As a child in Nice, he remembered eating with them circling round the pale lampshade, listening to the sound of their wings as the night crept in off the rugged mountainside, and he had gone out into the heavy, electric-stormy air to be rid of the noise. He remembered in Ireland he had seen one beating against the window-pane, and a large dog had drawn close to it and snap! it was gone. He had liked that. He remembered later in life reading a love poem by an eminent man of letters concerning the poet’s awakening to the noise pulsed and repulsed through the interior of a room, and the noise had inspired the poet to love Mary :-
“…for it sings moment to moment, love, of you.”
He had not liked that, and he had hated the poet thereafter.
Later on in life, life pushed and pricked and prodded and punched him like a right, nasty pugilist. Yes, he loved her, held her close and cherished her but he was nauseated by physical longings attached to the movement of her thighs, the sway of her breasts, the swoon of her back and loins. She was so young and he was so dirty, and his appetite so cheap. One day he would love her and the next loathe her because she was so attractive to him and to other men. He felt that “other men” wished to satisfy their appetites on her. He did as well but he would have stooped to pick her up if she had fainted leaving the bath and never looked at her pale nakedness, no, not once, would have left her untouched, undefiled, unsullied. And that was the difference between him and all the others. Alone he quenched his appetite smearing his mind with the dirt of pornography but she was to be untouched, undefiled, unsullied. He would make the point by shouting at her, and once he even hit her. She bowed down and hid her face in her hands. He trembled.
“Oh, Mary,” he sobbed, “I’m dreadfully sorry. Help me, please. I’m so unhappy.”
And then he heard of William Golding’s book, he saw a copy, he read its title with horror, and one day he woke up to the incessant and loathed noise. Bang, gang, bang it went against the window-pane. He had not drawn the curtains the previous evening, and the May sunlight flooded the room. Incessantly, the loathed sound, the dreadful noise. He went downstairs, found a jam-jar and crept back upstairs into the bright room. It was seven o’clock in the morning and his parents were not yet up. There it was. He saw it twitching and flying. Bang, bang. It crawled up the window and he slid the jar nearer and nearer till with a quick movement of his arm he had it inside. Scraping the cap of the jar along the pane he finally skipped the top into place on the jar and looked at it. The sunlight caught its gossamer wings – the colour of phlegm. It buzzed and flew against the sides of the glass, then settled and with short movements ran up the sides of the rounded walls of its prison, the container. He grinned. It was booty, full bluebottle booty, but he was not proud. Pride was a deadly sin. He drew his face closer, closer. Never had he looked so intently and never felt such nausea. The fly was twitching away, its fly-life jerking, wonky-noisy, in the jar. He woud kill it – but how? Drown it. He grinned. The justice of it pleases, he thought just like Othello. “You’re going to need to be a long-distance swimmer to get out of this one alive, mate,” he said, addressing the fly.” You know what a marathon is?” he jeered. “Well, get ready ’cos you’re the only contestant, and guess what? You’re fucking well going to lose, drown, snuff it, kaput right out of your nasty insect mortal coil! Yours is that rendezvous with drowning. Get it?” Yes, unfortunately, that is what he said, shouted at the relatively innocent bluebottle, waxing lyrical in a fulsome and foolish fashion. As if sensing the danger, the fly rose momentarily, flew badly, and settled once more. It poked a baleful face at him through the jar.
He went into the bathroom and filled the basin. Then putting the jar underwater he opened the lid. The fly immediately rose to the surface very near the white side of the sink. It struggled and got on to the straight enamel side of the basin. He stared, not knowing what to do. It crept up and then buzzing rose into the air. Like a meteor, shedding light droplets, it zoomed there in front of his astounded eyes. He grabbed a newspaper. The fly settled on the mirror. He smashed it with the paper while simultaneously delivering, “You fucking narcissist, you admirer, you think you’re a right beauty of a bottly bluebottle…” Smash, thwack. The deed was indeed done, and he stared at its entrails squashed against the mirror. He noticed with horror that the squashed fly covered a part of his face reflected in the mirror. He was not going to accept any post-mortem punishment from bluey-boy bluebottle. He tore off a clean piece of the newspaper, wiped the fly off the glass and put it down the lavatory. He checked the swirling water to make one-hundred-per-cent sure the dead insect went down the vortex. No bobbing, turd-like fly to bob back up and remind him of the deed. He screwed himself up and grinned for the second time that morning when he realised the excremental excrescence remained sewer-bound for ever after.
