Sometimes in winning, we still lose.
I don’t remember who once told me that, but I’m sure it irritated me at the time, because I hate when people say things to try to make me think. I think enough on my own, I don’t need Confucius-esque aphorisms to make me spend more time in my head.
Anyway, like I said, I’m sure it irritated me then, just like it irritates me now to find out that whoever said it was right.
But let me back up a bit.
I was on the phone with Dee-Dee Saturday morning, waiting for my bagel to finish toasting, when I opened up my trash can to toss away the empty bagel bag. The second I lifted the lid, at least five fruit flies swarmed up into my face, and I almost dropped the phone.
“Oh gross! Oh… oh, gross!” I yelled.
“What? What is it?”
I slammed the lid shut and said, “Okay, I just threw something in the garbage, and like a hundred fruit flies flew right in my face!”
“Oh, yeah. They’re really bad this year. My sister has them upstairs, too. You should just set out a glass of wine.”
“A glass of wine? Why?”
“Because the flies will go in it and drown.”
“So then I’ll have a glass full of dead fruit flies?”
“Better than a house full of live ones, don’t you think?”
“You make a good point.”
After I hung up the phone, I just felt so dirty – I mean, what kind of ramshackle hovel am I living in that gets infested with fruit flies? I don’t even eat fruit! Now, microwave popcorn flies, or frozen pizza flies, or cheese and crackers flies – those I could understand. But aside from that puzzling bag of generic dried apricots my grandmother gave me for my birthday this year, I can’t recall the last time there’s been a piece of fruit in this apartment.
But I realized that it was too late to worry about the past. What’s done is done, I always say. I needed to stop asking “why me” and focus on “get the hell out of my apartment, sucka fruit flies.”
I pulled the cork out of the half-empty bottle of Pinot Noir sitting on my counter, and grabbed a juice glass from the sink. Just as I was about to pour the wine, I thought about how my father would always tell me that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right. So I walked over to the cupboard, grabbed a nice red wine glass, and poured it halfway full. Within ten minutes, I saw a bold, wide-eyed fruit fly prancing around the rim of the glass.
“Come on… go in. That’s it… closer, closer,” I said softly, watching intently as the fruit fly tiptoed down the inside edge of the glass, already mildly intoxicated by the delicate bouquet of this 3-day old wine.
He kept walking around the edge in circles, getting slightly closer to the sweet liquor, but never close enough to slip in. Remembering that a watched pot never boils, and apparently a watched fly never drowns, I decided to do some housework. About half an hour later, I walked back to the kitchen to see if any progress had been made. Sure enough, there were now three fruit flies waltzing around the glass, inhaling the pungent perfume of sour grapes.
I peeked in the glass to see how many of their dead comrades they were mourning, but was disappointed to find nothing but wine in the glass. It would appear that my apartment had been infested by a swarm of true connoisseurs. These were not your ordinary wine chugging set. No, clearly they intended to savor the experience, trying to detect the subtle cherry and black pepper undertones in this once fine Pinot.
Unfortunately, I had things to do. Natasha was coming over in another hour to go shopping, so I didn’t have time to host a fully-guided tour of Napa Valley. I waited until the flies returned to the edge of the glass and grabbed the closest weapon I could find, which turned out to be a take-out menu for the Thai restaurant down the block. Just when one of the flies stepped off the rim and snuck his way down the inside of the glass a bit, I slammed the menu on top of the glass, trapping him inside. Then, I swirled the wine around, knocking him off the edge and into the crimson vortex.
I watched him swim around for a while as I waited for his companions to return. Another twenty minutes went by, but there was no sign of the other flies, so I realized that if I was going to get rid of all these unwanted guests, I needed to lay more traps. I grabbed two more wine glasses, filled them each halfway up with the stale Pinot, and then set one on the dining room table and one on my coffee table. All the bases were covered.
I felt pleased with myself when, after another half hour, I saw that my traps were working – three more flies had met their fate. When Natasha came over, as soon as she walked in, she saw the three glasses of red wine sitting out and asked, “You got company?”
“Mmm… kind of. It’s complicated. I’m having a fruit fly problem, and Dee-Dee told me to set out wine. I think they’re all gone now, though, so we should probably be fine.”
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. Erratic, flitting, fruit fly-like movement.
“Dammit! There’s another one! Hold on, Nat. Stay right there – I’ll be right back.”
I ran into the kitchen to pour a fresh glass of wine and set it on the mantel, where the fly was last seen headed. Just as I returned to the living room, with glass of Pinot and soggy take-out menu in tow, I saw Natasha raise both her hands, slap them together, and flick the dead fruit fly onto the floor.
“Can we go now?” she asked, brushing her hands on her jeans.
I paused for a minute, looking down at the tiny corpse of my enemy on my hardwood floors. The battle was over. The war was won. Yet somehow, I was the one who had been defeated.

