Chasing Flies


Midweek happened to roll around as quickly as it began. The evening was heavy-set with the air of hot oil, oil that bubbled and sizzled on a piece of fresh pomfret. We were busy washing vegetables and chopping garlic, when mum cried out, ” I’m getting attacked by flies!”

True enough, a swarm of flies circled around her face and calves, buzzing ferociously. I rushed out of the kitchen and came back armed with the swatter. This legion of raging flies circled around mum in an expectant frenzy, waiting for the fish to be cooked. It landed on her calf and hips, almost knowing of what was about to ensue- An enormous fish, a golden payday, probably their only tasty, worthy morsel after a day spent perusing trash heaps. It was almost as if they were mutant flies, genetically adapted to survive to this city environment. This wasn’t just any of those lazy lame ones you would find in Mexico, or those Western ones that you can wait to land on your hand so you can smack them with ease. These were the crazy Malaysian ones, like crazy Malaysian traffic, and all other forms of our version of “Crazy”.

It knew mum was the “bearer of the fish”, and looked to be truly, attacking the “bearer of the fish”. I swung the electric fly swatter at the general direction of mum, hoping to rouse them to flight, that would make for easy batting. I tried my best not to swat mum in the process, but the electric fly swatter hovered dangerously close to her body, she yelped, ” NOT here! NOT HERE!” after I took a chance and made a few quick swishes in succession.

You could see that it was a near impossible task, 1) to get to the flies and 2) to do so without enraging the “beast”. The only hope, the stratagem, was to get them flying, then quickly, swat them mid-flight in a single arm. It was a maneuver that required skill, agility, lightning quick reflexes, three things I did not have.

There was a fly that landed on mum’s bum, her spandax shorts strained in the widened hips of love, I hovered the fly swatter over said bum, waiting…waiting…but the fly sensed my presence and took off to places my eye could not catch.

It took a few aimless swats later before I assumed a tactical change. This time I crouched in the middle of the kitchen floor, like Peter Crouch, like a panther, like a predator, waiting patiently for it’s prey. I quickly learned that to kill, one must play the silent, waiting game, then strike when most appropriate. Sweat dripped from my brows and the side of my face. The day was hot, as was all days. I took a few more swings, but to a fruitless attempt. Then, suddenly, one lone fly made a grave mistake, it flew out of it’s corner and into the open zone where in a split second, “ZAP!” the deadly swing took its life. SPLUTTER, SPLUTTER, ZAP, ZAP! ZAP! Went the electrical current.

It was as if my animal instincts took over, I had never been in the wild, but I was certain I came from it. I was now strengthened, emboldened by my first kill. Encouraged, I took a second, and a third one soon shortly after. Soon, the ground was littered with a land mine of dead flies. The remaining survivors of this army mourned the silent graveyard, and prayed they would not be next.

This time, the flies started attacking me, as if it knew I was their enemy. Well, I, at least knew, they were mine. They pounded on my skin, hoping it would weaken me, but alas! It was to their demise, I took a jolt back, like an awkward dancer, prancing on tip-toes, and swung it to the left, my abdomen curved inward as this one fly flew towards my gut, forcing my bat to strange positions. But soon, discomfort bred success, ZAP ZAP ZAP! went the bat.

Finally seven dead flies lay on the ground, we were down to what seemed to be, the remaining two. All that was left of the kitchen, was the sputter of oil from a still sizzling fish, and me, panting, prowling, waiting still more. These were the survivors. The smart ones. the fittest, strongest of the lot, and the ones that knew better than to venture from their hiding spot.

Mom fished the fish out from the wok, and placed it on a porcelain plate drizzled with white pepper and soy sauce. She still had to fry the garnish of shallots and ginger before it could be plated. I knew what those flies were thinking. To truly win a battle, nay, the war, one must think like the enemy. They would be making their descent on the meal any time soon, that was their main prize, that much I knew. So I stood at the threshold between the space that occupied fish and mum and readied myself. The positioning was crucial. I waited a few more seconds, minutes, oh these flies were good. They played the waiting game as much as I did. Mum placed the garnishes on the fish, and finally I took it to the already set dining table outside and covered it immediately.

Relief. The first phase of fish protection was complete. But, I returned, knowing of what was incomplete. The enemy still lurked. There were other bases they could acquire, like the chopped garlic. My eyes shift from right to left, left to right, and suddenly, there it was, laying low on the grounds, wandering aimlessly but cautiously. I readied my bat at an angle, anticipating the flies’ route, and hoping our paths would cross. ZAP! ZAP!

Now, the lone fly remained. This time, I hid at the corner of the room, leaving space for the supposed “best” of the lot to peek out. I talked to mum, had conversations. She talked about something I couldn’t quite remember now, all I remembered was a body poised to take the shot, I was focused, like a trained athlete on the pitch. From the corner of my eye, a spot zipped by, I swung at a blind, without thought, and ZAP! ZAP! ZAP!

The last vestiges of a battle. The echoes of a zap was all that remained.

Applause? There was none. A sanctimonious roar of victory? None. But, I realized, I had won.

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