Worse Than Its Sting

Raph was in an irritable mood.

Summer had a strangle hold on New York City and its inhabitants were sweltering. Although the lair usually maintained a fairly even temperature due in part to its location and in part because of the crystals, for the past couple of days even their home wasn't immune from the oppressive heat.

Don had set up fans that he'd scavenged and repaired but all they did was move the hot air around. Somehow Master Splinter appeared cool despite the temperature and just because his sons were uncomfortable, he hadn't let up on them in practice.

Mikey had made a desultory offer afterwards to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast but the idea of further heating the kitchen didn't appeal to anyone. It was bad enough that Master Splinter and Leo still insisted on hot tea and that the coffee pot percolated happily on the counter so that Don could have his morning fix.

Raph swore he could tell that those things increased the temperature in the kitchen by another ten degrees. The cold blast of air from the refrigerator as he grabbed the milk seemed to be begging for him to just leave the door open. He was certainly tempted; it would be nice to pull his chair over and sit there while he ate his cereal.

A mildly worded reminder from Don made him surrender that fantasy. Raph's mood was bad enough without bringing the wrath of a genius down on his head by burning out the refrigerator motor.

No one else said anything to him as Raph slammed his bowl onto the table and dumped cereal into it. Splashing milk on top of that, Raph plunged his spoon into the sweet, crunchy goodness and took his first bite.

Something flew by overhead and Raph's hand stopped before the second delivery made it to his mouth. Tilting his head back, Raph surveyed the air and looked over the ceiling. Seeing nothing, he shrugged and took another bite.

A distinct buzzing sound went right by his head and Raph stopped chewing. There was nothing out of the ordinary within view and his brothers were all focused on their own breakfasts.

Swallowing the cereal that was in his mouth, Raph growled, "Mikey, if you're playing one of your pranks on me I'm gonna roll ya' in a ball and stuff your ass in the freezer."

Mikey looked up at him, a slice of toast hanging from his teeth. Pulling it out of his mouth, he said, "What are you talking about, dude? I haven't moved from my chair and it's too hot for pranks. I actually don't think I'd mind if you wanted to stick me in the freezer though."

Raph glared at him but Mikey had returned to his breakfast, unconcerned with Raph's accusation. That was a pretty good clue that Mikey wasn't messing with him; his little brother was always avidly attentive when he was pulling a prank on someone.

Leo and Don were engaged in a conversation about some boring documentary they'd watched, ignoring Raph and Mikey's exchange completely. Raph was starting to wonder if he was imagining things when a small shadow zipped past his bowl.

"What the shell?" Raph yelped, leaping backwards and knocking over his chair.

The quick movement shook the table and sloshed the liquids in his brother's cups. All three looked up at him in astonishment.

"Raph?" Leo asked.

Eyes wide, Raph pointed at a spot on the wall near the ceiling. "Bee!"

Don turned his head to look and said, "That's not a bee. It's a red hornet or paper wasp. Polistes Carolinus. Fascinating, they are indigenous to the southeastern and south-central United States. We don't often see them here."

"Then what's it doing in the lair?" Raph asked, his eyes glued to the wasp.

"Terrorizing you from the looks of things," Leo said humorously.

"It might have hatched from that empty crate we acquired at the docks," Don said. "I just tossed some junk in it to bring home; I didn't look to see if there were any wasp's nests inside."

Raph reached down for his chair and the wasp sprang into flight, dive bombing the red banded turtle. As he ducked, the wasp turned in mid-flight and came at him again, causing Raph to jump to the side.

"Why the shell is it after me?" Raph asked as he scrambled for the fly swatter.

"They're attracted to bright colors, loud noises, and violent movements. That's you, Raph," Don said, his head turning to track the wasp's flight. "I'd love to catch and study him; I've never seen one up close."

"Ya' can study his remains after I smash him," Raph said with grim determination as he stalked the wasp, swatter in hand.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Don said in an even tone.

"Watch me," Raph said, taking a swing at the wasp.

He wasn't fast enough. The swatter missed the wasp completely and it zipped around, avoiding another quick swing as it came straight at Raph's face.

"Ahh!" Raph shrieked, throwing himself to the ground.

As the wasp came back down in a strafing run, Raph rolled under the kitchen table, cowering near his brother's legs. He could hear them laughing and angrily reached out to pinch the calf nearest him.

"Ouch!" Leo yelled, shoving his chair back. "What was that for?"

"It ain't funny," Raph fumed. "How come it ain't going for Mikey? He's wearing a bright color and he makes plenty of loud noises when he's eating."

"Hey!" Mikey protested. "I do not."

"I told you not to go after it," Don said mildly. "Red wasps are extremely aggressive when provoked. You need to stop waving your arms around and quit attacking it. When it calms down I'll use my bug vacuum to scoop it up."

"Now that it can't see you it seems to be settling down," Leo said. "Your cereal is getting mushy, why don't you try coming out slowly so you can finish your breakfast."

