Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Statuary Beetle

Geophagy is often relegated to the realm of earthworms. Few other insects enjoy devouring the raw essence of life in rocks and stones.

The Statuary Beetle is a wonder. Shaped like a long fingernail, with a back mottled like a piece of granite, the Statuary Beetle will only eat marble dust. Natives of Crete, they hitched rides to the United States in the crates of Greek and Roman statuary. They plague museum curators with their nibbling teeth and acidic spittle.

They rarely mate. They rarely need to. The acidic spittle that makes it possible for the Statuary Beetle to derive sustenance from stone also makes them utterly toxic to anything that might eat them. Their only natural enemy is the curatorial staff of museums, who quietly hide the secret of the beetles' existence to prevent any endangered species organization from discovering this rare beetle in time to stop the genocide.

Fortunately, on a recent trip to a museum with Horatio, I noticed an infant beetle in the dark corner of a marble sarcophogus. I distracted the staff by threatening to touch a priceless coin. Horatio quickly recovered the tiny insect, and stuffed it among some rocks in his pocket.

We keep the beetle in the same cage as the Snaggletooth Spider. They don't seem to notice each other. One eats marble, the other eats dentition. They wait, patiently, for their meals, and say nothing to each other.

I placed a marble hand from a garden statue in the cage. The Statuary Beetle hides under the stone palm. It has begun eating the elegant pinky finger.

The Snaggletooth Spider wandered over long enough to deduce that the white stone was not tooth-related. Then, it wandered back to its familiar corner of the cage, awaiting it's nightly meal of dentures and bits of toothpaste.

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