Saturday, October 16, 2010

today : I become a murderer

I am a murderer. I am not proud of it. But I was provoked. A single fly decided to inhabit my house. It was okay at first. I saw it crawling across the ceiling, or sitting on the wall near the phone and it troubled me not. As long as it wasn't causing any harm or irritation. I did consider that the spider that lives in the living room light might even enjoy having a fly to catch. This is the spider that miraculously lowers itself the ten feet or so from the ceiling and hangs there, a small dot in my eye-line, visible against the light from the TV. I amused myself in thinking that maybe it just wanted to watch World News America. But after hanging there awhile, it gets bored and continues the perilous precarious descent, until it lands on the coffee table. Once or twice it has aborted the mission and climbed back up - the kind of rope ascent that would defeat the average human, but to the spider is as easy as pie.

The fly became bolder. It started to circle. It landed on the coffee table at the far side from where I was sitting. I tried to creep up on it and waft it away. I tried leaving the back door open for a few minutes, hoping it would escape. But it probably didn't fancy going out in the cold and the rain, so stayed stubbornly inside.

Then, the day before yesterday, it landed on my arm. I was watching Horizon and felt a slight itch. I looked down and there it was. This time the fly had crossed the line. It was, your honour. provocation. It invaded my personal space. I held my other hand still and then swiftly brought it down on my forearm. Slap! But the fly saw it coming and made a swift escape and found safe-haven on the ceiling, where it stared down at me mockingly.

I was reminded of the time some years ago when my beloved Dalmatian - Millie- had swatted a fly. Millie was laying in front of the fire on her side, apparently, asleep. The family were sitting around watching TV. A rogue fly appeared in the room and began buzzing around. We all tried to swat it. When it landed on furniture we all tried to bash it with magazines or cushions. It even survived one of us creeping up on it and standing over it, hands, apart, ready to clap them together. This is a 100% guaranteed way to eliminate a fly, and scientifically proven. It's said that flies cannot look upwards and also can only take off vertically. The waft created by clapping hands shocks the fly into trying to evade the attack it can feel but cannot see. It tries to buzz away from danger, but on take-off only succeeds in flying vertically, directly into the path of the clapping hands and its
inevitable demise by squishing.

Maybe we didn't clap hard enough. We all shrugged as it sat on high on the wall looking down. But then it took off again and buzzed circles around the room. Millie, snoring contentedly in front of the fire had been apparently oblivious to people vs fly contest that was taking place. The fly flew by her nose. She did not stir. But then it made a return journey. As it went past she momentarily awoke. A paw shot into the air - lightning fast - and batted it right out of the sky. Stone dead.

But Millie had grown old and died many years ago. This time I had no secret weapon. It was a one-on-one situation which was about to escalate.

Because yesterday it landed on my head, then danced contemptuously along the coffee table, just out of reach from where I lay prone watching Season 4 Episode 1 of Chuck.

Then this morning it went too far. I was about to set out on a trip to the fine city of Liverpool, 60 miles away from home. In preparation for the trip I was noshing a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. I brought the small plate of eggs on toast into living room and placed it on the table. Remembering that I'd forgotten to get a knife, I returned to the kitchen. When I got back, some 10 seconds later, there it was. It was sitting on the edge of the plate. It saw me and buzzed away. I sat down, risking the contaminated plate.

It was not content. The damn thing then landed right on the rim of my coffee cup. I wafted my knife at it and again it took off and made an escape.

The provocation was unacceptable. I could not now look the other way. This meant war.

I had a simple plan. When I went out I would spray the room with fly-killer. After all, the instructions advised to spray the room, then seal it for 30 minutes to an hour, rather than use the spray as a gun and expel a direct hit of fly killer onto the target.

So, before leaving on my trip, I loaded the room with enough of the stuff to kill Jeff Goldblum.

On my way back, I didn't even think about the fly. Like George W Bush on the deck of an aircraft carrier, I had already declared victory. With my superior fire-power, I just assumed that I'd won.

After grabbing something to eat, I settled down to catch up the news. Everything was fine and relaxed. But then the fly nonchalantly landed on the coffee table and began to strut around as if it had received lessons from Miss J.

I was stuck, entrenched in a war that was beginning to look, if not unwinnable, at least attritional. My exit strategy had failed. All that was left was shock and awe.

I got the spray from the kitchen and sat, like an SAS man in his foxhole, waiting for my moment. I didn't have to wait too long. The fly came back. This time it landed directly in the line of fire. I unleashed a barrage of fly spray, enough to drench the surface of the coffee table. The fly buzzed away but surely this was the end. No living thing could have survived such disproportionate use of chemical weapons. I knew this because I began to taste the bitter chemicals, and soon was reduced to a coughing fit as the poison infiltrated my system.

I went to the door to get some fresh air, and then retired upstairs to read Michael Connelly's latest Mickey Haller thriller which I'd bought on my trip. After an hour, my eyes were tired and I figured that the poison levels would have returned to within safe limits. so I went back downstairs. Salman Rushdie was being interviewed on HardTalk and I wanted to see what he had to say.

Re-entering the living room I was shocked into swearing out-loud. Not only was the fly perched casually on the coffee table, but it was close to ground zero, where I had saturated the table top with spray. What's more it looked in rude health, a fact which it proved by buzzing away as soon as I approached it with a rolled up copy of the Radio Times. Rasputin was easier to dispatch. A highlander was positively fragile compared to this fly.

I gave up. Sitting back on the sofa I switched on the TV to watch a relaxed and well-fed looking Salman Rushdie discuss his latest novel and various related topics.

Just as Rushdie was answering in the inevitable questions about The Satanic Verses, I felt a movement in the air near my ear. The fly had re-appeared and was manically circling my head, as if attempting to re-enact the sad demise of Rhandy Rhodes. I tried batting at it with my hands I couldn't get near it.

I decided to give up. To surrender. I was sure that flies don't live that long. If I just let it go then the thing would die of natural causes or be caught by the ceiling spider.

It was painful and politically damaging to admit defeat, but I had to respect any adversary that survived using wiles and an apparent immunity to Raid.

Salman had now finished his interview and a weatherman appeared. As I picked up the remote to channel surf the fly came buzzing round again. I decided to try and ignore its taunts. It flew in front of the TV three or four times. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz one way and then Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz the other. But then, just as I settle on the Jools Holland show, it buzzed into view again. Bzzzzzzzz...then silence. half way through its pass across my field of vision it simply stopped, like a WW1 biplane suffering an engine stall, and fell dead directly into the ashtray that was sitting on the coffee table. It landed upside down, feet in the air, in the classic pose.

I was a murderer. But I'd won.

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