I Remember Ezra and the Flies

Pierrino Mascarino

The old lady sat out on her bare wood porch up in Montecito Heights of Los Angeles, rocking in an ancient wood rocker, the rocker runners squeaking on the floor boards, back and forth, squawk and squeak. She held a Styrofoam coffee cup in one very wrinkly hand with long yellowed nails, and was sucking thoughtfully on a snuff lump that protruded in her lower lip.

"Started off,” she began, “didn’t have nuthin’, me and Ezra, rest in peace, just flies and coyotes. And I hated both of them."

Squawk, squeak.

“But we had noble big flies and I loved my Ezra, may perpetual light shine upon his beautiful soul. All my life been around flies, like most folks have, flies is everywhere people is. But smart Ezra, my former husband, rest in peace, I’m a widow woman now and I learned: there’s a world of different kinds wherever you go, people and flies. Here in Montecito Heights, people’s shallow and cruel, hate each other. This is unfriendliest place I ever lived."

A large green bottle fly perched, moving in little jerks, on the porch's gray banister.

"But Ezra took and told me, 'You and me Beulah, we been given flies and coyotes. Let’s see what our Christian ingenuity can do with them; we'll take God’s gifts and glorify His name. Glory be to God.”

Squawk, squeak.

“So Ez first put out coyote traps, that's when we lived over in those white topped mountains you see over there, far away, snow still on them. Had him a trap line for coyotes, there’s so many up there in the mountains, and he used the coyote carcasses for fly food. Now that's become a violation of the Lacey Act. Come to think of it, yes, it'd be more of a public service to grind up the Barney Frank type politicians that think up these infantile laws that they can't enforce, and shouldn't enforce and cost people so much money. Bankrupted the whole weeping state of California and making the citizenry flee to other states. Raising and raising our taxes ‘til they empty the state, just gonna be foreigners running around here. Anyways, Ezra had him a big meat grinder in those days in the mountains, jammed the coyotes in—guts, fur, and all—and they'd come outta the grinder, coyote hamburger. Wonder what Barney Frank’d look like if you ground him up? Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger? That very bad actor, gosh he's spoiled a lotta movies for me. Probably not near as good lookin’ hamburger as the coyotes.”

Squawk, squeak.

“Coyote hamburger might have a tooth or a claw here or there with specs of white bone bits and pieces of gray hair, but very little fat. Barney burger would be very fatty.”

"So you think," I asked, "Barney's not helping the country any?"

She shook her head thinking of some particular point of wisdom. "'That's the whole thing with flyraisin’. Ezra, rest in peace, always said, ‘do it economic.’ Can't cost you much feeding the flies or you'll cut into your fly-selling profits."

Squawk, squeak.

Here she found herself a small paper church fan that was stapled on a flat stick ontop of the peeled paint table by her chair, with a polychrome of The Last Supper on it. She spit some brown snuff juice into her white Styrofoam cup.

“Ever notice how grasshoppers spit up brown juice just like they been dipping snuff? Anyways, Ez advertized and I took and told him, ‘They gonna haul you away to loony land advertizing disgusting maggots!’ But he surprised a dickens right outta me. Ez did right well with flies, sold outta maggots from those coyote-eating flies, big munching maggots, you know, lot more impressive; bigger than just your house green bottles. They was powerful looking things, good for animal feed, bigger than your blue bottles or orange bottles; all these here common flies."
She pointed to the still perched, green bottle on the peeling porch railing, "Giant fly maggots sold for a handsome premium and Ezra generally had more fly maggot customers than maggots. Me, in those days, I was hoping we could put little cash aside from those fly sales. We live in His glory.”

Squawk, squeak.

The ancient apostolic multitude on her waving fan moved back and forth across her face and she spit a grasshopper-brown bit of snuff juice in the cup. She seemed lost for a moment, visualizing a period of past prosperity, while fanning herself with The Last Supper. I watched her, alternately seeing Judas with his knocked over cup, Christ, already with anachronistic sacred wounds of the crucifixion in his hands, even at The Last Supper; Peter, bald and animated; bearded Matthew; Mark, Luke, and young John on various fan waves.

