Monday, March 23, 2009
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.