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TO KILL A FLY

Updated on April 7, 2010

I've often wondered when a fly dies in a beer, does it drown or does it simply end up too stupid drunk to find its way out of the bottle? Perhaps it stares up at the hole at the top through its two drunken compound eyes, now seeing 3,200 of those holes and just says "Oh, hell naw."

It was my father and I, grandma and grandpa, and my Uncle Ron.

And the flies.

They were everywhere. On the table, on the chairs, swooping and buzzing and regurgitating around the myriad snack bowls and soda cans. The white exterior walls of the house were infested with them, looking like the back of a grazing cow in a farm field. Arms and other appendages were to the pesky little insects what airstrips are to a plane. Several of them would make kamikaze-like passes by the ears, getting just close enough so that you could hear them, or even feel them tickling your ear, before they went tearing off in the other direction—if a fly could laugh, that one maneuver alone would be enough to send it into a wild bout of hysterics. I must confess that if I could do that it would probably make me laugh so hard I'd blow off a wing.

Without question the little buggers are annoying as ever, though surely no one can deny a fly its remarkable power of flight. It takes great skill to fly like they do, with such amazing speed and accuracy. They have to change their course in an instant or face certain death from an opposing object like a newspaper or a flyswatter—or just a hand. Imagine for a moment, from a fly's perspective, having to counter 1,600 objects coming at you all at once, and then making it away. When you put it that way it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "holy shit, that was close." There's probably even a fighter pilot out there somewhere who has at one time or another in his lifetime marveled at the flying capability of a fly, and then felt a little bit jealous.

There were a few of them dead, having met their apparent demise on the bottoms of empty bottles of beer which lay haphazardly about the table. I've often wondered when a fly dies in a beer, does it drown or does it simply end up too stupid drunk to find its way out of the bottle? Perhaps it stares up at the hole at the top through its two drunken compound eyes, now seeing 3,200 of those holes and just says "Oh, hell naw."

As most days were during the summers in Holiday Shores, a private lake subdivision in the small town of Edwardsville, Illinois near St. Louis, it was hot. There were at times the occassional breeze, but most of the time the air was as still as a dead man. And yes. There were those darned flies.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but truly I must profess to you with every bit of seriousness that I have never seen as many flies in my life as I saw in Illinois. I'd be willing to bet that tennis elbow might very well be the most common ailment in the state from round the clock swatting.

The family was in town visiting from Milwaukee. With the five of us sitting on the back porch, which spanned the length of the house overlooking the long gravel drive, Grandpa made the same joke that he always made whenever he came into town.

"When this damned state picked its bird they got it wrong," he would proclaim. "It should have been the fly."

It always got a laugh. It still makes me laugh to this day. And he was probably right. They should have made it their state bird. It seemed far more plausible one would see more flies in one day than one would ever see cardinals in a lifetime. In fact, I could probably count together on my fingers and toes the number of cardinals I ever observed.

That may be a bit of a stretch. It's entirely possible that I could have seen eleven of the little, red crested finches in my day before I moved from there, off to attend Navy boot camp in the Great Lakes in the summer of '92.

Naturally, as it all too often went, there was eventually that breaking point. You could only bat the little buggers away for so long before something would have to be done. The time had come that a counter attack would have to be launched.

"That's it. Where in the hell is a flyswatter?" Grandpa bellowed in his trademark low and drawn out monotonous tone, clearly having had it. Werrr in theee heeelll is a flyyyswatter?

War had been declared, and the fly's would need to take notice. Lifespans would be shortened.

I bounded for the back door to run inside the house and retrieve one of the many flyswatters we had in our arsenal. Keep in mind that In Illinois one keeps flyswatters around like rednecks keep guns. Many a Chinese factory has made its fortunes here, selling the plastic and metal instruments of fly death deliverance by the truckload—to a single household! Only in Illinois can you actually wear one out.

I grabbed a green one hanging on a nail by the door. There was a white one there too and I grabbed it as well. On the kitchen table was a blue one. I quickly snatched it up and added it to my arsenal. My mom, Aunt Bridget, and my sister were all in the kitchen preparing food-stuffs for the dinner we would have later.

