FLIES AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
This is an era of tolerance in that true believers aren’t even
frightened anymore of institutional clergypeople. But they are aware of
wonders God works through temptation and trial. Many of these wonders
approach us via the housefly.
In the beginning, God devised the criteria for one damned insect: 1) it
must lack a critical organ at the end of its spinal column, 2) it must
be ugly, 3) it must hate humans, and 4) it must buzz. God made just such
a creature, then sent it to Adam to see what he would call it. Adam’s
names could never be printed on a Raid can, so God named the insect in
Hebrew. He gave it the name "fly." In the Hebrew vernacular, "fly" means
the worst thing it possibly could mean, which is: "fly."
I'm a believer. This means that I’m often in my study with the Psalms. A
fly lands on my nose, which is a very old trick. Flies perfected this
trick in ancient Egypt during Plague 4. Flies know what this does to
people, which is precisely why they do it.
Thanks to grace, I’m allowed to get mad and say bad things. I can cuss
all I want, if I want to. It’s not a good thing, but it’s legal. If it
wasn’t legal, I’d be dead. But it is legal, so I continue to live. I
take advantage of this situation whenever I need to, like this day.
I become very angry with this fly and attempt to slap it with my hand. I
miss (naturally), and send my glasses into the hall. Shit. The
fly regroups inside my left ear. I try to remember that God made flies.
As soon as I remember this, I say several more bad words and decide to
kill the fly.
"Kill the fly." Ha, ha. It’s a fine concept, but it’s only a
concept. Flies are immortal. I said earlier that flies perfected the
nose trick during Plague 4. What I didn’t mention was that the fly in my
ear was there.
Let’s say that a fly allows me to plaster it to a window. The fly is
dead. Ha, ha again. As soon as I learn to put "dead" in quotation marks,
I will have learned something.
I decide to conduct an experiment. I scrape the fly off the window with
a credit card. Then I flick the fly to the floor and twist the toe of my
boot into it. I pretend that I want to make juice out of the fly. In
three words, I grind the fly. In six words, I grind the fly into the
rug. In twelve words, I grind the fly into the rug as cruelly as I
possibly can. Next, I buy a gun and aim it at the base of my neck,
because this same fly will land on my mashed potatoes in two hours and
I do not eat the mashed potatoes. Flies carry thousands of terrible
diseases on their feet, under their wings, and between their legs, all
at the same time. These are diseases that can kill my loved ones and me
before we can kill ourselves, thus ruining our enjoyment of life.
God bless my family. They know when I’m chasing a fly and they get out
of my way. When they hear me running out of my study slapping my head,
then running into the bathroom, then into the bedroom, then back into
the bathroom, then back into the bedroom, then back into the bathroom,
then back into the bedroom, then back into the bathroom, then back into
the bedroom, then back into the bathroom, then back into the bedroom,
then back into the bathroom, then back into the bedroom, then down the
stairs—they know to get out of my way. They know that I will have
forgotten everything I have ever read in the Psalms, including the part
about being still and knowing that He is God.
No one I know has ever really watched another person—seriously watched
another person—stalking a fly. There are so many excuses to avert the
eye. But I have persisted with my eye, for the sake of
Nothing but a fly could so completely transform the human personality. A
fly can turn a mild-mannered secretary named Anne Rhonson (this is only
one example) into Lizzie Borden’s cruel, older sister. The person (Ann
Rhonson) who only hours ago was apologizing to an office mate for
borrowing a stapler and not returning it promptly, has become a killer.
She is pacing her living room, fondling a weapon, scanning the walls and
windows, muttering over and over again about killing, killing, killing.
Buzzing doesn’t come naturally to flies. Flies buzz because it works.
How could flies enjoy banging their heads against live light bulbs? They
couldn’t. The purposeful banging and heating of the fly head is
extremely uncomfortable to the fly and its head. I tried to imagine
head on a light bulb. As soon as I had it properly imagined, I flinched.
I didn’t like it. I thought, That’s how the fly feels, only worse,
because its skull is thinner and it doesn’t have as much hair. And the
light bulb is to the fly what the sun is to me.
