Hunters like to use the word “management” to describe the act of killing animals, and so might we as we set about clearing our indoor ecosystem of unwanted pests. Most indoor creatures tend to overbreed if given half a chance, but, luckily for us, most are also rather slow and easy to “manage.” Such is not the case with the housefly, however. The fly is a formidable enemy, more in the manner of a sniper or a guerrilla than a selfless foot soldier (the ant) or a foe easily trapped by its own greed (the mouse). The fly is fast and devious, and it travels light.
So how to manage this trickster? Purchase a Venus flytrap? This may provide a few moments of ghoulish fascination, but it fights flies about as effectively as wearing light-colored clothing fights dandruff. Get mad and stomp through the house brandishing a flyswatter or baseball bat? This can be mightily satisfying from time to time, but it’s really no way for a human being to act. Open the front door and hope the fly goes outside? I think not.
No, the only path to successful housefly management is to do the following.
- As you are sitting in a chair, contentedly reading, the fly will land on the page, usually on the very word you are trying to read. This is a fly that has been cheerfully buzzing around the house for several days now. You have noticed it and been vaguely irritated by its presence, but before now you were never in a position to do anything about it. Now you are.
- Empty your brain of everything but the thought that your are going to get this fly.
- Shift your position slightly so that your striking hand is freed and the book or magazine lies firmly yet comfortably against your thigh. During this shift, the fly will quickly sail off on a tour of the room, but in a few moments it will come back to the exact same spot on the page.
- Pretend to continue reading, perhaps even arching an eyebrow or murmuring as if in reaction to a point made by the author—but actually you are not reading. You are staring at the fly.
- Assess the situation. You are now a menace to the fly. The fly knows it. You know it. Fortunately, your brain is quite a bit larger than the fly’s (in most cases), so its concentration will falter before yours does. While waiting for this lapse to occur, observe the fly in detail and build up hatred toward it. Was there ever a more revolting, disease-ridden, worthless, insolent pest? Dwell of these adjectives and others you may think of yourself.
- As the fly’s concentration lags, it will take two or three quick steps across the page. At this point, very slowly raise your striking hand, with the palm as flat and hard as you can make it. Make sure that the shadow case by your hand does not overtake the fly and startle it, and also be sure that your nonstriking hand retains a firm grip on the book or magazine.
- As your hand rises, the fly again will tense up, but it will not flee unless your hand gets too close. Twelve inches has been proven by scientists to be about the right distance.
- Hold your position until the fly again forgets you are there. If the phone rings, ignore it. If your legs are falling asleep, bear with it. If your raised arm feels like it’s falling off, be brave. The fly is all.
- As soon as the fly makes a move—it will either take a tentative step or begin rubbing its filthy little front legs together—turn your head away as if attracted by something across the room. The fly will look up, too, to see what’s so interesting. As it does, bring your open hand down on it with everything you’ve got.
- Rest until you’ve regained your composure. As soon as you have, slowly lift your hand and peer beneath it. If you’ve missed, take a deep breath and try to resume your reading (it will be hard). If you’ve scored a hit, go wash your hands and then throw away the book or magazine, as no subsequent reader will care to wander into the scene of the crime.