I haven’t seen many houseflies since moving to Scotland, three that I can recall.
Last night I had one in my bedroom. I’d heard him earlier, bouncing off the windows, looking for an escape to the world he could see, but couldn’t touch. He was a nuisance then, but when I drew the blinds and turned on my bedside lamp he rose to a vigorous and intensely annoying frenzy.
I’ve been chipping away at Barack Obama’s autobiography every night, reading a few pages before I fall asleep. So, I considered using his tome as a swatter. Too heavy, too bulky, so I picked up another book on Islam that I gave up reading weeks ago, a smaller book, slightly less cumbersome than Barack.
I knew that if I waited long enough my enemy would begin to circle around the light as insects generally do and, sure enough he began a gradually shrinking orbit.
It’s really hard to strike a fly in the air. I’ve done it before, but not with a paperback. So I waited. I felt like Cato, Inspector Cluso’s intrepid housekeeper, poised like a tiger in the refrigerator, anticipating the moment of attack and wondering how long he could hold the pose. I knew that if I grew impatient the wait would only be longer.
But, this was a busy fly and obviously couldn’t decide on a suitable landing pad. He was also crafty and pulled the oldest trick in the book by landing on the inside of the lampshade. It was tempting. I’ve killed flies in lampshades before, but it’s risky. You stand a greater chance of smashing the bulb or destroying the shade, something I’ve done more than once in my frustration.
So, I waited a bit longer. I gambled and swung in mid-flight. I missed, sending my enemy into paroxysms of manic zooming, but he was tiring.
He stopped. Where is he? There, on the headboard, on the backside, not an easy shot. Slowly, slowly I crept up on him. Too slow, he was airborne again.
Again, he stopped, this time on the dressing table. I couldn’t see him until he took off again.
Realizing the futility of my approach I decided to move the source of his lusty fascination and turned off my lamp. I opened the bedroom door and was going to turn on a hall light to lure him out. I was ready for Barack to put me to sleep.
And then, silence. Has he vanished so quickly? Has my plan succeeded so well?
I turned on the light again to look for him. And there, on the carpet I saw him, but he wasn’t moving. He was dead.
Do flies have heart attacks? Do they stroke out? Was it an aneurism?
I was almost disappointed. I picked him up for a closer look. Was he playing possum? Do I need to finish the job and crush his corpse between my fingers?
What was his name? Did he know his time was short, running out, flying through his tiny fingertips?
I named him Buzz, and then I flushed him.