Boone had his shirt close around his neck and a handkerchief half over his face to shut off the mosquitoes. They made a steady buzzing around his head, for all that he and Jim had built a smudge and bedded down close to it. He could hear Jim slapping his face and rubbing the itch afterwards.
“Worse’n chiggers,” Jim said, “these damn gnats. Listen to ’em. It’s their war whoop they’re singing.” Boone set his mind to listening. The whole night seemed filled with the small whining of their wings. “What’s the good of a gnat, anyways?” Jim asked.
“They’ll quiet down some, if it cools off.”
“They don’t serve no purpose, unless to remind a man he ain’t such a somebody.”
“I dunno,” said Boone, knowing Jim was turning the question in his mind as he did with everything. When it came to an idea Jim was like Boone with a rock or a buffalo chip, tipping it over to see what was underneath. Boone figured it was better to take what came and not trouble the mind with questions there was no answer to. Under a rock or a chip, now, a man could spot bugs and sometimes a snake.
“Maybe the pesky little bastards is asking themselves what God wanted to put hands on a man for,” Jim said after a while. “Maybe they’re thinkin’ everything would be slick, except their dinner can slap ’em. Maybe,” he went on after another pause, “maybe they got as much business here as we have. You reckon?”
“I wouldn’t say as much.”
“They’re here, ain’t they?” Jim’s hand made a whack against his cheek. “And we’re here, ready for ’em to feed on. I bet they figure we’re made special just for them. I bet they’re sayin’ thank you, God, for everything, only why did You have to put hands on a man, or a tail on a cow?”
Boone could look down along the shadows of his cheeks and see the Mandan’s mast, standing sharp and black.
“Or maybe they’re sayin’, like my old man would, we know it’s a punishment for our bein’ so sinful and no-account. Forgive us our trespasses, an’ God’s will be done.”
The Big Sky by A. B. Guthrie, Chapter 16
First Bill Bryson exposes that we are only mobility structures for vast colonies of bacteria and now I learn that we are at best a convenient source of food for biting insects. Makes sense. What does the Bible say about bacteria?