Mary was driven by a savage restlessness. No one in 1950’s rural America could hunt down and kill flies like her. She was fearsome to behold. First there was the weapon. Fly swatters back then were 18 inches long and consisted of a wooden handle, a twisted wire, and a rectangle of screening trimmed in cotton. They were made right here in the US of A. This was a superior killing instrument compared to the flimsy plastic 12 inch made in China version of today.
Powered by Mary’s outrage, no fly foolish enough to slip into the house had a chance against this instrument in motion. From May through October’s Indian summer, Mary had a swatter ready to hand at all times. Her kids were not to touch or move her armament, or else. Her “or else” was capricious, indiscriminately applied, and guaranteed to put a hitch in your get along.
She was armed and dangerous to living things that got in her way. Body tense, arm raised, her eyes focused on the offending fly. When the blow was struck it was always fatal. Her aim was never off the mark on table, counter, or windowsill. With a tissue, she’d snatch up the smashed body and toss it in the trash. The insects were cursed to their deaths with powerful words – damn and hell and sometimes “damn you to hell!”
Mary’s war on flies was something her children never questioned, like her love affair with Ammonia, or her daily vacuuming of the cat. It was what they knew about the way a home was run, until they left home and began to find out the truth about Mary.
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