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Black Flies Mattah!

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

May 2021

I thought New Hampshirites (is that right?) were a bit odd in their black fly pride. On several occasions after I moved here, and within minutes of meeting a new person, I was warned of the black flies that were sure to consume the state late Spring, as though New Hampshire was Egypt and Moses was trying to lead his people out of here. I wondered why this was always a “get acquainted” conversation.

I grew up in Mississippi with plenty of extreme bugs. The mosquitoes there were big enough they could easily carry away small babies, like a coyote crossing a border in liberal world. Growing up, fly paper strips hung like decorations for a surprise birthday party in people’s garages. If your grandma was like a honey badger and didn’t give a .…, that fly paper might even liven up a kitchen quite festively. So, I felt like I would be able to hold my own in this insectopia and I silently, yet foolishly, scoffed upon hearing people tell me the flies bite. “Yeah, those are horseflies.” I haughtily thought. Pride sure does go before a fall…or before a meat-eating flesh fest.

I was told on several occasions how one must spend late Spring and early Summer donning the latest head-to-toe netting fashion. “What?” I thought? “What is wrong with these people that they let a few bugs dictate what they wear?” It was like the flies were a governor, or something.

In March, I began working on a farm. The fly talk got pretty heavy there and so did my hubris. “They are flies!” I thought. “Who is afraid of flies? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Life on the farm was great and I loved getting to be outside! I loved the sheep, chickens, and the solitary duck, who has an identity crisis and thinks he’s a chicken. I loved watching things I’d planted grow into seedlings and then grow up to be sustenance sold at market.

One day, while I was weeding the asparagus, I rubbed the back of my neck with my hand. When I pulled my hand away from my neck, I saw there was blood on my fingers. “Huh?” I thought. That made no sense. Then it happened again on a different part of my neck…then on my arm. “Why are pieces of my skin missing?” I thought. “Is this a new symptom of COVID?”

The flies knew I did not believe they were as tough as the New Hampshironians (is this right?) had said and they set out to prove their powers of destruction were real. They started by taking chunks out of my upper arms and neck, making sure any new contact I made would certainly suspect I was addicted to meth.

I continued working outdoors without the latest net fashion. I was never one to have any clue about fashion, anyway, but I soon found chunks of me missing all along my hairline. Why my hairline? And why did I not feel this happening? Did these stealth vampflies want people to think my hygiene skills were inept? Whatevah! (New word I just learned.)

Sitting outside one morning, I felt something weird happen to my right eyelid. There was a brief bit of pain that quickly went away. I went to work and was talked into putting on one of those fancy net hats. (Thank God because my pride was eating me up and was allowing the flies to do the same.) By the end of the day, my boss wanted me to stick a cucumber slice on my eye to make sure the swelling went down some before I went home. “What swelling?” I had no idea. By that evening, I looked like one of those weird goldfish with the puffy head that you kind of want to pop…but it wasn’t my head. It was my eyelid. By the next morning, my right eyelid was swollen like one big blister. It didn’t hurt or itch and I was grateful that I could see just fine out of it.

At home the next morning, my cousin’s 4 year old daughter, Ivy, started the day like this:

Ivy’s mom: “Ivy, do you want to see Andi’s puffy eye?”

Ivy (who usually runs to greet me): Runs towards me and stops abruptly, looks at my face, recoils in horror, and runs to hug her mom’s leg for comfort.

I now officially scared children. It was like I was a bad clown.

I went to work but, once again, was still too stubborn to wear a net. Surely the flies were done with me. Nope! At the end of the day, my left eye was beginning to swell up and the right eyelid had a new bite on it. Apparently one of the flies thought it would be fun to try to pop my blister lid by biting it. Jerk!

I went to work the next day with both eyes swollen and blistery…and I wore a net! Not only did I scare small children now, I scared sheep and chickens and I even heard the duck quacking jokes behind my back.

I’m not sure what level of hell was opened up to let these meat-eating-demon-flies loose on humanity, but the black flies won my respect. I am happy to say I am recovering nicely with a steroid prescription, a glass of wine, and a net that will not leave my head until the dragonflies tell me it’s safe to come out. I might even start welcoming newcomers to this state by selling “Black Flies Mattah” caps with netting attached. J

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