I began to think how incredible it was that a creature without a brain
could employ the vacancy to such advantage. I called Melody to me and
said, concerning the fly’s cranial cavity: "Within this evil void lurks
a plan so knavish so as to soon drive humankind into either a corner of
depravity or Texas. There, humankind will denounce God and surrender to
the flies. This is known to flies as The Cause. Like the pioneers who
settled Oregon, the flies consider these hardships and deprivations an
inevitable toll on the road to the New World. The fly, as a species,
plans to take over our world and harm us with many diseases."
Melody said I should sit down, so I did. But just because I sat down for
a short while shouldn’t make anyone think I’m at peace. I’m not.
"Dad’s after a fly!" Arty shouts this. After all I’ve done for him, he
will remember this. Even our cats run away. After all I have done
for them, they will carry this picture of me always in their little cat
wallets. They will show the picture to their cat friends and tell them,
"This is what owns me."
Melody comforts the other poor son, Aaron. He will be too young to
remember any of this, God willing. But the cats will show him their
pictures. Then Aaron will blacken Father’s Day from his calendar. As for
me, I reach for the first available weapon. In this case, it’s a tightly
rolled issue of Unsearchable Riches magazine.
I shout at the fly. Inwardly, I hate myself. Outwardly, everyone
else hates me. Melody pushes the children into a closet, then follows
them in. In the closet, my family memorize pictures of me as a boy.
An enraged man stalking a fly with a rolled up magazine is a dangerous
thing. He is not dangerous to the fly, but to the lamp shades,
draperies, and statuettes that decorate his habitat. The whimsical,
happy expressions of the statuettes—prior to shattering—contrasts
comically (some day) with the chaos of the moment.
I forgot to tell you that before flies drive all mankind into Texas,
they plan to destroy the human environment. They need not do this
themselves; they get people to do it for them.
After I have sent Melody’s lampshades into new rooms, have taught the
children several new words not to be found in the Psalms, and have used
the magazine as a megaphone to assure Melody—who is still in the
closet—that the tremendous crash she just heard was "not a
Hummel" (that I particularly liked), I decide to trade in the magazine
for a fly swatter. Armed now with a traditional weapon, I am able to
destroy my home traditionally.
Fly lands on remaining lampshade. I execute tremendous backswing and
even more of a foreswing. Miss fly. Turn lampshade into funny-looking
"planet" that orbits light bulb.
Fly lands on Precious Moment. I opt for powerful "death swing." Destroy
young boy and his—oh, I guess it was a puppy. Wife enters room to
inquire about crash. "‘Precious Moment’ is now a figure of speech!" I
Fly lands of wife’s bottom. I opt for terrible "whip stroke." Miss fly.
Do not miss wife’s bottom. Wife says terrible and surprising word,
followed by my name. Pee seeps from bottom of closet.
Fly lands on nose again. Fly is five things: 1) smug, 2) assured, 3)
pleased with domestic havoc, 4) proud of wrecked quarters, and 5)
impressed with new array of diseases lodged casually between its legs.
I do not believe that flies will fulfill their evil plans. I believe
they will have a difficult time paper-clipping the surrender papers
together. The flies aren’t even thinking about this yet, as they are
having too much fun right now. Flies around the world are rubbing their
mitts together in anticipation of what they hope will be a great coup. I
see them doing this all the time. Then I see them reach back and appear
to adjust their eyeballs. But they are not adjusting their eyeballs,
they are slicking back their hair.
God help us all.
To my extreme mortification, I grow wiser every day.
Very soon now our clocks will spring forward, and those families not as
wise as mine will lose an hour of sleep.
The circumstances of life have forced me into rising before dawn; I
punch a timecard at the post office at 5:30 a.m. I need eight precious
hours of sleep, so I go to bed at eight o’clock in the evening. Since I
have to do this, so does everyone else. I want to do what’s right for my
family. I want to lead them in my direction and make them as wise as me.
That time (eight o’clock in the evening) may sound early to the reader,
but there is a famous proverb justifying my extravagances.
I have never kicked Melody from bed and never would I do it. But every
morning, Melody insists on getting up and making a fresh sandwich for my
lunch. I love her for that. I love her for other things, but I speak
here of fresh sandwiches. Melody does this at four in the morning. By
this time, our children are choosing their socks and undershirts.
My children are alert by 5 a.m. My boys know the hoot of three species
of owl. They are coloring in their coloring books before most garbage
men have tamed their cowlicks. Because of this practiced wisdom, my
family has enjoyed health, wealth, and
wisdom. Benjamin Franklin said this would happen. (This is the proverb I
was telling you about, the famous one that Benjamin Franklin wrote.)