"Where are you going with those flyswatters?" Mom asked. Did she look panicked?

"I'm getting them for Grandpa," I replied. "He's had it with the flies."

She chuckled and waved me off. Then her face returned to seriousness. "Well, make sure they get back inside," she said.

God forbid you lose a flyswatter. I swear there have been people who have ended up in padded, rubber rooms on just such an account.

I went back outside onto the back porch, armed with my colorful tools of death and wondered if they saw me. The flies. Did they know the jig was up? Did they sense the war would be on soon?

I pictured them in a frenzy at the very sight of my precarious handul of flyswatters. I envisioned the robot on that show, "Lost in Space." Only now it wasn't the robot, but a mechanical fly with its praying front feet flitting about wildly, its voice small and weird. It sounded like a chipmunk with a lungful of helium. Danger! Danger!

In reality, the flies probably didn't even know I existed.

"Well, it's about time," Grandpa bellowed. I handed one of the flyswatters to him and he gleefully began whacking away.

I set another flyswatter on the table, and then turned my attentions back to the side of the house. There must have been hundreds of them. Thousands of them, landing and taking off. Landing and taking off. This was going to be easy pickings, I thought. The white of the exterior made their tiny black bodies stand out like a sore thumb.

And then I started whacking. Wa-put! One of them fell to the floor of the porch. Wa-put! Then another. Behind me, I could hear a multitude of whacks coming from my grandfather's swatter. "What kind of a godforsaken place is this?" I could hear him saying. "This is ridiculous."

Wa-put! Down went another. I kept whacking, improving my aim, getting faster. A few of the flies that met with the business end of my flyswatter didn't fall to the ground, but rather stuck to the wall. Now they were nothing more than motionless, reddish black dots.

Soon my uncle got into the action, taking up arms with the last of three flyswatters. He was at the wall with me. The whacks continued on like machine gun fire. It was literal carnage. The porch floor was fast becoming a graveyard of dead flies.

Yet they still kept coming. The flies never stopped coming. We killed flies until nightfall, stopping only once to eat dinner in between. In the end it was mostly just my uncle and I. My grandfather had early on settled in on the idea that it was a fruitless fight. We just went on killing flies until it turned dark and the flies went wherever flies go when the sun went down.

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    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Funny story, although I hate bugs, you made me laugh. I know someone who is called flyswatter. He can kill a fly in flight with a rubber band on the first try!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Now THAT would be a sight to see. :)

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 7 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Wasn't Illinois once called the slaughterhouse state..? All cattle drives ended in Chicago by rail and trail...no wonder you were infested with flies...you were reaping the rewards of another era...Funny story, strange, but funny...Not a heck of a lot to do in Edwardsville...sometimes you can even get extra points when you mash two or more with one stroke...who won..? Surely, with all that effort someone was keeping score...Thanks for the share, Larry

    • OpinionDuck profile image

      OpinionDuck 7 years ago

      The old orange fly strips that changed color when they were filled with soon to be dead flies, worked pretty good.

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      maven101—it's funny, when I drive through Edwardsville now it's a very different place. When I was growing up the population was around 11,000. Now it's more like 65,000-70,000 I think. Of course, we lived in Holiday Shores, part of Edwardsville, but about 9 miles outside of town via 159.

    • profile image

      daytripeer 7 years ago

      When I was a kid, I liked the challenge of killing a fly in mid-air, the fly being in mid-air, not me. :-) Good hub

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Springboard - We had open windows instead of A/C in high school. Lots of bugs and flies. We learned how to make flies drunk in our biology classroom. There were bunsen burners on the desk-counters for lab use. We'd hand-catch a fly, stick it into an unlighted bunsen burner, turn on the gas for a half minute or so. Then we'd shake the fly out of the burner and watch it go off on a really crazy flight, circling, zooming, and bumping into the walls, etc.

