The house that my family and I moved into recently was originally built to withstand the harsh winters that sweep in across the prairies of the Midwest. Up in our attic lays a lush bed of some type of loose gray substance that helps to keep the rooms below at a steady and comfortable temperature all the year round. Each exterior wall, including the garage ceiling, contains battings of thick insulation between every stud. Those two features alone provide a cozy environment for us to live in, so I have very few complaints.
Then several years ago the nameless owner of this modest three-bedroom ranch decided to add on a den. That sensible modification greatly increased the living space here. It is a very handsome den, and one of my favorite rooms. Measuring sixteen feet by sixteen, it has a slightly pitched roof which, on its underside, has six heavy beams. The end result leads me to believe that that the roof can carry a heavy load of snow very efficiently.
But since very few people here in Marengo seem to be worried about visual details when it comes to additions, a lot of the local contractors overlook some more modern but dissimilar things, such as matching doors and windows.
Bear with me now, for this is where the fly will soon come in.
The den has an entry door that opens to one side of the front yard. The door, a perfect mate for our other official front door, is fitted with a top-of-the-line storm door, as is the front main entrance. Both have handy movable sections, fitted with glass, that are easily raised or lowered. Outer sections contain removable screens.
On the other side of the room a double-paned sliding glass door leads outside to my second favorite room, the outside deck. One wall of the den butts up against the garage. The opposite wall has one small roll-out window. This, the singular mismatched window of the entire house, allows a breeze to blow in and cool me on hot days.
Now instead of having to stoop or bend over the couch, an over-stuffed chair or a low table filled with houseplants to raise or lower windows, all that I am required to do here is to simply rotate a small crank handle. A few turns and the little window swings out, and then here comes the breeze.
Between the little handle and the window itself, a handy screen is held in place with concave springs. And of course, the mighty screen keeps insects at bay.
Aha. You have a hint as to where this might be going now, do you not?
I didn’t at the time. See, I noticed one warm morning that the frame of the window had never been properly varnished, so I decided to correct that someday. This is my house and I want to take care of it. But one of my strong points involves procrastination, so I allowed that to take over for awhile. I let another strong point, that of having a critical eye, fight the first one for several weeks until my impatience got the better of both traits. That particular morning I had sat down near the roll-out window, and with nothing more in my head than to spend awhile writing something (and I mean the vaguest of ideas about what that something might be), I began to type. And here is what I wrote.
Jacob’s eyes open before the alarm clock sounds. A drawn-out yawn ends with a first-class stretch. Then the young man lays motionless in the dark while he stares at a vague shape on top of his dresser.
Hints of daylight slowly begin to steal into the bedroom. He glances over at the clock. He still has seven minutes left but it doesn‘t matter. He cannot sleep.
This is so unlike Jacob. This is nothing like the boy who gave up and quit high school mid-term of his Junior year. Nor is it anything like the person who got fired for habitually coming in late at Burger Shack. And it is certainly unlike the dissatisfied construction worker who gave two weeks of his young life to a job he neither cared about nor understood.
Now at this point the idea in my head sort of jelled a little bit, so I merrily continued on with my new character Jacob for awhile, causing him to get dressed, eat breakfast, speak with his mother before leaving the house, and then I had him driving to this new job I made up, just for him to go to.
But by the time he got to his new job and discovered where the break room was, I found that the kid had no more idea of what he was supposed to do next than I did, and I lost all interest in the boy. I actually ran out of creative gas, so to speak. Yeah, I hit that wall writers are always moaning about.
Well, I hate moaning. I can’t carry much of a tune in the first place, so moaning grates my ears and makes me crazy. Screw this for now, I thought.
And then I looked up at the window. Today is the day, sir, I told myself. Let’s go do the window. Everything clicked. All my traits agreed. Hot damn, let’s do it, they cried.
So I removed the screen and leaned it in a safe place. A step ladder, a few tools and a small can of polyurethane later found me standing back inside the den, admiring my finished handiwork. I was in such a good mood I didn’t mind having to leave the screen out while things dried. No, I left the house, preferring not to have to breathe in the sweet but harmful fumes for the next few hours, so the open hole in my wall where bugs could now come in didn’t bother me much. Besides, the weather outside had turned cool, and hopefully that would discourage the pests.
Later that day I returned and sat down. Poor Jacob. There he sat, glued to the floor at work and not going anywhere at all. I typed in a few ideas, and then I deleted them. I thought of another route to take Jacob on, but that had a dead-end, too. Delete after frustrating delete. And then in came the fly.
I hate flies. I hate them with a freaking passion. I don’t go around blaming the devil for much, but I strongly suspect that when he does come around me, he comes with six legs and a set of tiny wings. I bet I have killed over ten thousand devils in my life time, but it does not even slow him down. So when Satan landed on my busy hand and laughed his silent little laugh, I stopped typing and I froze. I stared at him briefly, and then I had one of those sudden leaf moments.
Checking and finding the window dry, I inserted the screen while the fly flew berserk circles behind me. I got you now, fly. Laugh all you want.
Then I sat down to expand Jacob’s world from a new angle. I began typing.
About the same time that Jacob entered the break room, a fly landed on Grady‘s arm. It rested there for a brief moment. Then it flew in quick circles before settling on the tip of the man’s up-turned nose. It sat still and rubbed its forelegs together before crawling to the side of the nostril. The half-conscious man swiped at his face. The fly buzzed away but immediately came back to land at the exact same spot. Grady went to roll over and fell off the couch.
“Son of a bitch!”
A foot underneath Grady’s chest jerked away. An angry muffled voice growled from beneath a blanket on the floor.
“What the fuck you doing, man?”
Grady sat upright. He leaned back against the sofa seat with both eyes shut and moaned.
Silence lingered over the room except for the buzzing of the fly. Grady raised one eyelid. From his spot on the floor he forced his mind to think. Nothing looked familiar. A sleeping bag across the room held a lump. Who is that?
The eye steadied on a batch of red hair protruding from under one edge of the covering. That single feature identified the immobile shape as his friend Roy. Then he remembered. This is Roy’s crib.
Now the world of Jacob and the other three new characters will soon collide, hopefully. Or the thing may never happen at all, but the fly helped me over the wall, and as I mentioned this all to my son David, trying to teach him how one should take the lemons that life hands out and make lemonade, he summed up my troubles by saying,
“Pop, then you made fly lemonade!”