ever so much worse. Outside of stars, there is not enough fire in the universe to cure the heebie-jeebies they caused. Stars would only be a temporary fix, too.
By contrast, ferrets are adorable individually, and only become cuter as their numbers increase, because they start to play with each other. A town full of ferrets would probably shine as a beacon of happiness and laughter. Not to mention becoming the most attractive place on the planet, full of the most attractive people. (Ferrets make everyone else better looking.)
Also, if the ferrets covered anything, it would only be because they had gathered together in one area to cuddle and sleep. That would just be precious, not horrifying.
Criterion 2: Presence
Encyclopedias might describe the noise a locust makes as a chirp or song, but that stretches the rules of euphemism too far and is basically lying. They shrieked like a frightened cat running away from cruel young boys. And the cat was imitating a banshee. And the banshee was scared and had a throat condition.
When every inch of every plant shrieked at once, which they did for the entire summer, the result was oppressive. It was as though someone were scraping an infinite chalkboard with a hundred million fingernails. While I stayed inside, the sound was annoying but bearable, like an abrasive case of tinnitus or phone calls from automated recordings. When I stepped outside it became something more like a dentist drilling into my eardrums, but less pleasant.
Ferrets, on the other hand, don’t make noise unless you’re mean to them. They’re everyone’s silent little buddy. A town full of ferrets would have sounded just like a town, except happier. I probably could have heard people smiling from indoors, and it would have sounded like giggling babies, which is just about the best sound ever invented.
If I went outside though, it would have sounded like my own laughter, because the ferrets would be so entertaining that I couldn’t help but laugh.
Criterion 3: Attitude
The locusts were aggressive and greedy, as though someone had crossed angry creditors with flying feral dogs. They were particularly vicious toward my unfortunate wife. She would step outside and they would swarm down on her as though she were a prize feast. (She doesn’t even look like a tree.)
When locusts start clawing at one’s face and ears, a certain amount of panic is not only reasonable, it’s prudent. My wife’s situation was even worse. To understand it you need to know a bit about her injurious history with insects. For her entire life, she didn’t get little insect bites; even mosquito bites would swell up to the size of grapefruit. She had always taken careful measures to avoid every little bug.
The locusts were unavoidable, inexorable, unmerciful. They terrified her.
One night I drove her back to her dorm, escorted her through the swarm to the front door, and walked her up to her room. Everything was fine until I turned around to leave. Suddenly she screamed. My back was turned, so I had to imagine the rest, but from the sound of it I imagined her clawing her way up the opposite wall. She had discovered a hitchhiker on my shirt: I had brought in one of the locusts.
I frantically struggled to run down stairs again while simultaneously keeping my back still so that I wouldn’t spook the little plague-beast. (That’s a challenge, for the record.) The damage was already done for my poor wife though. I don’t think she wanted to go outside again until winter, and it took about that long for her pulse to get back to normal.
Had it been a ferret, she wouldn’t have screamed but rather laughed with delight, as though discovering a present she had missed in her first rush of unwrapping. Nobody minds ferret hitchhikers, because they’re so charming when discovered.
Also ferrets don’t generally attack innocent women. (The occasional wayward rabbit, possibly, but not women.) They might approach and want to snuggle, but consider how attractive that proposition is compared to gnawing skin removal at the mercy of doom bugs.
Clearly ferrets are better than locusts. Does anyone disagree with that?
In Exodus, the locusts were the eighth plague. If the first seven were at all like it, I would have broken a lot sooner. In fact, if it would have ended the locust summer sooner, I would have found Israelites to release.
If anyone thinks I’m being a bit of a coward about this, my understanding is that the plague will return in a dozen years or so. You can come and stay at our house for the experience. We’ll have evacuated.