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From Brick 99

Brick 99 Cover

Fisher cats were originally brought to northern New England to kill off the porcupines. The cane toad was introduced to sugar-cane plantations to eliminate rats and beetles. Cats were introduced in ancient Egypt to control rodents in grain-storage facilities and now kill field mice, voles, June bugs, and songbirds at breakfast. Ferrets in A.D. 500, also for mice. Mongoose for snakes in Hawaii. Dachshunds were bred to slip into underground tunnels in pursuit of badgers. The spider mite has seven introduced enemies. A hummingbird is inserting itself into the flowering basil plants I transported in my luggage as seeds. The eastern grey squirrel was brought from the United States to Europe by a banker as a garden novelty and is said to hurt the red squirrel, though it’s not known exactly how​. A BBC headline: “TV chef Jamie Oliver should encourage schoolchildren to eat grey squirrels.” The European starling was introduced to North America in the nineteenth century “as part of an effort to bring all species mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to the United States.” Now I’m hearing that Asian wasps are shipped by UPS to New Hampshire—6,250 in buzzing boxes—to eliminate the emerald ash borer, whose native range is eastern Russia, northern China, Mongolia, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Each wasp costs four dollars, but a lab in Brighton, Michigan, donated the swarm. A scientist on local public radio assures listeners that the wasps are “not interested in anybody’s cute animals.” The lionfish may have been introduced when a hurricane dumped a living-room aquarium’s contents into a Florida bay. We are encouraged to try eating lionfish in ceviche. The founder of the World Lionfish Hunters Association says, “Eating non-native lionfish into extinction would, in this case, be a very good thing.” The emerald ash borer was introduced to North America in packing materials. The red pine scale was introduced with ornamental trees at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. I introduced Mark to Lisa. Wikipedia was introduced to college students in January 2001. We are advised not to lick cane toads. The mascot for New Hampshire’s flagship university is a wildcat and for its baseball league a fisher cat. They pose outside rinks or inside locker rooms, outside Alumni Hall or in a lobby. It’s possible they have competed against a skyhawk, warhawk, wolf, golden eagle, golden bear, Bill the Goat, bison, burro, bobcat, Bryan the Lion, bronco, parrot, cardinal, Great Dane, dolphin, blue hen, bull, ram, gorilla, hornet, yellow jacket, kangaroo, roadrunner, rooster, pelican, osprey, shark, jackrabbit, as well as a leprechaun, Minerva, and a phoenix. Cane toads have starred in two short films, Cane Toads: An Unnatural History and Cane Toads: The Conquest, both appearing at Sundance. I introduced Lisa to Daphne. Ladybugs for aphids, tachinid flies for true bugs, fairyflies for the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a virus for the European rabbit and for feral island cats, meat ants to kill the cane toad if and when it stands still. Dandelions were brought over on the Mayflower for medicinal purposes. Teeth whitening was introduced to Americans in the 1990s. Kudzu covers an abandoned car making it look like a tree and a tree making it look like a car. Zebra mussels clog cooling systems in boats and water pipes at power plants. A leaf beetle for purple strife. Highway construction enables cane toads to use “roads as activity and dispersal corridors,” while in Maryland “hunters moved across the refuge in a massive, coordinated, west-to-east movement. In winter, the ice on the Chesapeake Bay prevented the nutria from swimming away. Hunters could shoot them on sight.” You might introduce a topic, thinking it would do some good in conversation. A groundhog beaten to death by a senile uncle with a shovel is not on YouTube. Not regulated by natural predators and enjoying explosive population growth, they destroyed wetlands; ate dearly beloved pets; killed off creatures called quolls, goannas, and death adders; filled roads; made driving conditions dangerous; walked in front of cars; ate everything in sight; defoliated and emitted a loud ringing sound; left behind debris; had an opinion about everything. Lynx to bobcat, bobcat to raptor. Let me introduce you to, allow me to introduce you.

Alexandria Peary is the author/co-author of four books, including Control Bird Alt Delete. One of her current projects is a book on mindful writing pedagogy. Her writing has recently appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Volt, New American Writing, Flyaway, Denver Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, and Yew.

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