Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lord of the Flies

...well, lady, that is. That's me.

The barbecue back in July was a great success, but there were surprising, long-lasting negative side effects thanks to my astounding ability not to notice important details in my environment.

About 70 people came by the barbecue, the kids had a water fight out front--an older woman got hit by accident and her daughter got mad, but I think we are all over it now--the grownups ate and chatted out back. Three little girls played Ring Around the Rosy. We sang happy birthday to everybody who had birthdays in July and August. The cake I got from Bom Bon was gone in about five minutes. (I got the cake from the 18th Street location.) Then we had a pinata.

The bad part was at some point I forgot I had been defrosting frozen hamburgers in the microwave. We ran out of burgers and I knew there were more but they weren't in the refrigerator or by the grill, and I kept getting distracted by other things and completely forgot about the stack in the microwave. And I kept forgetting about them through the next couple of days. Then I left for a week of vacation.

When I got home there was a bad smell. I couldn't figure out its source. After a few minutes of sniffing around, I called Dawn and asked her to come over and help me find the source of the smell. She thought it was coming out of the air duct behind the garbage can. We thought maybe a mouse had got in and died in there. I had been wanting to have my air ducts cleaned since I first moved in--I knew they were full of sawdust from construction and I have allergies--but I kept putting it off because of the expense. Well, this was it. Time to get air duct cleaning.

So the bad smell continued until the following Friday (now a little over a week ago), when the air duct guy arrived. Not only did he clean my air ducts, he figured out the source of the smell.

"Have you looked in your microwave?" he asked me.

I went over and looked inside. It was swarming with flies and maggots. "Oh, God," I said. "The hamburger."

The air duct guy very graciously helped me carry the microwave, unopened, out to the back yard. I got rubber gloves, Clorox and a toilet brush. Fortunately, the hamburgers were still in their plastic bad, so although gross, it wasn't that hard to take it out and put it in a garbage bag. However, the fauna inside were much more of a challenge. There were maggots and fly eggs everywhere. I finally took the garden hose to it just to knock them out.

That was the moment Dawn's mom showed up out back with one of her friends. "I don't think you want to do that," she said. I may well have shorted the thing out with all that water, but I couldn't really see an alternative.

Finally, after all the nasty critters were out of the main chamber, I came to a sad realization--there were some big flies trapped in the window of the microwave door and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to clean out in there. The air duct guy had been making gentle hints all along that perhaps it was time for this machine to join its brothers in the great microwave cooking ground in the sky, so to speak. However, since in my neighborhood the alley is not a true burial ground--everything gets reincarnated--I felt obligated to put signs on it in English and Spanish saying, "Clean well before using -- there are flies inside." I put it out on top of my dumpster and it was gone in less than two hours.

Alas, that wasn't the end of the story. I've still got too many damn flies in the house. Back on Tuesday I was having breakfast and almost a dozen decided to join me. Yuck. On Friday I got some Raid and sprayed the back of the kitchen. That seemed to help some. (I hate Raid and I hate breathing in the fumes, but this called for strong measures.)

But Friday night became a Hitchcockian nightmare in my bathroom. I went to take a bath and there were two flies in there and the Raid was downstairs. Armed with a copy of Chicago magazine, I took them on. One went down quickly (do you realize flies have red blood? Uggh....). The other was more stubborn (maybe that one hadn't set foot in the Raid-sprayed area), and actually flew into me once during the chase. I felt like I was in "The Birds." But eventually the second one got whacked, too.

Right now, in the living room window, there are two dead flies on the sill and one live one climbing around on the screen. There's is almost no food in my house and it may be a while yet before I start cooking again. When I got back from Ireland, I saw Angela and Shaun from up by the corner. Angela told me it was her birthday and I promised I'd make her some cookies. I've had to put her off twice now due to the fly infestation. "My kitchen is so nasty right now I can't cook anything," I told her a couple of days ago. "As soon as I get it cleaned up, I will make you some cookies."

At this rate, it'll be Labor Day. Sheesh.

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