How To Catch A Fly


Inevitably I guess, someone who read the column I did about taking spiders outside and letting them go looked at me and said, "Oh you've probably been like that all your life.


I was a kid once, you know.

Show me a kid who wouldn't be disowned by his family if they knew everything he was up to, and I'll show you a kid on "Leave It To Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet."

In real life there ain't no such animal.

Which brings up a good reason to ease up on the bugs.

The ancient Egyptians believed that when your time came you were led into the Room of Judgment by Anubis, the Jackal God. On one side of a pair of scales, Anubis placed your heart (which, now that I think about it, must have been downright painful) and on the other side he placed the Feather of Truth, the symbol of the goddess Ma'at.

Seated about the room and watching with great interest were 40 nasty looking demons. Their names, name like Eater of Entrails, Crusher of Bones, and so on will give you a hint what they were waiting -- and hoping -- for.

Yeah. That's right. If you failed the judgment test ...

The test was simple. For every lousy rotten thing you did back when you were among the living, a small portion of your heart was plucked off. When all was said and done, if your heart still weighed enough to balance out the Feather of Truth on the other side of the scales you escaped the demons.

If not ... br-r-r-r!

The way I figure it, no Egyptian ever passed the test.

Why not?

Hey, everyone was a kid once.

And now it's time to admit the truth.

Don't get your hopes up. I mean you, not me. I'm not going to tell you all the dumb things I did when I was a kid. For one thing this newspaper isn't large enough to contain all of them, and for another, I don't want to be run out of town on a rail by a bunch of rednecks waving torches and pitchforks.

Well-l-l, maybe just one little thing -- to do with bugs -- to set the record straight about the spiders.

I had a BB gun when I was a kid, and ... Boy, there's a sentence that can only end in disaster!

... and there were hornets in my attic. They weren't doing any harm, but they were ... well, you know, hornets.

How they got into the attic I didn't know, but once inside they flew up to the skylight and spent their time walking around upside down on the glass until the hot air up there dried them out and turned them into small crunchy things on the attic boards.

I suppose that wasn't fast enough for me.

I couldn't very well shoot them with my trusty Daisy and a BB without breaking the glass, but being as creative as most little monsters, I found a way to be evil. The roof boards sweated beads of resin during the hot summer months.

Resin + small agile fingers + time = BB-sized pellets that kill hornets but will not damage glass.

I could have just opened the skylight, which would have let the hornets out and helped to cool off the attic -- my empire, no one else was interested in it, but, oh well!

Anyway, had I been an ancient Egyptian I would have shot enough hornet-size bits off my heart to send me straight into the waiting arms of the demons.

I played other fun games with bugs and my Daisy. Challenging, fast-paced, inexpensive games. Loads of fun -- except for the bugs.

I don't remember exactly when I lost my passion for massacring small helpless things, but I do know when I started putting them out to play instead.

Carson Junior High, 1985, Room 423, my computer science room.

The night custodians who cleaned our rooms propped the outside doors open as they worked. Since it was getting dark out and the lights were on in the rooms, flies used to zip in. In the morning I would see -- oh -- four to eight flies sitting on the desks.

It just so happens that I learned to do something unusual while I was in Pakistan, where there is, by the way, no great shortage of flies. I learned to slip up behind a fly and pick it up by the wings.

Yeah, you can do that!

Flies can only see movement. To pick up a sitting fly, just sidle up behind it, move your thumb and forefinger up to it ever so slowly and without shaking whatever the fly is sitting on, and then slowly close your fingers.

Don't give in to the temptation to close your fingers fast at the last moment. The fly, which is a lot faster than you are, will see the movement and get away. Flies are very fast, and they are past masters of the art of aerobatics.

If you don't believe me, take a minute out some day to watch one soar through the air right side up and suddenly land on the ceiling upside down.

Try that in a hang glider!

Anyway, just close those fingers ever so slowly and ... Gotcha!

Then you can carry it to the door and let it play outside.

It's a lot more fun than killing the poor thing. More fun for the fly too, I'll bet.

And what if those Egyptians got it right?

Breaker of Bones? Eater of Livers? Drinker of Blood? And 37 other buddies?

No way! I'm letting the bugs out, patting them on their shiny little heads, and sending them on their way.

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