11 Responses to “Sideways”

  1. Darby Says:

    For the line, “I needed to stop asking ‘why me’ and focus on ‘get the hell out of my apartment, sucka fruit flies.'”, you totally win Blogger of the Year Award.

  2. nicole Says:

    How bizzare. My house and theater have a major fruit fly problem, too. And I just thought it was because I haven’t taken out the trash in a few days…
    Enjoyable entry, as always!

  3. Jessica Says:

    Hah! This is hysterical…”sucka fruit flies”, “crimson vortex” – hee/hee!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    On my walk home yesterday I passed a pile of furniture and clothes abandoned on the curb that had a sign on it that read, “Infested with bed bugs!” I’ve been itchy ever since.
    It’s a buggy week.

  5. dan Says:

    my friend, you are falling for a classic midwestern ploy. wine works fine, but not pinot. it’s tart herbaciousness is anathema to their insectoid sensibilities. I’d recommend a big buttery chardonnay, or even better, a sauterne or mead. Even port might do, if not overly redolent.
    me, though, I just get a 12-pack and a pellet gun. I put on a dvd of Fear and Loathing and wait for the little suckas to come into range. And they *will* come, my pretty. they *will* come.
    or you can blend the last post and this one, and heat a vat of hydrogenated lard on the stove, and they’ll just fall in. The added benefit here is that everyone loves fresh french flies.

  6. shari Says:

    That’s hilarious — I can just see your wine-glass-festooned apartment!
    However, living in the self-proclaimed “apple capital of the world” where fruit flies are ubiquitous and bold, I have valuable experience in the art of hunting/trapping drosophyllus melanogaster.
    A proper trap will contain an aromatic cab or merlot, OR shards of ripe fruit, in a glass jar covered with a coffee filter that has a tiny hole poked in the center. Let the filter sink into a cone shape that descends at least halfway into the jar with the tiny hole dead center at the bottom of the cone. Secure it with a metal ring or rubber band. The flies will drop into the jar, but are too stupid to locate the exit.
    And this concludes today’s lesson in killing less-extensively evolved organisms.

  7. Jenny Says:

    Now that I know how to effectively trap and kill fruit flies, I might even invite a few in just to see them die. Banana peels? Check. Apple cores? Check. Glass of Maker’s Mark? Check!

  8. jill Says:

    “microwave popcorn flies, or frozen pizza flies, or cheese and crackers flies”
    That’s awesome! I love the way your brain works, sister. In my house I might have canned olive flies or matzo and butter flies. Also, occasionally, frozen meatball flies.

  9. TCho Says:

    I know what you feel when you were questioning how you live. Whenever my cleaning lady comes over, I clean before she comes because I don’t want her to think I’m some total slob!

  10. hooizz Says:

    fantastic post – ill use anything as an excuse to open up a bottle… im gonna getchya sucka fruit flies! ha!
    dan’s comment was HILARIOUS!

  11. asia Says:

    They also have a weakness for silver tequila, and good scotch.
    On the dirtier side, I recently went camping at a yellow-jacket infested campground and was informed by a neighbor camper that a tuna can with a bit of tuna juice and some soap will drown the little f*ckers. Just incase you need to know…
    Slugs and beer…
    You never know who will infest you next.