July 3. I’m not taking my eye off it, lest I lose it again. It’s sitting there on the screen. It hasn’t moved for the longest time. The air, as damp as the morning’s laundry, is shuffling in.

Last summer, rather then littering the room with squashed flies, I chose for them a cleaner death. I closed the window on them and trapped them there, rendering them harmless.

But today it’s hot, and I need this window open, and if I make such a sudden move, it’ll wake up and disappear and return somewhere else worse, like on my cereal or in my wine glass.

Just below on the space between the window and the screen are three of its dead companions who died in the night after I trapped them.

If the younger of my two daughters were here, as when she was 6, I know what she would say.

“Daddy, maybe those are her children.”

A wise father knows that there is no response that will not result in an argument and end in tears. I fail.


“And you just killed them.”

You see, this one has always had a soft spot for tiny things like butterflies, ants, caterpillars, even flies.

I have a swatter in hand now. She, who has tired of my killing these things with beloved linen napkins, bought it last week at Renys in Farmington.

She, who has no compunctions about slaying flies, held it aloft and proclaimed, “a professional killing instrument.” Renys customers turned their heads as she smiled sheepishly.

It’s hotter now. Why doesn’t it move, I wonder. It just sits there, not even twitching those ugly little feet.

Understand, I’m not fond of swatting, and I’ve never been good at it. I miss more than I hit, and if I do hit, it’s too hard and the remains stick to the swatter. Killing flies is messy business.

But I’ve been studying flies this year and watching their habits. They say they’re really dumb, you know. You would think that after numerous misses, they would go away, feeling lucky to be alive. But no, they just come circling back.

If there is a bit of honey, piece of fruit, or anything they can’t resist, they will keep coming back.

I’ve noticed that in the absence of food, they often give up and head for the windows, only to land on the screen. That’s where you have to get them. That is your chance. Often, your last chance.

But after that long ago discussion with the younger daughter, I tried a different path, a less brutal dispatch.

This week, older and annoyingly better educated, she arrived for a visit.

“Why are those two windows closed in this heat?”

“I’ve trapped four of them in there.”

“Trapped what?”

“Flies. In the cool of the evening, they all gather against the screen.”


“I close the window and trap them there.”


This is where it gets tricky. I should stop talking. I learned that when she was 6, but I’m old now and I forget stuff.

“Well, there they are. They can’t get out, so I don’t have to kill them. I just leave them there.”

She pauses. Not a good sign.

“They don’t get on our food, and they die overnight.”

She pulls out a chair, sits with two fingers touching her lips. She learned that from She who does it better.

She speaks. “And you consider that humane?”

“It’s not about humane. It’s about not letting these pests of Satan kill me.”

“Kill you?”

I sit back and wipe my brow.

“Did you know that flies can transmit 65 diseases to humans? (I count on my fingers) Including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, (I pause to remember accurately, because this child has two degrees. If you hesitate with her, you’re toast) polio and tuberculosis.”

She knows that’s true, but sensing victory, she decides to weaponize the truth.

“Did you get that from the same Google source that told you that that pimple you had was shingles?”

“Who told you that?”

“You sent me a text with a photo of it.”

She continues without taking a breath.

“So you let them die in there all night? Alone without water or food?”

“Jeez, Jillana, they’re not pets. They’re pests.”

As she walks away, taking my ice tea with her, she mumbles, “That’s torture. I find that so disturbing.”

It’s gone. While we debated its fate, it seized the moment and flew away. Don’t tell me flies are stupid.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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