      Gus ;-0

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      lol. Sure beats pulling their wings off. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, Springboard, it sounds like a nightmare! but it was funny. I can just imagine it, people chasing madly around trying to catch those darn fly's! ha ha cheers nell

    • jdunbar profile image

      jdunbar 7 years ago

      LOL! A friend of mine had flies so bad in her house they actually had one of those sticky strips hanging above their kitchen table. I guess because I was only about 12 it didn't seem strange at the time, but looking back now.. EWWWW!! Imagine one of them loosing their stickiness and falling on your food! :O

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Nell—to this day I have never seen so many flies. :)

      jdunbar—a sticky strip over the kitchen table?! lol. Now THAT'S funny. The thought of a now adhesive dead fly dropping onto my plate would certainly not leave me wanting for seconds. lol

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      LOL Springboard. Great hub and terrific storytelling. I love the beer query. Here in Georgia we don't have that many flies, but we do kill garden slugs with beer. Leave out a cup of suds and you'll find lots of drunk drowned slugs in the morning. I have to say, that's also the funniest bunch of Amazon picks I've ever seen. "Lord of the Flies"? :D

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Everything but a flyswatter in those Amazon picks. :) As for the slugs in beer...I'm sure there's a joke in there. lol. Glad you enjoyed the story and thanks for stopping in for a read.

    • profile image

      Pops 7 years ago

      Remember it well! A good laugh all around. You caught your grandpa in writing perfectly! Did your uncle Ron ever hit any flies? Good thing there wasn't fishing line attached!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Yes. That could have been very dangerous. lol.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      LOL. I remember fifth grade classroom was so fly infested that the teacher at one point let us spend an entire period running around swatting the little suckers with swatters made from paper. :-D

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      That would definitely be a day to remember. :)

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      OMG, you are such a wonderful writer!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you so much for the kind words habee. I really appreciate that.

    • profile image

      AJ2008 7 years ago

      Well the descriptive writing had me rivetted from start to finish!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad you had fun reading it. The feedback always helps to make the writing worthwhile.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 7 years ago

      Hilarious! I just about busted a gut reading this! So well written! I could just see the whole thing happening, and hear your grandfather's voice! Thanks for a real good time!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Very glad you enoyed it. :) I was very happy to have sent this to my grandfather a couple of months ago and that he was able to read it, and remember the event. lol. He passed away March 10th at 93.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 7 years ago

      Bless your heart. I'm sorry for your lose. But 93 is a good long while. May he rest in peace.

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

      I love the way you wrote this. Kept me grinning till the end. Fly swatters were such a common thing. I remember grandparents taping them up to get a few more swats out of them. :)

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Cathi—thanks for your kind thoughts.

      Tom—lol. Yeah, I think we may have had a few taped up swatters around ourselves. You KNOW the flies are bad when you're wearing out flyswatters. lol.

      By the way, I should correct my grandfather passed on March 9th. In any event...

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      I must say you are a pretty good writer, you had me going good until the end. I was right there with ya swatting away committing awful carnage. I now use a little handheld bug zapper, I love the electrocution of them and spiders, skeeters too. I lived on a dairy farm in my youth, I hated those dam flies, but the black flies are much worse, as they bite and can ruin a nice summer day. good stuff my man. CC

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Very glad to see you here ralwus. I've seen those little handheld bug zappers in use a time or two, and I must say they are an impressive little invention. Incidentally, something Illinois has an abundance of now as well are camel crickets, and I absolutely abhor them. It would be fun to give them a little taste of what makes the lights go on for we humans. ;)

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 6 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Wow, that was an adventure! I like your engaging style of writing!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thanks. Glad you liked it. And thanks for stopping by.

    • Juliette Morgan profile image

      Juliette Morgan 6 years ago

      Strange reminscences but very funny! We have one of those electric light machines in our kitchen so we can enjoy having open windows and every time it catches a fly, you can here the fly frazzle and our dog barks up at the machine each time, working himself into a little frenzy until the sizzling stops!

    • Springboard profile image
      Author

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      I am certain my grandpa thought my uncle and I were nuts. He brought it up several times. "Remember the flies?" he would say, and give a quizzical glare. :)

      The bug lights/zappers are always funny to me. Especially when something big lands in them and the zapping gets elongated. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

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