Saturday, March 28, 2009

Buzz Off

Else Olsen was upset for days after the car in front of her hit a squirrel. Before dying, the poor rodent thrashed around for longer than Else could see it in her rear view memory. For days afterward she couldn’t eat much of anything. For a frail woman over 60, that was downright dangerous.

This morning, though, she had a different problem. It presented itself in the form of a fly as she sat daintily in her Queen Anne recliner nibbling a chocolate bar. Her thin fingers, just faintly arthritic, held the candy precisely between the outstretched tips of her thumb and forefinger.

Her perfectly even teeth had just removed a semicircular morsel when the insect alighted and began probing the chocolate with its proboscis. Else’s meticulous cleaning habits usually kept pests out. The fly’s abrupt appearance startled her. She thrust her hand over her breast while her heart thumped against her ribs. Her last morsel was left half masticated on her tongue. It was with remarkable control that she avoided dropping the candy bar altogether.

Chocolate was one of the few pleasures this small woman ever allowed herself. Now it would have to be thrown out. The little beast would have to go. So with accustomed delicate precision, Else lowered the candy bar onto a spotless sham and lifted herself from the couch. Her paltry, femininely distributed pounds hardly moved the pillow case as she rose.

Her small slippered feet made no noise as she walked to the front door and opened it wide. Then returning to the couch she found the fly still feeding on a crumb. She waved at it but the insect flew away from her bejeweled hand, buzzed around the lamp shade and promptly landed back on the candy.

“Hmmph.” muttered Else in frustration, whereupon she took a step closer to her antagonist and waved her hand twice as fast and three times as long as she had before.

This time the fly made it straight for the ceiling and waited - well out of reach of the glowering women. “You won’t stay there very long,” said Else, unaware how foolish it was that she fully expected the fly to understand what she was saying.

Fortunately there was a newspaper on the stereo. She picked it up, rolled it into a weapon, and swung at the fly on tiptoes. To her surprise, the insect flew away. In fact it flew over to the front door and landed on the doorknob.

“What luck,” cried Else, “now you’re out the door.” But she was wrong. As soon as she got closer to scare the thing outside, it buzzed into the air and flew back to the candy on the couch. Else then noticed another fly on the front porch. It was looking straight in at her.

“My goodness,” she exclaimed. “I can’t let any more of you in here.” She then wiped the doorknob clean with her skirt and closed the door. Now she was really getting angry. This fly would have to pay for its effrontery with its life.

It had been a long time since Else had been so mad. She had forgotten how much fun it was. Now she was no longer playing a defensive game. She was hunting and so passed without a sound into the laundry room full of revenge. Decades of practice being quiet made tiptoeing easy. The swatter hung on the wall, exactly where she had left it the last time she had used it. At first she wondered if it might need disinfecting. “No matter,” she muttered to herself and then grinned. “It will certainly need cleaning today.”

Back on the couch, the fly buzzed and walked across the candy. Else returned just as one of the creature’s back legs caught a wing and slid over it as if it were a comb.

“How dare you?” she said trying to be intimidating, “cleaning your filthy body on my food.” Her voice was touched with a polite Southern drawl that didn’t faze the fly at all. It merely began wiping its other wing. This apparent apathy only made Else feel half helpless. Ever since her husband Harold died, nobody took her suggestions seriously. Now this noisome insect wouldn’t even flinch at her harshest threat. It was exasperating.

“You’ll regret this,” she warned, then lifted the plastic mesh to within striking range. Then, taking a deep breath, she thrust it at the fly with all the finesse of a manicurist drying her nails. The faceted eyes of the fly saw the attack long before it landed and flew away. The swatter only smashed chocolate all over the pillowcase.

“Ooh,” fumed Else, inspecting the damage. Then, momentarily conceding defeat, she sunk into the upholstery and picked at the candied orts, watching as her antagonist resumed its feast.

A moment passed and a small shadow, no longer than a dime, descended from inside the lampshade beside her. It moved so slow that Else didn’t notice it until it was nearly to the bottom. Then it jumped onto the table and began swinging its front legs back and forth, like a magician casting a spell.

“A spider,” she gasped, as the fly buzzed near her head. “Look how red it is.” Then, almost on cue, the woman and the insect moved closer for a better look. No sooner had the fly approached then the arachnid backed up with short jerky pantomimes. Before long, its eight hairy legs were dancing across the polished glaze of the table. The fly, half hypnotized, followed.

Else, overcoming angst, sat up straight with her hand over her mouth. Then the spider jumped forward and caught the fly. It happened so quickly that Else flinched and nearly fell to the floor.

Soon the buzzing of the fly became muffled and then stopped altogether. The spider, grasping its prey, inched its way backward up the base of the lamp and out of sight.

“My goodness,” managed Else, now carefully placing chocolate pieces onto the fly swatter. I’ve never seen anything like that before, serves the pesky critter right.”

Back at the kitchen, she began running hot water into the sink. Without looking she reached under the counter and retrieved the detergent. She wiped it with the washcloth and squeezed three practiced squirts into the running water then returned it to its proper place.

Just outside the window there was a shuffling of leaves. Else looked up, and into, the stare of a fox squirrel nibbling on an acorn. She was beginning to feel better already.

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