Shoo Fly


“Shoo, fly, don't bother me... 

For I belong to somebody.” 

Pink galah cockatoo gather in the dewy grass, pecking breakfast. Squawk and squabble at each other. 

A fat old magpie flies down to join them. Galahs shuffle away. 

A loner pecks the earth alone. 

The front door bangs open, startling the flock. Birds shriek and flap their wings, scattering into the air. Take off to the sanctuary of gum trees and bushlands. But the greying magpie stays put, unbothered. 

The man waddles outside. Pats his pockets, checking for his wallet. Walks past the open garage. But no car. Sold years ago. No need for it anymore. He sets off now, whistling. 

The sky is gummed with deep green clouds rolling on the horizon. A summer storm brews. 

He scowls out across the wide, distant ocean. Feels salty breeze billow over his balding scalp. 


***

He spends another night planted in his armchair, chugging beer and scoffing down battered seafood and chips. His singlet is speckled with yellow crumbs like dandruff. 

The old man stuffs a piece of cod into his mouth, washes it down with a swig of warm beer. An ad break darts on and his mind circles back to the ocean again. 

He punches the remote, trying to turn the sound up louder than it can go. 

The thunder roars louder. 

Randy is just about to crack open his fifth beer of the night when a huge crash rumbles the side of the house. He grunts and pushes the footrest down. Getting up, he leaves his food and beer on the lino. He moves over to the bottom of the stairs. 

Looking up, he can see the high window above. A gum tree has fallen onto the house. 


*** 

He rolls over, woken by the galahs outside his window. Something whizzes through his periphery. He rubs sleep from his crusty eyes and opens them. 

Randy gets up and stands over his bed. He waits. When the fly is within reach he swipes the air, misses. He tries again and catches it in one hand. “Gotcha.” 

It crawls around in there, pregnant and slow. 

Randall hobbles downstairs, opens the front door with his elbow and lets the fly out into the early morning sun. Then he walks into the kitchen, digging around in the third drawer. Comes back with an ancient roll of sticky tape. Peels off the last little strip and sticks it over the hole upstairs. 

Randy shuffles over to the living room and bends to take a seat. He stands in a half-crouch, listening for it: the buzzing again. 

He peels back the blinds that hang over the sliding living room doors. Three or four of them are scattered on the glass. Crawling here and there, taking off or landing. 

Randy smacks one with his hand. Two. Then another. 

The first two fall to the floor. Another lies splattered on glass. The last one is stuck to the palm of his hand. He wipes them off, cringing. He scrapes the four tiny bodies up with an old magazine and dumps them in the bin beneath the sink. 

He walks over to the stairs, climbing them up past where the tree fell last night. 

Slivers of green and brown show through where the tree is still squashed up against the side of the house like a rugby player on TV paused mid-tackle. 

He isn’t fussed about it. No broken glass, no harm done. Someone can take a look at it later.

Once at the top of the stairs he grabs another magazine, rolling it up. He moves closer to his bedroom door, easing it open. He can hear the buzzing before the door is even fully open.

Much louder than before. 

He is back downstairs and out the door before he can think twice about it. 


*** 


In his room again he despatches of at least half a dozen more flies. Spraying the air with a massive can of bug spray, slowing them down, dizzying their senses until they’re tap-dancing up and down the walls. Then he flings a swatter at them, bursting their bodies into tiny red-and-white splotches of blood and unborn maggots. He scurries over to the window and tapes up the holes there. 

Holes he hasn’t noticed before. Or maybe they have always been there. 

He checks downstairs. There are at least a dozen in the living room, buzzing in and out of the kitchen, up and down the hallway. 

One lands on his hairy, naked chest. He smacks it with his hand. An unborn maggot squirts there like pus from a pimple. Another lands on his arm. He smacks it with the swatter, discharging blood over his forearm. 

Randy peers at the glass living room doors. Covered with at least two dozen more. He leaps at the glass, spraying them into states of delirium, then crushing with the swatter. 

Their bodies fall below. Some survive, scraping with a clipped wing or abdomen. The living few crawl around in the narrow door frame. 

Randy bends to the floor, swinging at the surviving flies. Blood and maggot marks are splotched all over the glass.

He grabs a larger roll of duct tape from the kitchen drawer, peeling off grey strips and patching up all the holes on the screens here too. 

As he trudges upstairs, his tired head drifts back to the ocean. He thinks of the deep blue recurring nightmare, a rubber mask over a terrified face, a world clogged in bubbles, that image playing on repeat like the tide. 

That persistent buzzing intrudes again. He drops the duct tape. It tumbles down the stairs and back into the living room. 

He peels back the blinds over the stairs. Flies come streaming out, bursting up to the ceiling. Huge gashes in the window screen show where they got through. 

He swings madly at the window. Glass cracks open. Shatters to pieces. Broken glass collapses around him. Shards fall in his hair and on his shoulders. Cut his stomping feet. 

He is reaching high up the walls with the swatter. Misses three for every one he hits. Overwhelming. Like waves. Or bubbles. Suffocating him. 

They’re moving upstairs into the bathroom. Even more flies are trickling out from there.

Spots of blood are drying in the carpet. Others drying on the walls. He limps to the landing and into the bathroom, the fallen tree still resting on the house when he looks back. 

Flies are spiraling past the mirrored cabinet. Darting into the ceiling vent. 

He places the can and swatter on the sink, turning to see himself in the mirror. He is bright red with exhaustion and slick with sweat. There are marks of blood all over his body. 

He raises his arms high. Up on tip-toe now, on tiles that were white yesterday. He stretches for the air vent. 

His fingers clasp the edge of the vent. Tug on the plastic cover. It strains, persistent. He pulls harder, mustering the little energy he has left.

The cover pops off. They cover him in a swarm, a veil of writhing bodies and loud wings. 

He stumbles, blinded. Falls out of the bathroom. No direction. Swipes at air. 

He trips backwards, closer to the stairs. His body bends with the ache in his cut feet. Knees bent at odd angles, balance off. He slips on the top step. 

Falls hard. Arms thrown out wide, scraping at walls. His neck hits the wall first. Broken glass digs deeper into him like fingernails. 

Body rolls and bends with the stairs. Drops the last few steps. Lying on his back with his face bent upwards to the ceiling. Flies continue to crawl over his blank, empty face. 

His heart seizes up. 

The last thing he thinks about is the ocean. A masked face, stretching wide with panic, trying to say something to him. Her head wrapped in a halo of bubbles, screaming dulled by water. 

Outside on the lawn, a flock of galahs screech murder. An old magpie flaps its wings, skipping away from the pink flock. 

The galahs flap their wings and click their beaks. Twist their necks and try to bite the black, white and grey feathers. The magpie finally gives in, flying away to the gum trees.



By Sean West
Image courtesy of ugliboidesigns

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