Time of Landing Flies

This is the time of year when flies land on me.

Well, not just me. Not to be insulting, but I'm sure they land on you too. That's how it is with flies as the days grow shorter: they land on people. Also on the rims of coffee cups, and sandwiches, and plates on which sandwiches reside, and glasses of milk, and computer keyboards, and so on, edibles and nonedibles. Mostly, though, they land on you and me.

Native Americans had a name for this season: Quish-qua-go-yomama, "Time of Landing Flies." * As the maples don their scarlet robes, and asters glaze the meadows, and the angling sun gilds storybook landscapes, flies lose their minds. It's the one thing that can disrupt the poetry of autumn, not to mention my focus. I'll be sitting with my laptop, writing some profound piece of lyricism that requires all the candlepower I can muster....

Me: <[Typing] O moon-kiss'd maid with...

Fly: [Lands on my wrist] Bzzzt! (Translation: "Hi!")

Me: [Absentmindedly flick my wrist and return to typing]...a booger in thy nose / Wherefore art thou Romeo's? / Would that I might...

Fly: [Buzzes around a bit, then returns to my wrist. Flies are nothing if not persistent.] Bzzzt! ("I like you!")

Me: [Flick my wrist again] Dammit.

Fly: [Lands on the frame of my computer screen] Bzzzt! ("Will you be my friend? I think we could be great chums, you and I.")

Me: [Swatting at fly] Get a-WAY! Go! Shoo!

Fly: [Returns to the frame] Bzzzt! ("I offer you friendship. You respond with hostility. Will you not reconsider? I have powerful connections.")

Me: [Positioning my hands to clap them together against the fly] You shall die.

Fly: Uh-oh. [Takes off before I can nail it, then circles back and lands momentarily on my knee, out of reach] Bzzzt! ("Pthhhhtttt!")

I once was having a tabletop conversation with a friend when a fly zipped down out of nowhere like a tiny black meteor, straight at my shirt front. I glanced down at my chest but saw nothing, so I continued talking. But my friend's eyes had grown large, and I could tell something was distracting her. Finally she said, "Bob, did that fly just fly into your pocket?"

"Ha, ha!" I said. "Nah!"

Then from my pocket I heard a muffled Bzzzt! (Translation: "Don't be too sure about that.")

I looked down. There was the fly, looking up. We locked eyes, not an easy feat when teeny-weeny compound eyes are involved. "Bzzzt!" said the fly, which I took to mean, "This is great! I really like it in here."

That's how flies are this time of year. They whiz all over the place like miniscule stunt pilots on amphetamines, performing side slips and barrel rolls and all kinds of maneuvers with no discernible purpose. Then they land on me.

I don't get it. I don't like it. And I don't like flies.

"Bzzzt!"

No, we cannot be friends. Now get off my kneecap.

__________________________

* Actually, Native Americans had no such name. I made it up just now. But they would have invented it if they'd been paying attention.

Messing Up Ant Pheromones

Lying on the floor reading several days ago, I noticed a tiny ant traipsing along, proudly waving some kind of delectable twice its size overhead like a banner. Then I saw another...and another...and...good grief, they were everywhere, scurrying to and fro, carrying unidentifiable forms of ant food. Apparently they've established an outpost in my living room, and the carpet in my workspace is heavily trafficked. They're so small and the carpet camouflages them so well that I never realized how many there really are.

So today I got down to business. I began by vacuuming the carpet thoroughly with my Hoover vacuum cleaner, which is powerful enough to ingest anything within three feet of it that isn't bolted to the floor--but no, not good enough. In short order the ants were back, parading their foodstuff in triumph.

This could not be allowed to continue. After researching about ant control online, I misted the carpet with white vinegar, which messes up the ants' pheromone trails so they don't know which way they're headed and they lose all sense of meaning and purpose in life. Many grow depressed. It's a weird thing to hear scores of despondent ants weeping, the sound of their lamentations drifting up faintly from the floor.

The carpet now smelled like a giant foot, but that was a small price to pay for messing with an ant colony's pheromones. Now for my next step. I headed to the store and purchased ant spray, borax, and a bag of diatomaceous earth, a powder so fine that it sifts inside an ant's exoskeleton, slices it up, and desiccates the ant. Picture hundreds upon hundreds of wee little mummified ants. Or don't. It's up to you.

Back home, I took the can of ant spray and sprayed all around the baseboard and door frame inside, and outside along the patio. Then, following the directions on the bag of diatomaceous earth, I sprinkled handfuls of the stuff all over the carpet in the ant-infested area. Heh, heh! I thought. This ought to sort the little buggers. I just, according to the directions, needed to work the powder into the carpet with a broom.

Did you know that diatomaceous earth is so incredibly, almost molecularly, fine that it acts like mud even when it's dry? It doesn't "work into the carpet"; what it does is sort of smear all over the place in big white blotches and streaks that do not, no matter how hard and long you sweep, go gently into that good nap. Nope. Once those blotches are there, by golly, there they are. Only time and repeated vacuuming will make them go bye-bye.

Ah, well. The ants are in for a time of it, anyway. Now to complete the job by mixing up a paste of borax and corn syrup. Supposedly ants love the stuff, and they'll cart it back to their nest, where it will slowly poison the whole colony.

Ant spray, diatomaceous earth, and borax--three-pronged hell descends on the ants in my living room. This better work, that's all I can say. Gadz, the carpet looks like a disaster.

Three Is a Funny Number: A Tip for Writing Humor

Three is the number of completeness. In Christian theology, God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In music, three notes--the root, third, and fifth--make up a complete chord, known as a triad. And in writing, groupings of three create a sense of wholeness. One sentence is a statement. Two sentences are an expansion. But three are a unity. In his book Writing Tools: Fifty Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark says, "In our language and culture, three provides a sense of the whole." He gives examples: Beginning, middle, and end. Moe, Larry, and Curly. A priest, a minister, and a rabbi. Executive, legislative, and judicial. Three just feels right. And triadic statements are a great device for writing humor. A friend of mine, Bob VanStee, recently posted an eloquent comment about lightning bugs on Facebook. It was a lovely bit of prose that captured the beauty of fireflies floating like tiny Japanese lanterns over the fields. He didn't put it that way, but what he wrote was every bit as rich in imagery: firefly fields ... sparkling like sequins on a lady's gown ... rising like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. Very sweetly stated. Bob is clearly a romantic, and a number of people liked what he wrote. I was one of them, and I said so. Then, upon further reflection, I posted a second comment: "The female Photurus firefly will mimic the flash pattern of another species. Then when the male of that species arrives to mate, she eats him. I'm surprised that Dave Barry didn't have something to say about this in his Complete Guide to Guys." In the context of the overall thread, the jolting shift from sublimity to cannibalism works as humor. Well, it strikes me as funny, anyway. Instinctively, I used a triadic approach which consisted of the following:
  1. a factual opener,
  2. a shocking middle, and
  3. a wry editorial conclusion.
With variations, I think I use this formula often in writing humorous pieces. You might want to give it a try too.