You would not want to be a fly on my wall.

dead fly

My first kill of the season.


House fly illustration. From Hertwig, Richard (1909) A Manual of Zoology, New York: Henry Holt and Company, pp. p. 492.

Spring is waning and summer waxing. I can tell this not by the warming temperatures, for I live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, home of frost warnings and prematurely deceased tomato plants in late May. No, I have my own little harbinger of summer. The lovely Musca domestica, with not even the pretense of courtesy, lets me know that the dog days are on their way. Even the name, more commonly referred to as the house fly, is ugly. I hate flies.

(But not as much as Maxwell, who literally screams when he sees one, refuses to eat his supper if one of the kamikaze insects circles his hot dog. I never said he was brave. “I’m scared of them!” he tells me upon learning of my latest blog topic.)

Being home to several adopted cats from the neighborhood (read: stray vagabonds), my screens but a distant memory, this house practically bears an engraved plaque at the front door (and every single screenless window), which I imagine reads something like this:

“In this house (sans screens) live two adults, three children, two dogs, and three stray vagabonds. We believe there might also be a lost hamster somewhere, if the vagabonds have not yet made a meal of it. Nonetheless, they are all delightfully slovenly, leaving food in every last nook and cranny of this cornucopia of decay for your dining pleasure. Have at it.”

Yes, that would be a large plaque, but you get the idea.

In the summer, after a weekend barbecue, with adults and children and pets and stray vagabonds streaming in and out of the house, my husband and I will have fly killing competitions, where we pick a corner of the kitchen see who can amass the largest M. dometica body count. I don’t often brag, but I usually kick his ass.

Despite this weekly slaughter, the flies (and the barbecue guests) keep coming back. I guess word doesn’t travel quickly in fly civilization that the woman of the house is a fly-killing machine, a regular apocalypse to their species. But I guess that doesn’t mean much to a society where each female can lay up to 500 eggs and infancy can last as few as 14 hours. Having laid only three eggs in my lifetime, and still struggling to survive infancy, I’m not much of an antagonist.

My body count is up to three this morning. Maxwell thinks I’ve lost my mind.

But when you’re dealing with an enemy synonymous with pest, parasite, transmitter of disease, maggot–well, there is no Geneva Convention.


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