Cutting Through The Crap

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fly Boy


I don't know where they're coming from. Calendar notwithstanding, it's still mostly winter around here and the doors remain closed. We're not going in and out much. More than a month ago, not for the first time, there was the smell of something dead, maybe behind the bookcase. A mouse, I'd guess, because the smell wasn't too strong, and it only lasted a few days. Given the interval, I can't make the connection.

Couple of years ago, something bigger died in the ceiling, probably a rat. (It's not as if we live in a hovel, but there it is.) Not long after the odor invaded, we were treated to the sight of maggots dropping, acid rain, out of light canisters in the kitchen. I stanched the flow with masking tape, but some time later the flies came. Slow and sluggish, they dotted the large windows in our living room every morning for several days, a dozen or two at a time, enough to render the windows alive, in motion, disgusting dots, Brownian, left, right, up, down, picking up their feet and flying a bit then starting again. Aimless and annoying. With numbers like that, action is most certainly required.

In our home, small spiders get a free ride. Large ones generally get papered gently into a cup and released outside. Pill bugs, which seem to associate with the potted plants on the ledge by the soaking tub, are picked up and dropped from the bathroom window onto the rhodies below. I can cup most moths in my hands and show them out. Not so the flies. They die.

I'm not as quick as I used to be, when I could snatch a fly as it took off, starting my hand behind, swinging snappy in the direction they were heading. Feeling it buzzing in my hand, I'd fling it onto the floor, fast and, presumably, painless. Now, it's the swatter. During those dark times years ago, I'd just wail away, getting as many as I could, waiting then for those remaining to settle back, and wail again, leaving the carnage on the floor until the onslaught was over. In prodigious amounts, they repopulated for several days. This time is different. They're pacing themselves. One or two at a time, more regularly in the afternoon, fat and lethargic, they just materialize. From no obvious entry, with only occasional announcing flight, a fly appears from nowhere, on a windowsill, a wall, a kitchen window.

In time, with practice, you learn things. Until now, for example, I never gave any thought to the expression "Dropping like flies." (In fact, looking it up, the origin is obscure, and variously attributed.) But I've noticed: escaping a swing and a miss, a fly on a wall is likely to drop straight down. It's useful information for the second attempt. Also, there's technique involved: a deft touch is required to stun a fly enough to get it to drop to the sill without leaving smush on the window. Then the coup de grace.

I'm thinking they're freshly hatched, because they seem dopey. They don't fly much, and when they do it looks aimless. On rare occasion I've swatted one mid-flight, which confers a special sense of accomplishment, no longer a common occurrence in the life of a retired surgeon. But when I miss, especially when several flails are involved, high, low, spinning around, I know I look idiotic, and I imagine a tiny sound well out of the range of human hearing, winged laughter.

Until he alights.

.

14 comments:

Frank Drackman said...

Ummm this is a fictional essay??? You have RATS??? WTF? And of course like always you miss the most important point...why did poor Mr Ratatoulie Die??? I'm sure a bleeding heart like you doesn't use traps or Warfarin...hope that Plague Vaccine you got back in 1964 was X-tra strength...and its the FLEAS ya gotta watch out for...

uratuna said...

maggots falling from the lights? yuck. pictures of prolapsed rectums might be less disgusting. can't wait to have a look at your book now!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like cluster flies, not that it makes much difference.

--Sam Spade

Sid Schwab said...

Frank: when we hear mice, we leave out a havahart trap, with a cracker and peanut butter. Works every time. I drive it a couple of miles away, and let him into the woods. Rat? Different story. It's the price we pay for living where we do. Anything goes, including tossing poison where it'll do the most good.

Sam: interesting link. But these are fat black ones; haven't noticed that post-whack culinary odor, either.

CG in Texas said...

This is so weird. I'm sitting here in front of my computer and decided to check in with your blog after a lapse of many months. Sitting in front of my keyboard is a shopping list and at the top of that list it reads "fly trap". All of a sudden, I have flies. Lots of them. Amityville Horror amounts of flies. And, just as you describe, they are sluggish and easy to swat. I've never seen flies move so slow. It's like they've all been sedated. I'm not so keen on the individual kill approach, however. I want mass extermination. Whatever I can do short of hanging a bug zapper or spraying enough poison to render my apartment uninhabitable for generations to come.

Frank Drackman said...

Tell me you're joking...You catch Meeses ALIVE??? and then release them in the Bush to end up in the stomach of some Pit Viper??? Typical Liberal Do-Goodism...replace a perfectly satisfactory method of Capital Punishment with 40 years of takin it the rear from 350 lb weight lifters... What does Mrs Surgeon think of a rotting Rat??? My wife throws out my Vitamin D Milk the second it hits the expiration date...

QED said...

You're complaining about flies?!

Don't come to Australia. . . we've had an eastern brown snake and a red bellied black snake in the house in the last month :)

Would love to make use of your individual killing response here, my quick reflexes are restricted to making a rapid exit into the next room.

Anonymous said...

you know the best way to catch a rat or mouse, is by using sticky glue. Because rats and mice are especially fast, their nearly impossible to catch. Sometimes, they are smart enough to avoid well set traps. The glue stops them in their track w/o killing them, there is no posion. You remove them from the sticky board, by way of mineral oil, and they come right off fully intact and w/o injury. Did you know rat posion is coumadin. It's very slow, then they go in a wall then die. Then your stuck w/ stench, behind wall you can not reach. Right now what bugs me is cockroachs, they literally freak me out. They live in a tree on my yard, and occasionally I see one on my house, australian ones are gross, more so than the rest. Truley Nolan rocks. I still am having nightmares about the 2.5 inch red one I happened to see walk by me just inches away from my shoe. They too are incredibly smart, just plain creepy.

dodge said...

Somebody MARRIED Frank?

GDad said...

Sid,

I mostly echo your policy on the moths, spiders, etc., with the addendum that any spider I can see from my bed immediately gets smooshed.

Sid Schwab said...

Gdad: good policy. Especially if you sleep with your mouth open.

Frank Drackman said...

Whats really hard with the Coumadin is getting the Rats to come in for their INRs...

Ya gotta admit that was funny...and didya know the Original Trade name for Coumdadin was "Warfarin"...not for the "Wharf-rat" pun but for the Wisconsis Agricultural Research Farm where it was developed, thanks to a last minute earmark added by that patriot Joe McCarthy...So if you're on long term anticoagulation for whatever reason, give a little nod to those poor white rats...and Tailgunner Joe...

EugeneInSanDiego said...

Yes! It takes a deft hand (Kudos for the years in the operating theater)to drop them intact.

However, the coolest method is to do them in batches with a vacuum cleaner; use a medium size funnel to create a black hole-like vortex.

One giant sucking sound, and they are gone man - like jobs to Mexico.

EugeneInSanDiego said...

By the way, the vacuum works for fleas as well as flies - strangely, as they rattle down the hose they seem to make tiny cries in Latin: (i. eeeeee.) (Id Est?)

Possibly similar in meaning to the philosophic Gallic "Sich is loyfe" or "Mar sin tha beathaor" or "C'est la vie"