Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Fresh from Robert Fulgham

He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods...

He may not see me, but in the age of the internet he still has ways to find out. Pings and all that. Well, heck, he put it up for anybody to read. He surely knows this is also the era of copy and paste.
Would he also put a popcorn ball on the table and expect children no to touch?
I think not. Bt his own admission, he wouldn't hurt a fly...

The first warm day of onrushing spring rallied the dormant bug population of my house. Just as school locker rooms spill teams of amateur athletes onto practice fields at this season, the egg sacs in the darkest corners of my study burst forth legions of tiny spiders onto the floor and waves of minute flying midges onto the wall. No cause for exterminating action for me. Experience has taught me calm, knowing that within hours the baby bugs will be lunch for a small brigade of freshman lizards.

On a slightly larger scale, the Dispersal Committee of the Housefly Commune has already assigned one juvenile fly to each room of my house. These newly licensed pilots move with maniacal speed, erratically zooming here and there, practicing upside down landings on the ceiling, crashing into the clearly cleaned glass of the windows, and corkscrewing through the air in acrobatic shows of skill - but seldom landing long enough for me to get a shot at them with my Great Yellow Swatter of Death.

There are also a few tenacious survivors left over from the end of winter. For two days now a fat, elderly fly has lived out his last hours on the top of my desk. His airborne adventures seem to have ended. Slowly he walks from one end of the desk to another, pausing at the edge, and walking back again to the other end and another edge. He does not bother me. I do not bother him. It is in his favor that he has lost the urge, the will or the ability to launch himself into the air. As long as he does not enter my No-Fly Zone, I am content.

Once he even heaved himself up onto the Great Yellow Swatter of Death, walked its length, tumbled off the end and walked on. Fearless. Dignified. Senile.

This morning he is still present, though moving ever so slowly, a centimeter or two at a time. At this moment he rests between me and the computer screen, scratching his head with this two front feet, and perhaps reflecting on the distance to the far away edge of the table. He sighs and plods on.

I worry about him now. What is there for an old fly to eat or drink on the hard brown desert of my desk? Will he fall off the edge the next time he gets there and break his neck? Or try his wings one last desperate time before he nosedives into the tile floor? Do his children know where he is or care? Can he see me, the possible agent of his fate, and is he afraid? Does he anticipate the coming of the Large Lizard, or is he comforted by knowing that, like mutton, he is too tough and stringy to be eaten now?

I put a jar over him and peered at him through a magnifying glass. Unlike other insects I’ve investigated, he did not panic – no madly rushing about or trying to escape. He looks tired and gray. Slowly he wrings his hands. When I removed the jar, he began walking toward the edge again with great dignity and purpose. Just before I turned off the light to go to bed, he was walking in circles, slowly, slowly.

This morning he was lying on his back. Dead. Feet in the air, in the middle of a sheet of typing paper on which were printed odds and ends of lines waiting to be inserted in the text of a novel. Mr. Fly died on top of this line:

"Pleasure is a fruit the foreigners eat green. Japanese wait for ripeness."

Mr. Fly lived to a ripe old age, I suppose. Struggling on until the end. Somehow, we were connected. In respect for his dignity and mine, I took him out into the garden, and with a teaspoon, dug him a small grave underneath a geranium plant, which is just coming into bright red bloom.

A unique event, however trivial. The first fly funeral I had attended. The first fly I had neither murdered nor tried to murder. I pondered the sense of mercy that stayed my hand from the Great Yellow Swatter of Death. I don’t know if it’s a sign of soft-heartedness or wisdom. But surely a reminder that perhaps any living creature may be reconsidered and treated with respect. Easy enough with an elderly, peripatetic fly. Much harder with scorpions wasps. And with people, well . . .


[Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff -- complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?]

Alright, Mr. Fulgham, yours is the credit.
We all wish there was a permalink, because next time we want to read this it may - or may not - be accessible.
But I captured it here. So anybody who wants to see it again is gonna have to come here to read it after your journal has another entry on top. They'll have to search for it. But that's okay, too. Like trying to find the last dipped toffee in a Whitman's Sampler.

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