Flies. I hate flies. This time of year they get slow. It always seems that as soon as we get into bed at night and start reading our books, a big fat one wakes up from somewhere and begins it’s slow buzz around the room, banging into the lampshades……….our eyes follow its course, and finally, Gary will get up and go after it, essentially knocking over everything in the bedroom except the fly. I hate flies. But once, a fly made me a lot of money! All because I killed it and then brought it back to life!
Years ago I worked as a bartender at Dick’s Place in Mendocino. We had to stay open till 2AM. My shift began at five so it could be a long night if we weren’t busy. Usually the regulars came in for a few beers, but after seven or so, if it was a weeknight, everyone would go home for dinner, leaving me to while away the long hours dusting bottles. One September afternoon I had about six customers sucking suds at the bar. It was a warm day and the front door was open. The view from Dick’s Place was the best thing about working there. The bay at Mendocino sparkled and the cliffs were golden with the fading sun. Ospreys were diving and a few boats were drifting at anchor. A big fly flew in the door, buzzed around a few times and then settled on the bar right in front of me. Lacking a swatter, I swept my hand across the bar and caught him! The guys sitting there all thought that was a great trick, but then I remembered another. Long, long ago, probably on another boring afternoon, a guy showed me how to kill a fly and bring it back to life. So, with the fly buzzing in my hand, I told my captive audience that I could kill the fly and bring it back to life! They took the bait. One customer said I couldn’t do it, so I took his bet of $10. I grabbed a glass, filled it with water and set it on the bar. Then I took a swizzle spoon and carefully released the fly over the water while at the same time sinking it to the bottom with the spoon. It lay down there in its watery tomb, trapped under the spoon. All eyes were on the fly. “How long would it take?” one guy asked. Oh, to be sure that it was dead, it would have to stay under there for a couple of hours, I told him. At that, a few more bets were taken and soon we were up to $60 against me if I lost. Another round of beers were bought by everyone and conversation resumed while the fly languished at the bottom of the glass. The sun began its decent and twilight darkened the ocean. Still, the fly lay motionless. By this time I had removed the spoon. It was down at the bottom, drowned and limp. A few more customers came in, saw the action, and at the urging of the original customers, settled down for a drink and placed their bets. An hour had passed and this fly was making the bar money. No one had left. The suspense was palatable. All eyes were still on the fly. The clock ticked out one hour, more drinks, and then two hours. Wives and dinner were forgotten…..
After two hours, everyone agreed that the fly was dead. Now it was time to bring it back to life. This was the tricky part, I explained, and it had to be done just the right way. I gently drained the water from the glass and let the fly drop to the bar. I then inverted the glass over the fly. Again, all eyes were on the fly. It lay under its glass tomb, wet wings stuck to the bar, legs limp and sodden. It was dead. The customers began joking around with me. “Are you gonna give it mouth-to-mouth” said one? “Maybe you should give it should give it CPR”, stated another. They all laughed and raised their bets. I poured myself a shot and went about my business. Nothing was happening, complained one of the bettors, so I should pay up. Well, I told them, it does take awhile. The fly is obviously dead and since it had been under water for over two hours, it was going to take awhile for it to come back to life, and did they want another round? The cash register clanged again and we all resumed the vigil. People came and went, some stayed to watch the fly, others said we were all crazy; a few played the juke box; more rounds were bought as the clock ticked past the hours. All eyes were on the fly.
It had been about four hours since we started this drama and no one had left. Actually, I had never done this trick myself this trick and I was beginning to have my doubts about the fly too. How long did he drown it before he brought it back to life? Did I drown it to long? Maybe he switched flies when I wasn’t looking? I glanced over at my paltry tip jar and thought about my house payment and the bills sitting on my kitchen table at home. Now MY eyes were on the fly.
It lay there, still sodden and limp. The customers began to grumble, saying that the fly was dead, it wasn’t coming back to life and that I should pay up. I knew I’d taken them as far as they were going to go. The only one who had made any money was Dick’s Place. I glared at the fly. “Arise fly”, I said out loud. I waved my hands over the glass like a magician. All the guys began to laugh and move around on the stools. They had had enough and wanted to get going. It was time for me to pay up.
I glared at the fly one last time, but just before I turned to get my tip jar, I thought I saw a little leg move. “Wait!” I cried, “I think it’s alive!” The guys closest to the glass got down really close and we stared at the fly. Nothing. I saw it, I knew I did! “There, a leg moved, did ya see it?” All eyes were on the fly. The clock ticked and the tension was so think we could cut it with a knife. The juke box played but no one heard it. All eyes were on the fly. Again, I saw one of the legs twitch. “Did you guys see that?” One guys said he thought he did, but then again, we had all been staring at the fly so hard our eyes were watering and maybe playing tricks on us, not to mention that fly legs are sort of tiny and hard to see in a dark bar. But wait! Yes, a leg was definitely moving, then another. Everyone crowded around the glass as the fly, still on its back with the wings glued to the bar, began kicking all its legs in the air. “It’s alive, it’s alive!” I cried!
The struggles continued until with a valiant effort, the fly rolled off its back and began to flutter its wings. I could have kissed that fly! As everyone paid up and my tip jar overflowed, one of the guys lifted the glass and with a thwack, he smashed the fly onto the bar. “I hate flies”, he said. And with that, he got up and walked out.