Two days later what seemed to be an even larger bluebottle than the one he’d killed rushed in through an open window and circled his room in a crazy, green-blue buzz. He had been trying to master Jane Austen’s ironic vision and version of the world but the fly sent eighteenth-century irony well into touch. (I bet he thought “Jiminy-cricket” or the equivalent about that -bottle. “The insect world is out to get me!”) He went right up close to it, nose near the disgusting fly, and gawped. He thought he saw the dirt on its hind legs where it had crawled in excrement on a refuse tip. The wings were nasty and the blue, black body buzzed. He rushed from the room. He’d had enough. That bad buzz got to him and like ravenous noise addled his weak brain rawly.
Obsessed, perplexed, depressed, he felt he might fall in line with a fly, and thought he heard that dreadful buzzing when there was virtual silence all over the house, thought the mirror was smeared when it was clean. When he went into any room he looked with trepidation at the walls, the windows, the lamp, expecting to see the creature that was fixating his fixation, tampering with his low and mean concentration, screening his academic dreams, and slowly driving him into a state nearing frenzy. “I wasn’t like this two months ago,” he reflected. It made him cry. “Who can help me?” he wailed to the wall.
When he was in his room, before beginning any activity, whether it was work or masturbatory play, he would sit very still and listen. When he left and then came back two seconds later, he imagined a fly had been in the room and had just flown out of the open window, but it had settled and smeared and contaminated. He took to shutting all the windows in his room and then all over the house. He got a brilliant idea one day that flies and girlie mags might well hide under his bed or in between the grim sheets of beds and books. That was it. He checked a few times and then checked his checking. He concentrated for a fiver (of minutes) till he thought he needed to check again, then naturally he went at it and checked again. And again. And. He worked slowly, painfully, lethargically, tiredly, and got nowhere. His psychiatrist, the one who out of a sense of professional duty had had a sly word with the local cops, behind his back, had given him powerful tranquillisers, sedatives, and anti-depressants. He shovelled a good few down his dry throat, then gulped a cup of warmish water to wash his helpmates down. “How much can I donate to bedlam?” he wondered. “How can I make my madness work?”
One night his mother asked, “Why are you shutting all the windows? It’s summer. It’s nearly your birthday.”
He rushed out of the door, bursting into tears. “How can she be so insensitive?” Going to his room, where all the windows were shut, he thought he saw a fly. Yes, but now it was not a fly, but it had been there, a bluebottle had crawled all over his chair, his table, it had squatted on his white sheet, and from that moment onwards he decided not to use the chair, table, sheet. Making things useless made him feel all right for an hour or two but he found, after a while, he could no longer think, and because the chair was contaminated, it might be better off out in the garden, thrown there from a first-floor window. That same night, Tabby, the local meeoow, got a powerful fright and vision of a desk chair dropping in front of a mouse it had wanted to catch, bite, play with, powerfully overpower to show who was the cat’s whiskers. In fact, the mouse too got a fright, and cat and mouse bonded for a short time, welded together by a common fear of flying objects propelled by the adolescently psychoanalysed by successful doctors unsuccessfully analysing (if you get my drift which you probably don’t but don’t worry because nothing is hardly ever explain-able). He tossed the sheet that same night but got tired and thought better of launching his heavy table.
Write a letter? He thought. No, the table, the table! Lie down, and sleep? Only if he closed everything, changed the changed sheet, inspected, checked and rechecked. He could not touch Mary for fear of contaminating her with his hands that may have accidentally touched an item in his room, touched by a fly or a -bottle he had not managed to exterminate. When he opened his Jane Austen, she did him no good whatsoever. He couldn’t concentrate. He couldn’t study.
And so the day came, and after it had come, he approached Mary and to his horror he saw his hands and arms were rubbing together, twitching and bluebottlish. His eyes popped out. They were on stops. His voice buzzed. “Get away!” he suddenly shouted at Mary. He glimpsed the real enemy, and it was her! She stared at him. She had heard, “ZZBBuzzwwhhheeeyyy!” He circled her, flying awkwardly. She had had enough, and put some miles between him and her.
A few nights later his parents found him standing motionless in the middle of the sitting-room. Quite, quite motionless. He was.
“Sit down,” his father said gently, eyeing him with trepidation. He stared and moved his arms helplessly. “Sit down,” said Dad, more firmly.
He did nothing. He could not sit down. He had no voice. He could not answer. He looked at mum and dad. “Buzz’” he said pitifully then added angrily, “buzz-BUZZ.” His mother began crying. “It’s Mary who’s done this,” she sobbed.
He walked jerkily to the door, and erratically rubbed his hands one against the other.
“It’s Mary who’s done this,”she sobbed.
After many hours, he heard the plaintive anthem once again and it was singing, love, of him.