“So there's money in flies," she went on, "if you know how, and if you got the customers. Show you how green me and Ez was at first, us starting up raising those flies. Ez was sticking puny little cottage cheese cups with Ralph Supermarket liver outside and flies oviposited on that maroon dark liver. Little cream-colored eggs that would stand out. I had to learn that word, ‘oviposit.’ Means lay their eggs there, beautiful little neat flat rows of cream-colored, delicate fly eggs. They really do a nice job, in a precise little row. There’s beauty in a mess of freshly laid little fly eggs. Nowadays a prodigy of folk are raising up hobby predator bugs and invertebrates. Scolopendra gigantia, those giant centipedes, foot long, of course. The Scolopendra'll eat frogs, mice, not the adults but the young, even subadults’ll take maggots. Folks need something tangible in their lives to epitomize how they're being sucked dry by politicians, just watching Barney Frank or Chris Dodd seizing and draining the treasury, the poor need some palpable relief."

Squawk, squeak.

Greedy Judas, smiling falsely, winked at me on this fan wave.

“Incidentally," she said, "very clean insects, flies, spite of the fact they got a bad reputation for dirtiness from walking on decay. But you never seen an animal clean his feet, wash his entire legs—couldn't even get Ezra’s children to wash that much, their hands and feet.
A fanatic fly'll wash his whole body ten times a day, wash great big red eyes—ever seen how beautiful those eyes are? That's one of the joys of life looking at the micro world; it'll give you relief from the macro world.”

She paused again, sucking on the snuff thoughtfully. “For instance, those fly eye pin cushions are a wonder. They rubbery, flexible, and the flies work'em round on their eye stalks, scrubbing them with their tarsi, cleaning those little million lenses all glittering in multiple flashes like pavĂ© jewels on that big half-a-tomato shaped eye cushion. They grab it, pull it over to they mouth, wash it off real good using fly spit to clean themselves.

"I always envied those flies with their pretty flashing eyes. Presents quite a contrast to the ghastly ugliness of the native humanoid infestation up here in vicious Montecito Heights, this here's the worst part of Los Angeles. The Montecito Heights Improvement Association is just a nasty talking shop to vilify your neighbors.”

Squawk, squeak. Spit. The Last Supper fan had the legend, "Barefoot Funeral Home" printed on its back.

“Imagine the portable convenience of having you a mouth and spit to take a bath in whenever you wanted. They tell me that spit has wonderful cleansing qualities. Never tried it. Of course the fly's got lots to wash using his front metatarsals and back legs—washes hisself and all his extremities. Wisht to goodness humans was half so spiritually clean. My Lord and my God, are people filthy? With all of their Nordstrom perfumes they put on all the stinking parts of their body? And then the lying filth coming outta they mouths and the rotten deeds: I saw one of the Montecito Heights Improvement Association nasties run over a terrapin turtle down there on Griffin Avenue, here at the bottom of Montecito Drive. He just left him there, a little basin of blood, his poor little split carapace busted wide open. You could see his little heart going in there and his intestines, and him laying in that hot, roasting blacktop road, still very much alive, suffering there in the sun getting hit again and again. Still strong and breathing but in terrible pain and all these pious Animal Wrongs, ootsie-tootsie cat and dog people up here, that appear at their Montecito Heights Improvement Association meetings just went by the poor suffering beast down there on Griffin, driving snootily by in they BMW Mercedes, and only me down there on my bicycle would stopt to relieve that poor split open suffering chelonian.”

“These people eat and drink hypocrisy,” I said, watching the fanning apostle of Peter’s face, which now appeared to be weeping as the fan went by.

Squawk, squeak. Spit.

“Course, to cheer you up in this dismal world, there’s that bright apple green fly chiton, beautiful, deep, rich iridescent reflecting green—dare you to find anything in nature so beautiful as the emerald and grass green chiton on a fly’s brilliant abdomen and they do—boy howdy, shine it up with their back legs and fly spit. Be a world revolution if the people of Montecito shined up their nasty souls thataway.”

Squawk, squeak. Spit.

“Don't think I'll be making converts to the beauty of flies. Flies and maggots was the sound basis of our marriage, not to mention all the sweet loving things Ez did for me, and now, Ezra's gone, may he rest in peace. I still love those flies, always have some on hand, to feed my spiders.
I moved from flies to spiders after Ez passed. Oh the fun he and me had finding bugs to sell and lovely things to do together, my Ezra man was so gentle and sweet. And, God give me peace, I miss him."

Squawk, squeak. Spit.

"So now I keep my beautiful tarantulas, once you begin getting the bug point of view you just pass from the one bug to the other. Baby tarantulas love maggots and seize them in their chelicerae and even older tarantulas, Cyclosternum fasciata, that beautiful orange and black hollaween looking spider from South America? Lord God, what a glory they are, they'll take maggots and you can save yourself money. ‘Course Bill O’Reilly on the Fox news don’t think anybody should keep any invertebrates for their delectation and joy. Thinks all six-legged creatures are bad and oughta be killed and the people that love them put in jail.”

