Meet the Beetle
A couple days ago, a large beetle wandered into the boat shop where I work here in Texas. One of the mechanics caught it and – knowing that I’m enamored with critters – brought it into the office.
A little Googling later, we determined it to be a type of rhinocerous beetle called the Eastern Hercules Beetle, or Dynastes Tityus if you want to be more formal. The Hercules reference is due to the fact that rhino beetles are the strongest creatures on earth – relatively speaking. These little guys can lift up to 850 times their own weight.
Dynastes Tityus are members of the scarab family and from what I can tell, seeing one in Fort Worth, Texas is a rarity since they aren’t often spotted this far west.
It is called the Eastern Hercules Beetle, after all!
We also learned that this beetle is completely harmless to humans. Despite the big horn-like protuberances on the male’s face, these insects don’t bite, sting or have any venom. They are just freakishly big, like so many insects in Texas! (I’m sorry, McDonald’s but the Lone Star state was super-sizing things long before you came along.)
I doubt that many Texans keep pet rhinoceros beetles, but they are popular in Asia, where people even stage fights between the males – who think they are fighting over mates, but are really being bet on by humans!
We don’t plan to gamble with our beetle, but I did end up taking him home as a pet – at least for a week or two.
There was some bickering over what to name him. One co-worker wanted to call him Paul McCartney, but others thought John Lennon was better. I was leaning towards Hercules until, on the drive home, an NPR reporter mentioned the writer, Franz Kafka.
Yeah, yeah – I know Kafka’s famous “Metamorphosis” story is about a metaphorical cockroach, but roaches are quite similar to beetles and it’s a catchy moniker. He’s quite big, too, like the huge cockroaches I’ve come across here in Texas from time to time.
Plus, the name fits in with all my other pets, such as:
- Archimedes: My speckled goldfish, named after the ancient Greek scientist who, according to legend, leapt from his bath and ran down the street shouting, “Eureka!” (meaning, “I found it!) upon realizing that the mass of his body displaced an equal amount of water from his bath.
- Zoolander: My beloved Betta fish, named after the vapid supermodel in the eponymous Ben Stiller movie. I actually think my fish is smarter than the Zoolander character. He’s a very cool fish who seems quite interested in life outside the bowl.
- Fabio: My baby Betta fish who lives next door to Zoolander. This is ideal for Siamese fighting fish. They have “walk offs” all the time, each showing off to the other, but they can’t actually hurt each other.
- Kalliope: The skittish, yet affectionate, feral kitty who adopted me late last summer. She’s named after the ancient Greek muse for epic poetry.
- Thelonious Cat: Called Theo, for short, this sweet tom cat is Kalliope’s boyfriend. They still pal around together despite the fact that she is fixed. I find that quite endearing. Theo probably wonders why Miss K is never, “in the mood,” any more but I still catch them snuggling! I feed him from time to time, but have yet to take him to the vet for the whole adoption/shots shebang as I did with her. I plan to, though.
Once home, I put our beetle, Kafka, into a terrarium filled with dirt and some decaying wood. Since Dynastes Tityus dine on rotting fruit, I put a chunk of mango in there. It was fresh, but lo and behold, Kafka promptly grabbed that mango chunk and buried himself in the dirt to eat it.
My ROW80 Check-In
I am still riding high from the DFW Writer’s Conference back on May 19th and 20th, and I still plan to write about some of the great classes I took from the likes of Candace Havens, Beatriz Terrazas, Stephanie Barkos, Mark Fadden, and more…
I’ve made one major decision since the writer’s conference, and that is to continue writing my memoir as a memoir – rather than fictionalizing it as the agent I spoke with (Meredith Barnes) suggested.
For one thing, I have piles of handwritten diaries to use as my source. Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed by the voice that emerges from my diaries. It’s way better than any fiction I was writing back then, I must say!
The thought of turning all this fresh, honest, first-person writing into a fictionalized narrative sounds dangerous. I’m afraid that in the process I will lose the honest, immediate voice that my diaries have.
I wrote the diaries without any expectations except the hope that I would become a better writer. I never thought I’d share them in book form, but when I read back over them now, I am surprised by the story that emerges and the engaging voice that I didn’t know I had.
I am, however, really working on editing the diaries so that the memoir has a novel-like structure. Meredith Barnes said that memoirs often suffer from a weak third act, meaning that the story bogs down towards the end. I want my memoir to end with the same gripping, must-turn-the-page-now manner as a well-written novel.
So, with that in mind, I have been editing and analyzing my memoir to make sure that it will read like a novel even though it’s absolutely true.
I’ve been studying novel structure and I found some great resources online. My next step is to storyboard my memoir as if it were a novel. I’d like to do this a.s.a.p. but…
This next week is going to be a bit bumpy, however, because a dear friend is coming tomorrow to stay for a week. This will certainly impact my after-work writing time, because when he and I get together, we talk a mile a minute. His visit might also impact my early morning (5 to 6 a.m.) writing if we stay up too late talking and drinking wine.
I shall try, my dear Row80 pals. I shall try!
Speaking of, below are links to other Row80 writers. Check them out, y’all. I plan to!