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Gotta be cruel to be cruel






The flies have it, or, Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew!

Flies are the most disgusting creatures on this earth. I cannot stand flies. I would almost rather have a house infested with cockroaches than with flies. Almost.

A little more than an hour ago, I noticed a couple of flies in my apartment. This is not a rare occasion, as I have no screen on the patio or front door, and I tend to let my cats wander in and out of the doors when the weather is nice. And we have about three zillion flies in the area, since there is a dumpster in the parking lot behind our apartment lot, plus the apartment garbage and recycling area is about 100 feet away. But generally only one or two or three flies get in, and the cats quite often take care of them for me. They're cat toys. I ignore them.

So tonight, I notice a few flies. Then, my eye is drawn to the top of the curtains hanging on the front window, near the door. It is drawn there because I start seeing out of my peripheral vision flies flying around, and this starts to register on my brain, which is otherwise quite taken with the day's events on One Life To Live. I look at my curtains. There are what appears to be about two dozen flies congregated on them.

Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew!

I hate flies. There is very little that will get me out at nine o'clock on a 95-degree summer's evening, but having no Raid and 20 flies on my curtains will do it. I tried the insect spray I bought for my tomatoes when they had mites last year, but it didn't seem to do the trick. So I got my shoes back on, grabbed my keys, and ran out, ducking flies as I went. I hoped some would follow me out, alas, only one did.

Twenty minutes later, I'm back with the insect spray, and there are only about half a dozen flies left on the curtains. Encouraged, I spray them all with the so-called pine fresh scent (atrocious, but better than the smell of pure insect spray, as the AC is on and the windows will not be reopened until this heat wave is over). Then I wait. Then I decide to look around for the already-dead flies. I find bunches of them on the floor near the curtains. I find one inside the kitty condo. I watch three expire from the Raid, noting with fascination that a dying fly trying to fly, buzzing its wings upside down on a kitchen floor looks exactly like a child's top as it spins itself out to motionlessness.

And only I alone survived to tell thee

I just killed the last survivor. I killed him the old-fashioned way. I swatted him with a paper towel roll. With any luck, that's all for the flies tonight. Which is a good thing, as I'm off to Richmond again.

I will tell you tales from Richmond, as I'm sure I'll have interesting things to report. Housesitting--well, actually, dogsitting. And I know for a fact that their house does not have flies. Mice, yes. But no flies.--MAY



105 in the shade

Phew. It's 105 degrees in the shade on my patio. I know this because I took my nifty-keen Brookstone clock, which displays not only the time, the day of the week, and the month, but also the temperature, and put it out on the patio. I was curious as to exactly how hot it is out there, since I did manage to convince both my cats that it was far too hot to go outside. They took all of three seconds to stand in the doorway and say, "Who said I wanted to go out? I never said that. You said that." Then they went back inside and pretended the outdoors didn't exist.

I think I will not, after all, grill dinner out on the patio tonight.

So I'm thinking of my friend Heidi, who is driving to another state in this record-breaking heat in a car that has air conditioning, but which performance goes down significantly when you put the AC on, and knowing her Calvinist tendencies, I expect to hear tonight that she did not use the air conditioning very often. But then again, she may surprise me.

Blog, blogged, blocked

It's been extremely aggravating to me that I've been writing and trashing blogs the last few days. I can understand one piece that isn't working; I've had that happen many times before. But when I try to write several pieces and none of them work, I gotta tell you, it's frustrating. It's been a long time since I've had this happen. I need the equivalent of the Montclair State College Players' office to help me out here.

Back when I was at MSC (which is now MSU), I had a weekly humor column in The Montclarion (which is still misspelled in the Montclair phone book). If I was approaching deadline and had no column and no idea for a column, I would head over to the Players' office. The student theater group was primarily made up of would-be actors, and actors, I've found, tend to be a pretty fun bunch of people to hang around, what with all those extroverts and singers and comedians in the crowd. So I'd go into their office and tell them I didn't have a clue for this week's column, and they'd start firing ideas at me. Most of the ideas were silly and off-the-wall, but I always came out of there with a column idea. Sometimes, the most amusing thing of all would be the look on their faces when something one of the Players said clicked in my head, and I got up and said, "Thanks!" and ran back to the newspaper office to start writing. Because many times what they said and what I wrote had almost nothing in common.

I am completely unable to tell you how the writing process works. I know that something someone says, or does, or something that I see or hear, or a flash of memory or a sound in the distance all have the capacity to trigger a story idea. I know that when I get these ideas they come in several fashions. My favorite is what I call "the lightning from God." When I feel that, and when I sit down immediately and start writing, I generally stay at the computer until I have a full-blown short story, essay, or even novel chapter. I used to think that I could never recapture the lightning, but I discovered that even if I put off writing one of the lightning flashes, I can get it back. But it takes five or six tries. I haven't ignored the call in years. In fact, I'm getting awfully tired of getting up half an hour after I go to bed because an idea hit me while I was trying to fall asleep. But the price of not getting up is generally losing the idea.

I didn't lose any sleep writing this blog, though. Thankfully, the blog-block seems to be ending.--MAY



The living dead

Something hit me while I was writing a letter about my cousin Sharon, who died nearly eight years ago, yet another victim of a drunk driver. She was only 37. I'd known her most of my life. Until I was 13, I thought we knew each other all of our lives. But Sharon and Marci were technically my step-cousins. My aunt, who was divorced, married their father, who was a widower. I was three or four, so by the time I was old enough to know what was going on, I'd forgotten all about the second marriages and only knew that I had four cousins to play with whenever we visited Aunt Edith.

What strikes me the most about the dead is how alive they are in my memories, for the most part. The ones I was close to, that is. I can still hear Aunt Louise, my mother's best friend who's been dead for decades, singing "The Shadow of Your Smile" in the basement in their house while her son played guitar and the rest of us listened to her lovely voice. I can even hear her husband telling us ghost stories in that same basement, though he died two or three years before she did.

I can hear Sharon's laugh most clearly of all. She had the most infectious giggle, and she laughed all the time. She got me in trouble every year at the Passover Seders, because we always sat next to each other, and she always would whisper comments to me--none of which were complimentary about the people sitting around the table--and make me laugh, which would get her laughing, which would get us both yelled at.

I'd give my life savings to have a videotape of those Seders.

I can see Aunt Edith clearly, and Uncle Lee, smiling at me in the living room of their house in San Diego, or Aunt Edith asking if I want an Eskimo Pie, and Lee's voice saying "Helloooooo!" when he answered the phone. And of course, my father is with me practically every day. I've been working hard to get him out of my head, as he wasn't always the kindest of people, and, unfortunately, I remember those things, too.

It's nowhere near as satisfying as having them still around, but I'm thankful for the clear memories I have of my loved ones. Even my great-grandmother, Bubbe Reider, is alive in my head. She's cutting the ends of the bread off my and my brothers' toast, and then feeding the birds with us after we finish breakfast. It's people like Bubbe that taught me kindness. That's why they'll never die in my memories.--MAY