Our friends call my husband Tom either “Techno Tom” or “Toy Boy”. Techno Tom means he is obsessed with technology, he must buy the newest and coolest gadget for his computer, his cameras, his iphone and his cooking. Toy Boy means pretty much the same thing, except the toys are frequently more obscure than the gadgets and even more ridiculous.
His newest toy is the electronic fly swatter. He bought it after we’d noticed and been increasingly annoyed by the number of flies that were swirling mindlessly – as flies do – around our kitchen. He bought it on Amazon, where we tend to acquire everything in our lives.
It's about the size of a badminton racket but frightening. The grid consists of netting and small strands of metal. The handle has many buttons, which need to be turned on when we go on our killing spree and off when it’s just sitting there. The bottom is plugged into the wall, on the cabinet between the blender and the olive oil. The purpose of this toy is to electrocute flies. That’s ostensibly how they die. Except it only electrocutes them occasionally for Tom, not for me. I take it personally.
Here's how it’s supposed to work: You stand with the racket raised high, and whenever you see a fly you start swatting, back and forth back and forth or up and down. The ads have said that when you see a fly, you should give it a hearty swat with the racket and then you will hear a creepy sound like a loud electric shot, or the kind of electrocution you see in prison movies. And the fly will be dead.
Here’s the problem. Well one of the problems. Even after hearing the weird noise of the killer gizmo, we have not yet seen a fly corpse on the racket or even on the floor. Tom insists the electricity makes them evaporate, which sounds like hogwash to me. I tell him he’s nuts. Except he reminds me he was a chem major and things like that happen in the universe. I, a piano major, insist there’s always a dead body somewhere, even if it’s only ashes. We argue this point every day since we got the blasted swatter. I of course want to return it and get our $20 back; Tom loves it, it’s his fabulous new toy. When he takes a break from working in his office, he goes into the kitchen and massacres flies. There always seem to be more, we never run out.
We get many “Tom’s toys” catalogs. The most fearsome is from Hammacher Schlemmer, which sells every conceivable overpriced item that nobody needs on the planet. With my worries about Tom driving us into bankruptcy, I’ve written them several times asking them to cancel their mailings, but I guess they figure if I have the time and energy to write, I will eventually buy something. When I get to the mail before Tom, I toss it in the garbage, to the bottom of the can.
So, the flyswatter: I try to ignore the flies in the kitchen, but they are careening around the small room like it’s the invasion of Normandy. There are usually 4 or 5 at a time. It’s unpleasant to eat in there with the flies commanding the space, zooming into my salad. My strategy is to pick up the gizmo, slowly and calmly, turn it on (it makes no noise at this point), locate a fly that’s alighted somewhere and bingo, swat at him. (I like to assume it’s a him). But he sees me coming and zooms away, circling around me with what I assume is hostility or a pride in winning the moment. I almost never get him.
And I feel like a schmuck crazy lady waving the racket around while the flies who are obviously smarter and faster than I am just take off and alight somewhere else in the kitchen, watching me. Do these critters have brains, do they have consciousness, do they hate me? Am I getting truly batty?
The other night we were watching Hulu in bed when Tom spotted a fly perched on the tv screen. I was happy to ignore him. Of course, it was a “him.” Tom sped into the kitchen, unplugged the fly swatter, and ran with the whole stupid toy into the bedroom. Now, our bedroom is pretty big, the door to the porch was open, the fly had a grand territory on which to continue his adventures. Tom stalked him, he was excited. The fly was a dumb one, instead of flying out the door to the endless beach below, he just kept circling back to alight on Hulu once again. Tom, practicing his backhand, got him. The electric shock went off, scaring Roxie, our dog, who bolted out of the room. We never found the remains of the fly, but Tom was satisfied and I, though still skeptical, was relieved the battle was over for the moment.
Just yesterday, Tom returned the flyswatter to Amazon to upgrade it for one that angles side to side, in order for us to have more options in demolishing the creatures. The top half was easily movable, like a fancy French lady’s fan, and thus Tom could murder the flies as they rested in their hiding places on the edges of windows or the narrow cracks between the kitchen cabinets. He was very convinced that his killing spree would be successful instead of the frustrating episodes it had been until now. I of course was not at all convinced. And since it got freezing cold at the beach, there are fewer flies. Mostly no flies. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m so happy to be in the kitchen now, eating lunch and reading The New York Times without disturbance. I haven't seen a fly in over a month. But I really don't want to discuss the occasional fleets of ants storming around in the pantry closet.
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