Just for a second Raph contemplated pulling his bowl under the table with him, but realized he'd never live that down. Crawling towards his chair, Raph tipped it back onto his legs and carefully climbed out from under the table, moving in slow motion.

Squatting on his knees in front of the chair, Raph scanned the room, spotting the wasp clinging to the far wall again. Twisting around, Raph slid his rear onto the chair and slowly scooted towards the table.

His eyes glued to the wasp, Raph picked up his spoon and began to eat, all the while holding the fly swatter in front of his face. His brothers all wore amused grins and Mikey even had the nerve to chuckle at Raph's discomfort.

"Keep laughing shell for brains," Raph muttered in a low voice.

"Raphie's scared of a little bitty wasp," Mikey teased. "Are you afraid it's going to crawl into your pie hole and sting you?"

"Shut it, Mikey," Raph growled.

The wasp's wings moved and Raph dropped his spoon. Leo snorted and Don tried to hide his smile behind his hand. Only Mikey chortled out loud, unconcerned about his brother's wrath.

"It doesn't like your face or your voice," Mikey chirped.

Raph desperately wanted to say something or at least smack Mikey, but he was afraid either of those would draw the wasp's attention.

"He looks like a statue," Don remarked as he finished his coffee.

"Ya' guys ain't even funny," Raph whispered from between clenched teeth.

Somehow even that small sound was enough to excite the wasp and it came off the wall. For a second it hovered there, rising to bump the ceiling a couple of times almost as though trying to find a way out.

The movement stiffened Raph and he scraped his chair backwards. Like a shot, the wasp made a beeline directly towards Raph.

Out of his chair in a flash, Raph started swinging the fly swatter as fast as he could. His brothers watched as the red banded turtle danced around the kitchen, screaming obscenities at the wasp's relentless attack. Neither scored a hit and neither seemed on the verge of giving up.

It was too much for the three still seated at the table and all of them broke into laughter. A second later Raph slammed shell first into the table and the brothers jumped up, grabbing what they could to keep their dishware from being smashed.

Standing at a safe distance, the three stared at Raph, whose hand was a blur as he tried unsuccessfully to kill the wasp. For its part, the wasp seemed infuriated and was moving at speeds that were almost too fast for the eye to follow.

Leo darted forward, snatching Raph's bowl off the table just as his frantic brother backed into it again. This time the table teetered on two legs before falling over, sending silverware clattering to the floor.

"Raph, stay away from the stove!" Leo shouted, watching his brother chase the wasp in that direction.

He needn't have worried; before Raph was halfway there, the wasp turned and flew at Raph's head and the turtle skid to a stop before spinning around to run.

Swinging the swatter behind him, Raph made a dash for the refrigerator, flinging the door open. Shoving as much of his carapace inside as he could, Raph dislodged a shelf and sent food items falling out all around him. Ignoring the disaster, he pulled the door closed as far as possible, leaving only his feet and the top of his head showing.

Still waving his swatter around, Raph attempted to chase the wasp away from his hiding place. The insect however was having none of it, seemingly intent on stinging its adversary even if it had to die to do so.

Unable to watch the wasp properly, Raph didn't see it spot an opening in the turtle's defenses and swoop in for the kill. Just before it landed on his head, another small figure dove from atop the refrigerator.

Klunk caught the wasp in his paws mid-flight, landing gracefully on the floor before biting the wasp in half. Shaking his head, he dropped the front half and batted at it, playing with his new toy until it stopped moving.

"Where is it? Where is it?" Raph asked frantically, having not seen the cat come to his rescue.

His brothers burst of laughter drew Raph partway out of the refrigerator. He saw them doubled over, holding their stomachs and then noticed Klunk seated on the kitchen floor licking his paws.

Very slowly, Raph pushed the door open and he stepped out, watching warily for the wasp. It took a couple of seconds before he noticed the remains lying on the floor not far from his feet.

"K . . . Klunk saved you!" Mikey stuttered as he tried to form words around his mirth.

"Don't worry," Don said, drawing a deep breath as he held his shell cell up for Raph to see. "I filmed the entire thing for you, and everybody else, to watch."

Completely chagrined, Raph snarled, "You'd better not show that ta anybody."

Klunk got up to stroll over to the refrigerator and began lapping at a puddle of milk. Looking around him, Raph noticed that the kitchen was a disaster area of overturned furniture, spilled food, and a wrecked fridge.

"You're cleaning this up by yourself," Leo informed him as he headed out of the room.

Following him, Don said, "I guess I'll check that crate and see if there are any stragglers."

Mikey paused in the doorway, looking from Klunk to Raph. "Maybe he should stay with you, in case you need to be rescued again."

"I hate bugs," Raph grumbled, kicking at the wasp's remains. A wing fluttered and Raph jumped ten feet in the air with a loud shriek.

A fresh round of laughter from his brothers further irritated the already embarrassed turtle. Looking down, Raph made a face at the cat, who was staring at him.

"Meow," Klunk said.

"Don't rub it in," Raph responded as he started to clean up his mess.