What could have threatened our happiness?
The previous October might have done it. Last October was when the time
fell back. The time falls back every October. Every year, in October,
people nearly everywhere who are not Amish or live in Indiana move their
clocks back one hour. Taking what they believe to be advantage of this,
these same people go to bed at the same "time" as usual, thinking they
are luxuriating in an extra hour’s sleep. How wrong these idiots are.
The whole world has become stupid and longs for company. Last October
was a tempting time for my family and me. Last October was the bone that
might have lured us from the doghouse of discipline. It was the
opportunity to be like the sick, poor, and stupid people of this mad
world who do not follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice. It was the
opportunity to tuck an extra hour of sleep beneath the waistbands of our
pajama bottoms. But we didn’t do it. We moved our clocks, yes, but we
didn’t move our minds. Let me explain this again, because I want to be
clearer than I have been thus far.
I remember where I was when I first understood that the hour in October
was a rug, and that the "springing forward" in April was that same rug
disappearing quickly by the snap of a cruel wrist. Where I was doesn’t
really matter. What does matter is my understanding that what
appeared to be an extra hour’s sleep gained in the Fall became an hour
lost in the Spring. "One sleeps today, tomorrow he suffers," is the way
I committed it to paper. The solution, I knew, was consistency. "Damn
the clock, do the same thing with your body" is how I explained it to
the rapidly escaping mailman.
What I’m saying is that I was conspiring to foil the wiles of time. With
my family gathered around me last October on the eve of the great
"falling back," I relayed to them the details of my plan.
I decided to announce it in a formal kind of way. "As you know," I
announced formally, "we’ve been going to bed at eight and getting up at
four. Tonight is the night when the clock falls back. Tonight is the
night when going to bed at eight will seem like going to bed at
eight, but will really be going to bed at nine. If we go to bed at nine,
we will be getting up at five. If we go to bed at nine and get up at
five now, we will be going to bed at ten and getting up at six
next April. In nine years, we will be sleeping during the day and eating
lunch at midnight. Are there any questions so far?"
There weren’t any.
"As you know, we are a different family. We are a special family. We do
not do things as other families do them. Most families will be sleeping
an hour longer tonight. They will wake up and say to one other, ‘We have
been wise.’ But no. They have only supposed themselves to have
been wise. Because really, they are idiots. Spring will expose their
‘wisdom’ to have been folly, and they will weep onto their slippers. Now
are there questions?"
There weren’t any.
"Good. Tonight we will go to bed at seven, and get up at three o’clock
There was a long moment of silence, followed by, "I have a question."
This was Melody.
"You’re kidding, right?"
"Thank you for the question, Melody. No, I’m not kidding. Be mentally
strong, all of you. This evening, the time will be tricking us
into thinking that it’s seven p.m. But it will really be eight. Do not
be lured, any of you, from the doghouse of discipline. Nothing has
changed. I repeat, nothing has changed. And tomorrow, when the clock
reads three a.m., you must all know in your hearts and minds that it
will still be four a.m. Four, four, four. Come April, when the hour is
yanked from beneath us like a rug, we will be left standing."
"Will everyone else fall down, Dad?" This was Arty.
"Excellent question, Arty. Yes. Everyone else will fall down. You bet
they will. They’re idiots, son. Are there any more questions?"
There weren’t any.
"Good. Sixteen minutes to bedtime. Let’s move!"
At my direction, our household buzzed with excitement. Soon, all was
When the last of the covers were pulled to our chins, Melody’s sharp eye
wandered to the newly adjusted bedroom clock. It said 6:58.
"Look," Melody said, while pointing to the clock. But I chose to look at
Melody instead. Her mouth was hanging open and the drool of disbelief
had gathered in a small puddle at the edge of her lip. This was a thing
I wanted to watch. "It’s 6:58," Melody said slowly, "...and we’re...in
"Two minutes to spare," I said excitedly. "This is very good for the
My justification awaits that magical two a.m. hour, which the whiles of
time will turn to one a.m. My family will "sleep in" until three, rising
sharp-eyed and alert. The families of sluggards will be taken down by
I have based other wise plans on Franklin’s advice, and tomorrow we
launch our kites.