Friday, May 9, 2008
The Fly Swatter
Nobody can kill flies like I do. I just wake up, walk into the kitchen, some flies are flying around getting ready to annoy me, and wham! wham! wham! Dead. Three in a row, dead as doorknobs. I don’t even have to be fully awake to hit my target. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I land one. That’s a really good success rate. I have a technique but I’m not going to divulge my secret unless you beg me.
My family up north couldn’t care less about prying it out of me. It’s useless information to them. They live in places with windows they never open. It’s a permanent seventy degrees there all year long—heated in the winter, air conditioned in the summer. And there are no livestock around so nothing to attract flies. They don’t even own a fly swatter.
Coming from there, I was shocked at the amount of flies I got when we first moved out to Oklahoma. And it didn’t get any better when we moved to Virginia, first to the Amityville Horror House and then to here. The flies were all the same in the country. Relentless terrorists who zeroed in on the rim of my coffee cup the minute I put it down. They’re about as bad as roaches, disgusting-wise. Think about what they walk on.
I kill so many of them I’m tired of wasting a whole napkin to pick them up. Can’t leave mangled fly bodies around. I wish I could say that I also have a technique, maybe a swift flick of the wrist that stops their hearts without decapitating them or scattering fly limbs and broken wings, but no, fly murder cannot always be accomplished neatly. There’s often a clot of guts left behind and the first phase of clean-up is to remove it with half a napkin. I follow with a disinfect by wiping for a minimum of thirty seconds with my cleaning rag soaked with Pine Sol. Well, that thirty-second thing is not true. But I do use the Pine Sol.
You’d think the flies were smart, the way they hang around on the door hoping to hitch a ride inside when you come in. There they are, hovering out there, like vultures, walking up the glass, congregating on the molding, just waiting for their chance. And then, zoom! They rush inside and land willy-nilly on the kitchen counter or the back of a chair or the rim of a coffee cup. I get the fly swatter. I won’t be able to relax until I put him out of his misery. He’s got about ten seconds left. I don’t know why they don’t spread the word to the others. There is death in here. It is much safer outside in the barn where there’s horse manure to land on and half-eaten cat food Lovely the Barn Cat left behind. All those cows next door, why, you’d think they’d be having a heyday. But no, they’ve got to come in here.
I’m also in charge of getting rid of the ladybugs, stink bugs and spiders. I try not to kill the spiders. I tell Kurt, “Spiders are our friends.” But he’s scared of them. I can barely get him to get it together enough to hand me one of his humongous size twelve-and-a-half steel-toed work boots when I am standing guard over one because I can’t take my eyes off it or else he’ll get away and I, reluctantly, have to kill it. Some of them look mean and you know they bite or they’re just too big or fast to catch and carry outside. So I’m watching it and I’m motioning with my hand, “Com’on, com’on, give me a shoe, give me something!” But my back-up, Kurt and Kelly, are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Finally I grab a magazine and I smack it. Now I have to rip the back page off and throw it away.
You’d think I’d be scared of bugs, coming from the city. And being a girl. But nope, not really. I’ve been known to whack a cockroach barehanded if I spot one running across my kitchen counter. You can’t let a roach get away. You’ve got to kill him any way you can or else when you get up to go pee in the middle of the night, you flick on the switch, and suddenly find yourself with a hundred roaches scattering in all directions. You’ve just got to think of the long-term picture and not your short-term revulsion. Just get the job done or else it’ll get worse.
I guess that’s how I got the job of bug eradicator around here. It’s not really fair. It’s a dirty job. But someone’s got to do it.
Edited to add: Kurt wants me to clarify that I am roach savvy because of past experience, not because I have them now. I grew up in Jersey City in apartment buildings where it was not uncommon for them to spread from one apartment to another depending on the tenants. Here, we have flies, stink bugs, ladybugs, spiders, chiggers, ticks, various beetles and assorted insects I am not familiar with, but no cockroaches.