Squawk, squeak. Spit.

“So flies are God’s bounteous harvest in the air. Give glory to His name. Speaking of flies now I remember I came into a pile of money when my Papa died and I tripped for a vacation to see the world all the way down to Baja California. Was years ago now, went on a Greyhound to the San Isidro border and then on the Mexican Greyhound to the desert tip of Old California during a wet spring. Too dangerous now down there because of the rotten Mexican Vincente Fox government. Lopez Mateos, Miguel Aleman, and Vincente Fox done ruinated their own country and now they sendin’ all the people they gypped up here to dirty and destroy this one.

"But me setting in that Mexican Greyhound bus back then, seeing that desert spring fairy land going by--I was just so eye-blinded by all that beauty. I finally just went up front to that Spanish bus driver and made ‘go-to-the-toilet signs’ to him, universal language to let me out right now, got down outta that bus into that still moist spring desert and full of a million flowers and wonderful and curious creatures, Phasmids those long white bellied walking sticks with their segmented abdonmen stomachs? Bus driver was waitin’ back there but I kept waving him off, him honking his horn at me, while I'm looking at magenta and indigo blue click beetles, so beautiful make your legs shiver. Up ‘til then I'd never been anywhere to really see the God's blessed world until I got Papa’s money.

"But whiles I was walking through all them cactus, over the hill—that bus finally left me—I smelt a rotten liver smell and it was suddenly blanketing the landscape, whole air molecules had rotted and turned green. You know, fly appetite smell. Mind you know rotting smells don’t bother me much, but this here Mexican rot was so strong it was ringing a loud fly dinner bell that was heard by Mexican flies from PopocatĂ©petl to Yucatan and Mexicali. International flies they was, calling them down from Canada; odor so thick it was saggin’ the tree branches and sliming the rocks, wilting the cactus—give glory to God’s name.”

The old lady now became very animated with her hyperbole. She began to wave her long wrinkled arms, gesturing with her spit cup, stopping her rocking and rising up off the back of the rocking chair for a moment in spirited recollection, then settling back down again.

Squawk, squeak. Spit.

“So I'm out there looking ‘round for whatever's causing this prodigy of rot and I finally hear a humming and foller the humming and Lordy, there, half hid in garlands of high weeds is a ponderous creature’d expired, making a mountain a fly food.

"My Ez couldn’t never even a gotten it into his coyote grinder. It was right there by that Mexican road, just like that poor Griffin Avenue dying terrapin turtle, but this one was already decomposing. Dead gas swelled up to twice her life size, a disbanded livestock cow, belly blowed up to the size of a Zepplin and that fly-delicious gaseous distention leaking out, attracting black, sun hiding clouds of 500 billion flies, and me just off the Mexican Greyhound, still coming up on this dark cow corpse but already hearing a sound from it, a eating sound, a larval mastication, a munching, burbly crunching of an innumerable number of creatures eating in concert, eating the cow out from the inside. Glory be to God, eating on this gassed up, dead rotting cow, and me seeing a huge overflow, a white maggot river, a brilliant gush of squirmy, snow white, writhing maggots spilling outta the black perforated cow’s hide onto the ground right there. Big maggots like Ez’s great big flies, right out onto the ground. This here was the pitiful cow beast's last pregnancy, this million-headed, writhing maggot calf inside her, now eating its way through her dead body’s wall, making her cow’s hide restless, rippling up and down with little moving bumps of migrating gas and maggots, ruminating underneath the old cow's black cow fur. Her whole old body was moving inside itself in a second life of decay—halleluiah to glory—resurrected, praise glory, living again underneath with gas ripples, and her multi-mouth maggot calf had already ate right through and was birthing, spilling itself out onto the ground amongst God’s green grass."

Squawk, squeak.

“A green lynx spider—really big one, much bigger than the green lynxs we got here—was snapping at the maggots, hungry, carrying her little white egg sac. Lime green, beautiful little creature with that heavy tumid egg sac underneath her cepholothorax, sucking out maggots for food. Wisht Ez could have been there. Every time I see a fly now I remember him.”

Squawk, squeak.

© 2009 Pierrino Mascarino. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Pierrino Mascarino has been published in The Linnet’s Wings, The Beat, Bartleby Snopes, Darkest Before Dawn, and the Dry Bones Anthology. He's also published the print quarterly Invertebrata, the instructional novella, My Aunt Rose, and played the title role in the award winning movie, Uncle Nino. He has appeared on National Television many times, winning the
Dramalogue Award in Los Angeles twice. He attended St. Anthony’s Grammar School in Atlanta, Georgia. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California.