Fifty-nine people were slaughtered in Las Vegas on Sunday. Over 500 went to hospitals, overwhelming services, all medical personnel were called in and they were not enough to care for the shocked and bleeding victims who witnessed the murder of friends, spouses and strangers while holding their own deaths at bay. All this done by one guy. ONE GUY. Who can wrap their heads around this stuff? I am looking from the outside-in at my own grief, I can’t hold it all.
But hold it all I did, until it came to a single cluster fly, the kind everyone hates. There are a gazillion of them, mounds of them clinging to the outside of the window screens, crawling around while I wash the pots and pans, drawn to the warmth of my kitchen as Vermont turns its face toward winter. Cluster flies are everyone’s YUCK, they are pesty, dirty, disgusting, carry who knows what creepy diseases, they dance in your face, get stuck in your hair, did I say PESTY?
But while I worked, I heard a repeated buzzing sound that started and then stopped. My ability to hear has changed as I get older, I can still hear a Blackburnian Warbler’s soprano trill from the top of a pine tree but not WHICH pine tree. Fellow birders turn and look up to the right when a bird calls, I turn left and peer into the canopy. So when the buzzing started, I looked out the window in case Vermont Gas was up to something in preparation of their digging on our condo property tomorrow morning. I glanced at the TV to see if Jeopardy was using the sound as one of its contestant challenges. The buzzing stopped and I went back to washing the last of the pots. As I turned to wipe the counter down, it sounded again, and then from behind a tiny vase on the window sill, while the sun shot the last of its scarlet rays through the swinging mane of the willow tree, a single cluster fly spun around on its back, wings clamped, the black threads of its legs flailing, then still. A moment passed, and it buzzed again, obviously dying but also obviously not going gently into the good night.
At any other time, I would have knocked a weakened fly into the sink and flushed it down the drain. Pesty flies do not get the same capture and release treatment here as spiders and moths, despite some half-hearted effort on my part.
I was about to grab a used napkin to plunk on the struggling insect when the grief of 59 slaughtered people and over 500 injured along with the anguish of the over-worked and anguished medical community overwhelmed me. Those tiny thread legs of the fly flailing on the window sill filled me with sorrow and I reached out with a moistened finger until its feet (do flies have feet?) touched the tip. It paused as if registering what was going on in its dimming world, and then its legs organized themselves against my skin and were still, as if recording somehow that it had just touched an upside-down land instead of groping in the vapors. One leg moved, and then another and another, exploring its incredible luck at finding itself a chance to survive after its ordeal behind the flower vase. I swear I felt it pat around the tip of my finger, it seemed to perk up, have hope, that its world was not ending just yet, its life and its death were being acknowledged. I swear an energy passed between us but don’t tell anyone that I shared my human soul with a cluster fly, that is the stuff of Crazy. But it stirred something in me, enough to wake the muse, my writing life, inspired by a fly. And the senseless murder of 59 people.