The fact of the matter is, I wouldn't hurt a fly!
Published 5:31 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003
My brothers and I used to kill flies during the summer. We killed thousands of them; not with fly swatters, but with rubber bands, a skillful sporting event that, oddly enough, has never been included in the Olympics. It seems like there used to be more flies in the world than there are these days. I just don't see as many flies as I used to. I have not heard of any big fly eradication programs taking place, so maybe there are just as many flies as there ever were, but I'm not seeing them. That could be true too.
In the days when I was growing up we did not have air conditioning at our house and most of the time we didn't even have window screens. The flies just buzzed in and out and through the house as if they owned the place. We lived in the country where there were lots of farm animals all about and everybody knows farm animals draw flies. Huge flies! Some of them were so big that we caught them up and put them on a leash. That sounds cruel, I know, but it was actually a better deal for the fly than being squashed on the wall with the end of a big rubber band. Also, if it makes animal lovers feel any better, I want everyone to know that we did not use a rope or a regular dog or horse leash, or anything so cruel and inhumane as that. That would have been way too heavy for a fly to carry around and stay aloft, no matter how big he (or she) might be. No indeed, we just used a simple strand of lightweight thread and we always tied it around the fly's neck so that it would not choke him (or her, as the case may be).
Summers in the south in those days were probably no hotter and muggier than the summers are today, but they seemed a lot hotter because we did not have air conditioning. The heat and humidity of a southern summer can make a person irritable enough without flies. Add swarms of big houseflies to the mix and it can bring out the worst in just about anybody.
Even worse than flies are gnats. Gnats travel in swarms and you can't kill them with a fly swatter or a rubber band. You just have to endure them. A gnat's favorite form of human torture is to get inside your ear lobe and fly in little tiny circles. This will drive even the most even-tempered person to insanity. Gnats like moisture, so they also get in your eyes and nostrils. A gnat up your nose is even worse than a rat in your britches. To be honest, much of the anger and hostility that my brothers and I felt toward the flies was really brought on by the gnats. Even so, they were all in the same family so we took out our aggression on the flies just because we could.
When you take a bunch of country boys who are hot, bored, sweaty and low in self-esteem because of bad haircuts and too many pimples, then torture them with swarms of flies and gnats, what you are likely to get is a young psychopath. And that's what we were. We hated flies and we killed them by the thousands without mercy or remorse. We even kept count of how many flies we killed through the entire summer and at the end of the summer the prize was . . . well, nothing! There was no prize for killing the most flies except the satisfaction of winning the competition.
Armed with as long and thick a rubber band as we could get ahold of, we stalked flies each day from daylight to dark. Sometimes it seems a fly will never land, but we had studied flies long enough to know that even a fly gets tired after awhile and has to land, usually on the wall or a table top. When this happened, we would stand back as far as we dared, stretch the rubber band way, way back, close one eye and aim carefully, and POW!, just let'er go. An ideal kill was when the killing end of the rubber band just barely reached the target and splattered that fly to nothing but a greasy spot on the wall. Our boyish eyes were sharp in those days and I could grease a fly from seven or eight feet away. Killing flies was a great summer pastime when I was a boy and I never lost a moment's sleep on account of it. In fact, Daddy always said he and God wanted us to kill all the flies we could.
Catching flies was great fun too. It's not that hard to do once you understand the fly's flight pattern. Usually we waited until the fly landed, then crept stealthily closer, cupped a hand and swooshed it about six inches above where the fly rested. The poor creature would fly right into my hand every time. Flies, I learned, were not all that smart. With a little practice, it was easy enough to catch flies in mid-air too. Just like a frog's tongue, a good fly catcher can flick out his hand and catch a circling fly right out of the air. I don't want to brag, but I was pretty good at it.
Of course, when you catch a fly, then you have to figure out what to do with him (or her). If you want to, you can put your hand up to your ear hear the fly buzzing about inside your loose fist, trying to find a way out. We always tortured our flies for a moment or two in this manner, allowing them the futile hope of escape, then we would rear back and sling the condemned creature into a wall and watch with delight as it collapsed and fell to the floor. Big stout flies might be spared and broken to the leash for our perverse entertainment for a spell, then dispatched to hell to join their brethren (or sisters, as the case may be).
Now, I know many will label me as a brute and a murderer after hearing this confession, but you have to understand that it was a different time, and my brothers and I did not have a basketball goal at our house. Plus, it may help you to know that, in spite of my early life of crime, I did not turn out to be a bad person. Why, just yesterday, I stepped over a big ant just to keep from hurting him (or her, as the case may be). The fact is, I wouldn't hurt a fly!
Got any confessions of your own you'd like to make. Why not join Lloyd Albritton and his band of psychopathic storytellers each Friday at 6 p.m. at the Community Cup. Contact Lloyd at (850)384-6676 or by e-mail at LloydAlbritton@aol.com.