James Lileks
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We picked up some all-natural bug repellent spray to keep the skeeters away. I spritzed some on my shin, and then saw a mosquito land right where I’d applied the stuff. The bug actually waited, seemingly wondering: “Are you done with this charade? I’ve got kids to feed.”

It’s possible that mosquitoes hang around the store and follow you home if you buy this stuff. They don’t follow carbon dioxide trails, they follow receipts that say “All Natural.”

As much as I would love to cover myself in a thick paste of DEET, I doubt it would work. When I was a kid we were hosed down with a piquant cocktail of stuff developed by the military to deforest entire countries, and we smelled like a brothel in a refinery.

We were still bitten. If Mom emptied a can of Aqua Net hair spray on us, creating a thick protective shield of aerosolized shellac, we’d still get bitten.

It was part of growing up: hot, burnt, poked by skeeters, reeking of Coppertone and Off!, nursing a horsefly bite as hard as steel, watching Dad try to start the flamethrower to get rid of the chiggers, mom rolling her eyes because he was low on napalm. “Again. I told you it was low.”

Nothing ever works. We are here to be eaten. Kings, popes, presidents, paupers — everyone slaps. Everyone itches.

Here are the basic skeeter bites, ranked from worst to least worst:

• The back. You can’t scratch it, so you have to perform a dance with the edge of a door frame that looks like you expect people to tuck dollar bills into your waistband.

• The heel. For some reason skeeters love to sup from your heel so you scratch it until you have a raw welt. Your shoe will continue the joy tomorrow.

• The forearm. This is the most popular spot, and if you’re a certain age you may apply the Thumbnail X.

I learned this from an aunt: Carve an “X” over the bite with your fingernail. The pain takes your mind off the itch, or at least I think that was the theory.

“And if you stub your toe,” she said, “take it off with gardening shears.” I remember she walked funny.

Anyway, the point is that there isn’t much you can do to stop the biting. Bugs can sense your exhalations of carbon dioxide from the other side of Lake Superior. Even if you stake out a hyperventilating goat next to you in the yard, they will find you.

The best approach is to just resign yourself to the fact that you are flawed and imperfect and probably deserve to be slapped for one thing or another. Mosquitoes are nature’s way of saying that you’d best administer the slap yourself.

(Slap!) “Ouch! Well, I probably deserved that for tailgating that car last February.”

james.lileks@startribune.com • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks