Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fly Hunter

When I was a kid of about 11 or 12, I spent a lot of time at my friend Dom Covello’s house on Pennsylvania Avenue; we spent time a lot of each other's houses, but to his we frequently congregated. It was one of those small houses built in the 1920s when they figured an average family only needed two bedrooms and a living room, but since his closet led to another part of the house via a secret tunnel built into the walls, the mystery of the house, along with its wooden porch, back alley and creaky floors, made it that much more charming. I enjoyed what most boys that age liked to do, hang out with my core group of friends and get into a variety of mischief, and since his mother was a cocktail waitress and worked weekend nights, that meant our mischief was mostly unsupervised. Dom's mother did, however, leave us under the general care of a girl I remembered as being named Tara, a peroxide blonde hair stylist who was the closest thing to a woman us boys had seen up close that wasn’t our mothers or our teachers. When she was in charge of watching us, we spent a lot of time hanging around with her; she was fun… and she wore a lot of small clothes, which made our time spent with her most educational. To us, at the time, she seemed like she was as old as my parents were—you know, a grown up—but in all likelihood, she was probably no more than 18- or 19-years old, and since her boyfriends would come over frequently (and rotate frequently as well)—at which time we were summarily ushered out of the house—we picked up a thing or two about the facts of life by periodically taking in an eyeful at the living room window when we should have been a couple of streets over playing video games at Jughead Liquor.

Speaking of video games, Dom was one of my first friends to get a computer, a Commodore 64, a wonderful system that helped usher us into the age of computers, and my game of choice (since on those early machines the only thing you could do was either play games or write short stories—I should show you “The Tara Saga,” a great example of literary achievement for 1986. No, it was about a different Tara, and now that she's a lawyer, she would probably threaten litigation if it were to ever again see the light of day). So, my game of choice was “Spy Hunter,” where you are a secret agent fleeing in a James Bond-style car, equipped with missiles, smoke screen, those spikes that flatten pursuers’ car tires and oil slicks. It could turn into a boat when needed and you got frequent upgrades from a semi that periodically picks you up and outfits you with extra accessories. It was fun and challenging. Well, mostly fun because it was novel.

However, here I am, 22 years later; this time, I’m the hunter and I’m not stalking runaway spies but instead flies, houseflies, the damnable miserly irritating ever-circulating buzzers that land at the most inopportune times on the most inopportune places.

There is no love lost between them, and if there is a fly in the house, I will expend untold amounts of energy and time to find it, kill it and discard the body. If I could hang them by their spindly necks near the door as a warning to other flies who choose to enter my house, I would.

The story starts a couple of weeks earlier. I was gone on my hunting trip, and Elsa ripped through the screen door on the back patio because she was so heartbroken from her master's absence. Since I’ve been too cheap…I mean, frugal… to plunk down the 40 bucks for a new one, I’m in the process of braining up a way to fix the old one until Elsa really tears it up (the leading plan is to buy a section of screen and “sew” it together with the old one—I know, I should just spend the money for a new one, but it keeps me busy and keeps me resourceful). Since then, whenever the screen is “closed,” is becomes a revolving entryway for all things flying, from moths and gnats to those God-forsaken flies.

Friday, Kara decided to cash in some “me” time and escape to Glen Ivy, a pampered day spa for the non-working women in the area, and while she was away, I was the Daddy on Duty for the tykes. After Dance Class, I took the kids to the Party Store for our Friday balloon, which popped in the car as I was putting the stroller in the back. All I heard was a pop and Natalie bursting into tears, sobbing, “Myyy-hhy-hhy-hy bah-bah-loon broke.”

Okay, everyone out, kids out, stroller out, car seat out… dead balloon: Out. Let’s get another one, and lucky for us, after Nicole, the girl in charge of the balloons, saw little Gnat with wet cheeks, told us about this little-known policy that says you get a free replacement balloon no matter the circumstances of the original balloon’s popping. Good thing, because once we were headed across the parking lot toward the Party Store to get a new balloon, Natalie fessed up that the reason the balloon mysteriously popped was because she bit it.

“What did we learn today, Gnat?” I asked as she picked out another purple balloon.

Hushed tone, Gnat: “Don’t bite the balloons.”

So, balloon’s full again, floating over the couch where Natalie crashed, asleep, and lucky for me, Matty hit the sack for a couple of hours as well. That’s good parenting, folks. The house was quiet, all was peaceful… until… until…

I’m not sure when it happened, but Mick Jagger moved into the neighborhood and almost every day since he has invited Keith Richards over to jam in the garage, and they’ve decided that because their amps go to 10, they’re going to push them to 10. Lucky for me, they're latest to bottom out on the Billboard Low 1000, but they don’t entirely suck; however, the constant droning of guitars, drums and some kind of synthesizer…no singing, yet, thank God... does make for a constant clatter.

Remembering a good portion of my early teenage years and my brother’s dream of rock stardom, I don’t completely hate the fact that a loud garage band is adding to the air pollution of the world, especially four doors down. Granted, I don’t like it, as it makes for a constant soundtrack to my life, my house, my backyard, etc., but when they take a break of some sort, roughly every two hours of practice, the thing that makes my spine ache is that some younger brother takes it upon himself to bang on the drums for a while. There is nothing on this earth more annoying than hearing a repetitious base drum thumping erratically, without rhythm or tempo for a good and solid 20 minutes straight. It’s like tone-deaf Mohicans on a warpath.

So, what is a self-respecting homeowner supposed to do? Well, in this case, nothing. Garage bands don’t last and it will just be a matter of time before they break up and get on with their lives or get signed and go on tour. Either way, they’re gone and peace and quiet will prevail.

Friday afternoon, I decide that the best thing for me would be to finish a book I started a couple of days hence, a little relaxation with a trip through history, this time courtesy of John Cannan’s retelling of Burnside and Meade’s great debacle on June 30, 1864, in a battle outside of Petersburg called “The Crater.” Good read, technical, exact with a host of first-person accounts that not only add credibility to the author’s story but gives it a sense of realism.

I hear elements of the band warming up down the street, a faint whisper of a keyboard plunking out a few notes, and some idiot pulls his beat up Honda Civic in front of my house, parking backwards, facing the wrong way down the street. Get that? The wrong way like he owns the place, and it only makes me look bad, reflecting on the sort of people I allow into my house. Some furry-headed wide-load drummer has no respect for my neighborhood was what I began to think. I tried to sit there and read my book, but at the break of every paragraph, I would look up to see if the albatross was still darkening my parkway, and lo it was. The more time that went by, the more irritated it made me, a backwards facing Honda with the crunched-in front, oxidized roof and several stickers on the trunk lid supporting some archaic and immature causes like “No Fear” or that stupid anarchy logo. The front windows were down and there was the usual clutter strewn about on the front seats, papers and fast food wrappers. What a moron, I decided.

Okay, it got to the point that I would accept the noise of the band but I couldn’t take the presence of the car, as if it was some sort of guilty weight on my conscious, ever eating away at my sole. I pictured a disrespectful punk who thinks he’s God-gift to the music industry because “he’s in a band.”

I had to do something to let him know that I didn’t appreciate his lack of respect. I considered hitching up my truck to his bumper and dragging the car around the corner, or at least pull it around so it was facing the right way. I wanted to let all the air out of his tires but then that would mean that it would remain longer, no doubt. Honestly, I thought about tack welding his doors closed and then spritzing the welds with some primer so he wouldn’t notice. Oh the hilarity as I would watch him scratch his head puzzled that his doors wouldn’t open.

In the end, what did I do? I called the police. Sure, it’s petty and lame of me, but I couldn’t stand it, like someone cutting in front of me while in line or getting whacked in the back of the ankles by a stroller.

I was almost apologetic when I spoke with the dispatcher (because of my volunteer work, I have an inside number), telling her that it would be an easy ticket and some easy revenue for the city. She assured me that she would send by a car, and I decided I wouldn’t hold my breath. In the interim, I discovered an amusing solution that would keep the delinquent from parking there: I turned on the sprinklers. With the windows open, I was hoping for a deluge of water cascading into his car like the 40-day flood, but alas, my usually unfaithful sprinklers wouldn’t cooperate and merely wetted his tires. Dejected, I turned them off and waited for Johnny Law to roll up… and I waited and waited and waited.

Meanwhile, I settled back into the Civil War, trying to concentrate, and wouldn’t you know it? There was a fly in the room, circling, circling, buzzing, buzzing. I was sitting in the front room to enjoy the light streaming in through the blinds, and every now and again, the fly would get caught behind the blinds, bouncing from blinds to window, forever buzzing. Concentrating on Burnside’s inability to persuade Leylie’s troops to advance on the Confederate fortifications was impossible, as every time Cannan described the whirling of a mini ball, I could only picture a housefly zooming by.

Something had to be done, so I became the Fly Hunter (wow, it took a really long time to get from the title of this blog down to the source, didn’t it?). Armed with a rolled up magazine (Time, if you must know), I stood in the middle of the room, swatting at air, mostly, as it was a young fly and quick on its wings. But, he had a weakness, a weakness I would soon exploit, the window, and every time he would get stuck behind the blinds, he’d buzz stupidly and frantically trying to escape. My plan was a little grotesque, but quite effective: just squish him between the blinds and the window. Easy enough, he really didn’t get out of the way before I flattened him into a black and yellow gooey pancake. After wiping his guts up with a napkin, I was back in The Crater with the gallant boys of IX Corp.

What? What the? Could it be? Did the flattened fly reassemble his body, unwrap himself from the napkin, make his way out of the trash can in the kitchen and lose himself behind the blinds again. Grant will have to wait; there’s another fly to kill, but he was quicker. I actually pinned his leg under the vane of one of the blinds and he stood there frantically buzzing his wings in an attempt to escape. I crushed him like the one before him.

Okay, where were they? Ferraro’s colored troops were about to be slaughtered in The Crater… mostly for being black, and sometimes by their fellow white troops.


Another fly. How could this be? I annulated him post haste, but as soon as I returned from dumping the body in the kitchen trash can, another had taken his place behind the blinds. He was dispatched as easily and as quickly as his brothers before him. The body count at the end of my battle was five, five flies invaded my sanity and five flies were killed.

Finally, peace at last, as no other flies made an attempt at prevailing my tranquility.

Then Matthew woke up, then Natalie, and I got to read about five pages total in two hours.

Ah, peace, wherefore art thou?

As for the idiot, the cops never showed up (surprise, surprise) and he got in his POS and drove away, scot free, to offend the sanctity and sanity of others.

I think I’ll keep my TIG welder handy because band rehearsal is at 2pm sharp, and they can’t rock the Kasbah without a drummer… of course, let’s see him get his kit back into the trunk after I weld the lid shut.

I’m such a grouch.

1 comment:

BK said...

Is "The Crater" the story about the tunnel that was dug under the South's camp to try and blow them up but in actuality became the grave for many Northern troops when they went in and could not get back out/


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