It was a mostly enjoyable afternoon except for the fly. I’d been reading the works of Eugene Burdick in peace, sipping coffee. The dog lay next to me on my wife’s recliner, inclining himself towards me in anticipation of a passive petting that happens when the story gets good.
Then there’s the damn fly. It’s here, then it’s gone. The buzzing by my nose was burdensome to my reading. To the dog I must have looked the fool, waving and swatting without looking away from the book. For an animal attuned to my movements as the master of the home, he looked around lazily for an explanation of my antics. Finding none he lowered his head.
The dog snapped his jaws upward, seeking the thing that touched his nose. His ears and eyes remained alert for a moment or two. Until, again, finding nothing he lowered his head. I chuckled for a moment at his antics, ever thankful that the fly had moved on from my torment, even if for a moment.
This continued for a chapter or two. A daring escape by the book’s protagonist, coupled with a sensuous and suggestive remark from a supporting character, was interrupted by the fly. I made every effort to keep reading while flailing my free arm in all directions which amused the dog, who raised one ear in support of my struggle.
Two more chapters, and the fly is gone. At least, it hasn’t been in my face. Or the dog’s face. Reaching for my coffee cup, I draw in some luke-warm fluid and, nearly choking, I spit it back into the cup. Well, most of it in the cup. I put the cup down and wiped my face on my sleeve, half-spitting to make sure my mouth is empty.
Dog’s head raised and sniffed around, likely smelling the coffee that sprayed on the chairs. As he licked the arm of one, his ears shot up and he growled. He heard something, but I was too busy wiping my tongue with my other sleeve. He growled again, sat up straight, and looked for the source of something threatening. I glanced over at the dog, wondering at his aggression. Then I heard something too.
No, a buzzing. Both.
Our eyes locked onto the coffee cup, the current object of my disdain and disgust. The cup seemed to be making the noise, or at least containing it. With a grimace, I lifted the cup in my left hand and it jiggled, ever so slightly. It was definitely moving somehow. I tightened my grip on the mug so as not to drop it. I brought it closer to my face to peek inside.
As my eyes crossed the concave horizon, the buzzing intensified. The dog’s growls amplified and a quick glance revealed he was bearing his teeth. Looking back towards the ceramic vessel, the coffee seemed to move on its own, like water whirl-pooling down the drain in a bathtub. Only, instead of draining, the cup was filling. And it wasn’t coffee I saw, but a swarm of flies.
They were everywhere. In my nose, in my mouth. Tucking themselves in under the blankets of my eye lids. I was blinded and lost in the swarm, sputtering, but I could hear dog snapping and barking and snapping at the flies. I couldn’t see. I could no longer hear, and I swear I could feel them marching down my throat, except for the few who were sucked into my lungs as I gasped for a life sustaining breath. The flies in my lungs congested the alveoli, which was like having a plastic grocery bag suctioned to my face.
As my life faded and the throbbing in my ears subsided, the buzzing intensified and I knew it would be the last thing I would hear. Internal buzzing.
The dog hacked and choked, and I shot up like a rocket from my pillow.
I looked around and saw my wife asleep in the bed next to me. I looked up and the fan still rotated. The night light still flickered. The hum of the house remained.
The dog gagged again in a dark corner of the bedroom and, wiping sweat from my brow, I stood to check on him. I knelt next to the beast, praising the breeze from the fan on my glistening back. He wheezed a few times then set his head back down on his spotted paws. I pet him a few times and determined that he was okay.
Before returning to bed, I noticed a fleck on the ground next to his head, like a drop of ink on the beige carpet. A quick touch with my finger proved it to be the corpse of a fly.
That damn fly. The dog finally got him.