A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: A Plague Of Flies

Originally published: 8 March 2005

I have just one teensy-weensy question I need answered, preferably by a man of the cloth (although anyone else who believes in God will do).

Why did he create flies? That is not a rhetorical question - it's a question I want answered. Because for the life of me - despite my fine education and perspective-enhancing drugs - cannot begin to fathom it.

You could make one or two feeble stabs at blaming it on the whole food chain/cycle thing, but do that around me and I will point and laugh and poke you with a blunt stick as you pass by in your caged cart on the way to the village square for execution.

That's rubbish - if flies had never been created the food chain would have sorted itself out in other ways. Unless you're seriously telling me that without flies we would descend into anarchy, chaos, nuclear war and ultimately the first/second/third coming, depending on your perspective.

See? It's little things like this that seriously make me question religion. And I usually remain frustrated, because the standard answer to such questions is: "The Lord works in mysterious ways".

Which indicates that the person answering the question has even less idea about the answer than I do.

But there - we've already turned it into a God-bashing piece, you and I, and I'm going to have to ask you to stop. I'll do the same.

The reason I want to know about flies is because I've become very, very well acquainted with them over the past few weeks - for some reason we have been infested with the bastards, and try as we might we can simply not get rid of them.

The rooms that we spend most time in our house in are our study and our lounge, both of which face the afternoon sun. We don't have any of that Think Pink stuff in our ceiling so the house gets pretty hot in summer.

Because it's so hot - and we smoke up a storm - the windows have to be open, but the moment we open any sort of hole to the outside world the flies pour in in their thousands.

I've tried to blame the dog and her incessant crapping in the back garden, but the same thing holds true for the front of the house. You can't even open the front door quickly and shut it behind you - at least three flies will have flown in, having waited patiently outside the door for their opportunity.

We've invested thousands of rands in all manner of insect-killers but the problem simply won't go away. No matter how many of them we kill we need only turn our backs briefly to discover a fresh batch waiting. Laughing at us.

They appall me, man. Not just because they won't leave me alone and insist on buzzing around me all the time, taking any chance to land on an exposed piece of my flesh, but also because of the way they hover on food and plates and sugar pots, rubbing their filthy feet together.

Much as I loathe cockroaches at least they're clean - flies are filthy. They settle on dogshit and crawl all over rotting trash and then smear their feet all over every inch of your house. My walls are dripping with dog poo - that's how many flies have wiped their feet on my walls. Diarrhoetic walls.

I've sprayed so much poison everywhere I'm having breathing difficulties and when a man with no lungs tells you he's having breathing difficulties from poison then you must take him very seriously indeed.

I've also worked out a routine with the dog. Obviously. No good domestic tale is complete without my partner in crime.

I've become an expert at stunning flies by flicking them with a dishcloth, much like the way you used to flick the bare legs of okes in the school showers with your towel (why the hell did okes have to do that? It was bloody painful and totally unnecessary).

I can't seem to kill the flies with my dishcloth, but I stun them. It's the old duck hunting routine - master brings the bastard down and hound finishes the swine off.

I usually wait for the sign from the dog - she'll be happily sitting around, sucking her bum or pretending to find fleas, when all of a sudden she will go rigid. I need only follow her intense stare to find the cause of her decided lack of affection - a fat fly sitting wetly on the wall.

Once she's spotted one her full focus and attention is zeroed in on it, and she edges closer inch by agonising inch, sometimes until her snoot is almost touching it. She's learned that no matter how close she gets nor how stealthy she is - the moment the snaps at it it buzzes off, as flies so irritatingly do.

So now she just stares at it, and waits for reinforcements to arrive.

I go off, get my dishcloth, roll it up and bend it back, ready to strike. The dog - without moving her nose an inch - turns her eyes 90 degrees in their sockets to watch my progress, being careful not to move any other part of her face for fear of disturbing her prey.

As soon as I release the dishcloth with a vicious whip she ducks, and nine times out of ten I nail the fly. It drops to the floor, stunned (or resting, depending on your Python tolerance) and the dog moves in with startling speed and accuracy, nailing the ailing victim.

She chomps them down and gets rewarded with a slice of pre-sliced cheese, or either a bacon flavoured mini-cheddar or a Sugus, depending on availability.

Problem is - with all the spraying of poison that I do flies sometimes get hit in the crossfire lightly, and it takes them a while to die.


All of a sudden - while sitting there minding your own business - a fly will suddenly give up the fight and drop out of the heavens to writhe for a while in circles on the floor, and the dog sees it as her moral obligation to eat each and every one of them.

That dog must have eaten at least five bottles of Mortein Target by now, with all the poisoned flies she's consumed. She never complains, though - she eats anything and everything. It's never a problem feeding her pills - you simply hand them to her, she guzzles them down and comes back for more.

You could give her a solid block of caustic soda and she'd polish it off before you had time to blink. And the bizarre thing is she wouldn't be any worse off for it - loves her caustic soda, does that dog.

So I'm really at my wit's end - everywhere I look flies are sticking to my walls and utensils, but without open windows we would suffocate to death.

Despite her fly-hunting expertise the dog has rather limited use in terms of the bigger picture, and I can't keep poisoning every knife, fork and dish of butter in the house.

I can't abide fly paper, I've tried spraying that protective poison stuff around my windows and doors and I've cleared up all the turds in the back garden. There'll be another 10 by tomorrow - she's pretty regular, is that dog, what with her unique diet and all - but even when they're not there the flies still remain.

Is it a plague? Is it divine punishment? Is it locusts next? And most importantly - is it a problem with any kind of decent solution?

Or is it all just a silly practical joke and one that's gone quite far enough now, thanks, God?

I remain as confused as I've always been.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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