Maria McManus

Flies

Maria McManus

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Bluebottles. So many. Bluebottles covered the inside of the windowpane. Those guys were gagging to get out, flying towards the light. They stopped episodically on the curtains or lit momentarily on the mantelpiece, my hand, the table top, the piping on the sofa cushion, before zipping off again. I could easily swat them, but the more I killed, the more they seemed to appear.

I couldn’t bear them. 

Oh that’s just nature doing her job, Anna said. 

It was in her interests to minimize my discomfort. It was a comment intended to moderate my disgust and flag an alert with me that to continue to complain would result in a shut down. There would be no sympathy. Shut up. 

A decaying rat trapped under the floorboards isn’t ideal. The smell was alleviating. The flies were at their work. I opened the window, took a floor brush and swept at them to push them towards the aperture. It was winter and they were more sluggish than usual, or simply soporific; they'd been gorging.

The blast of cold air seemed to stun them. Others lay upturned on the floor and on the windowsill. I could have hoovered them; sucked them from the highest corners of the gallery of windows up into the vacuum cleaner. Though I wondered if they wouldn’t just use it as a place to breed and if by doing so I might just inadvertently make the whole situation worse. Besides, I could easily swat them.

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond, to look out. My gaze gets arrested at the glass itself. I get tripped up examining it for blemishes, smears, fly gob. I see the marks of rain, the patterns of dust and city dirt. It’s a myopia - not an actual myopia you understand, but a kind of psychic myopia that never trusts to look out further - to see far enough, to keep scoping, It is the kind of short‐sight that depends on one never resting our gaze on the faraway or the middle‐distance. 

Focus, I told Harley. 

That's intentionally self­-limiting, Harley told me. You're just scratching around, only ever looking only at the world up close. Can I leave?

He was that kid, the one we detained; you remember he trapped flies, cupping each one in his hands and pulling the wings off. 

I didn’t have to make any effort necessarily, just be there with him. Present. An escort. A witness. I was told to sit on him, if necessary. Remember how he never made eye contact? Answering each question, with a question. Keeping his head down – spewing up the details of all the ways he didn’t know what he couldn’t know. He was cagey, sullen and obstructive. 

All the while he busied himself delicately plucking the wings off flies, then holding them up to the light. I see him  - how he spat on the window, then slid each wing into the spit arranging them top to tail in a thick band across the pane.

See through that, he said.


It was the only time he looked me in the eye.


Maria McManus


Maria McManus is a poet and playwright. She based in Belfast.  Publications include Reading the Dog, The Cello Suites and We Are Bone, all published by Lagan Press. She is currently in receipt of an ACES Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.



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