Paulina the Beetle by Alex Nolos
Paulina the Beetle
The first time I saw the beetle open, it was the first time I saw that they open in an arc
like a scissor. They get wide. It doesn’t really make a sound unless you put your ear close, and then it sounds like when I’d pull paint chips off the radiator at school, or when a puffy down blanket settles on you. I wondered if it felt uncomfortable for the beetle, but beetles don’t have soft skin like us. They’re crunchy, their exoskeleton is hard—maybe not hard enough to protect them from a heavy boot, but hard enough for a beetle.
Cody was the only person I knew who kept a bug for a pet. The beetle’s name was
Paulina. Paulina was not a female beetle, but Cody decided she would be a girl. He put some stickers on her tank, really nice scrapbooking ones made of puffy plastic. They were shaped like pearls and bows because they were meant to be used for baby showers. He really loved Paulina. I didn’t get it, because I didn’t know what there was to love. Beetles don’t look like they have much personality. He let her crawl around on him, sometimes she’d take off and he'd get scared—not because she’d attack anybody, but because if she got confused and fell out of the air she could hurt herself. I was at his house once when that happened, and I surprised myself by not being scared even though I ran away from bees on instinct. Paulina flew off Cody’s hand and got whacked by the ceiling fan. She landed on the windowsill and made a hard hockey puck sound. Cody almost cried, but of course something as hard as her would be fine.
When Paulina died, Cody didn’t cry. She lived way longer than beetles are supposed to,
and I think Cody was proud that she was happy enough to stay alive for so long. I expected him to have a funeral, and I was a little disappointed when he didn’t. The next time I came over, her tank was still there, but all empty. He was already planning to get a new beetle and he wanted to sanitize Paulina’s tank in case she had an infection. I waited for him to peel off the baby shower stickers, but when he got the new beetle, Patricia, they became her stickers.
Alex Nolos (he/him) is a writer and editor born and residing in Brooklyn. In his writing, he centers themes of queerness, family, and meeting/failing to meet expectations and the
consequences thereof. He likes to be flippant on Twitter. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter @alexnolos