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.


Amy Hanek said...

Ha Ha - I am the verminator here too. Spiders are my specialty, but I am capable of anything, really.

We should start our own fly swatter business. We'd make hundreds...

Marion said...

well, I for one am certainly glad you clarified that!(as a child, in a row of 3-story apts in DC, yeah, I remember it well.) But ya know, in northern Maine, they have these enormous black flies that leave welts when they bite. When the weather finally turned warm and I'd go down to the garden, Dick would tell me to put on long pants, socks, long-sleeved shirt, hat sprayed with fly-dope. HUH!!

Kristine said...

Oh, Debi, I can't stop laughing! This was awesome from the beginning right to the end. What a riot! You have a gift for this. Thanks for the great post!!

(And hey, I saw your letter to the editor last week. You were right on target there.)

Jamie Ferraioli said...

You're hilarious. And because of you always trying to save spiders, I've started to feel bad killing certain bugs I find in the apartment. I try to save them when I can and make sure I yell at them when I'm flinging them out the balcony door..."I'm giving you a second chance bug, don't come back here!!"
And I can't get the picture out of my head of you smushing ants with your fingers when we'd find them crawling across the counter in the summer and I'd be running around like a chicken with my head cut off getting grossed out. hahaha.

Amy Tate said...

My mother in love is originally from Minnesota. We drove through there a few years ago on our way to Montana to visit some more of Shannon's family. It was during August, and I'll never forget it. We travelled in a motorhome, and mosquitoes slapped the windshield so hard, that my father in love turned on the wipers! I've never seen so many bugs in one place. I was ready to turn back around right then and there!

Roanoke RnR said...

I'm just thankful we don't have those huge flying roaches, which they tried to gussy up with the pleasant sounding Palmetto name, like Florida does. Could you imagine having to smack those down daily? My fly killing weapon of choice is a mopina which I have perfected to a quick flick, even being able to strike them down as they're in mid flight. Some things you don't need men for ;)

colleen said...

A fun and graphic read. Seems too cold around here today for a fly to survive. Have you tried the same technique with those ladybugs? Or don't you get them there? This piece reminded me of the below poem I wrote about squishing garden bugs with my hands:

Summer Slug: My ambition rise in a sluggish summer day ... to the number of squash bugs in my garden ... Death by squish is not for the squeamish ... I'm the mother of butternut ... Out of my way!

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Thanks for the nice compliments!

Roanoke, I heard about those palmetto roaches. My friend moved to FL and was cleaning the stove. There was a hair stuck to the burner. She goes to pull it out and it's a roach as long as a big toe--it was his antenna!

Colleen, I have a different technique for the ladybugs. A new story will be coming. Thanks for the pretty poem. If a poem about bugs can be pretty!

CountryDew said...

Great post. Very vivid writing.

Amy Hanek said...

Palmetto bugs.... YUCK! I remember those all too well. Still, I think the love bugs were always worse than the ladybugs are here. I used to call them "kissy bugs" to the kids so they wouldn't be afraid. There were always soooooo many of them. Your car and house would just be covered with them.

Anonymous said...

You really know how to paint a picture. Now whats the secret to killing the flies?