In the hottest part of summer when the terra firma glows and oceans of dry heat trap underneath blankets of cooler air held captive by mountain walls, stifling air begins to fester in the folds of the western foothills where a strange and benign pestilence occurs. Anyone here dining al fresco in August will testify to the cursed and relentless occupation of the not so common house fly.
Dining establishments new to town learn quickly to battle the flying scourge or deal with mass exodus of paying customers. Back in the day, we were no exception. My wife has little tolerance for flying messengers of disease so when the fly invasion hit the coffee house it was a declaration of war. The rules of engagement for licensed food facilities are different than the private household. Toxic sprays, chemicals and fly paper are out so this left either altering the atmospheric conditions or hand to hand combat. Mary quickly requisitioned an air-curtain which is a specialized fan strategically placed over a point of access to create consistent flow of air downward. The idea is that the enemy can’t breach a wall of moving air and it worked to keep the flies in but not out! Every time the door opened, a vacuum was created and flying vermin would jet stream in hundreds of times a day. This dismal failure of technology left hand to hand combat as the final option and so it was quite simply game on. The flies clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with and I’d be lying if I said watching my wife slay flies wasn’t entertaining.
Mary had select weapons of destruction including two lethal swatters strategically placed, both customized to reduce drag for optimum stealth. Early on she hung fly-paper in the back to defend the vulnerable kitchen flank and learned quickly not to violate the rules of engagement when she found her long wavy hair wrapped around a three-foot strand of sticky brown fly paper, dead flies included. We thought she was going to lose it but the horrifying disgust only inflamed an unquenchable resolve to annihilate as many flies as humanly possible. Messing with a woman’s hair is always strategically an error and a pivotal momentum shift in the Fly Wars of the early ‘90s.
Hence, I never witnessed one act of mercy to a flying combatant, no amnesty, no quarter given and none received. Combat fatigue would normally yield a degree of resignation to the inevitable wave of baser nature but not my wife. Every fly was hunted down to meet a violent end, chased from the killing-fields or dropped from the sky out of sheer exhaustion. I’m pretty sure vivid memories of dead fly-paper hair fueled her darker passion but whatever was driving the resolve worked.
Watching Mary slay flies was a kind of violent poetry and regulars were ghastly entertained. Applause and goading incitement were common with no regard to the carnage and mutilation of the out-gunned enemy. It was a spectacle, a blood-sport and the kind of phenomenon of which folklore is born. My wife was one of a kind, alone and unrivaled.
A full generation later, when the heat begins to boil up from the historic streets like apparitions of a gold-fevered past, if one looks closely he will see a grudging respect in the summer-fly as it hovers reluctantly outside the doors of GoodBean’s old Tablerock Billiard and Saloon considered sacred burial ground to the countless brave comrades slain by the she-warrior known as Fly-Slayer.