Dear Dirty America


Flies In Your Salad

Flies In Your Salad
June 24
06:16 2014

Los Angeles

You could almost see the fresh dog turds steaming. They were coiled on the sidewalk like deluxe chocolate yogurt from one of the local healthy desserts shops. From the bench, I watched the flies swarm. How they all knew about it, and so fast, is truly a testament to the advanced kingdom of insects.

HouseflyThe turds became like the landing zone of a busy airport. Flies buzzed in circles over the brown logs, waiting for clearance to land. From my vantage point, the system they’d set up seemed fair. Plenty for every insect, but patience was necessary. It was a busy moment, but not as busy as the conversation two women were having at a quaint outdoor table only about six feet from my bench.

“You will not believe what I’m about to tell you,” the younger of the two said. She had her blond hair pulled back loosely like curtains beside her pallid face, and goofy glasses that obscured her eyes, eyebrows, and upper cheekbones. “It’s just about the greatest story on earth.”

I listened closely. Eavesdropping is not my primary objective when I sit on the Larchmont benches, but I am not opposed to hearing stories that might rival the best in Western civilization’s canon. What could top the Iliad? Or Milton’s Paradise Lost? I was about to find out. Did the girl go a-whalin’?

“So I celebrated my 24th birthday in Sydney, Australia,” the girl continued. Her older companion, who had a few more wrinkles around her eyes, which were not covered by shades, nodded. She picked at her salad, but kept her gaze on those bug-eye sunglasses of her friend.

The younger woman also chomped on a salad, but she’d stopped since prefacing her story. She held her fork in mid-swipe. There was drama in that passive action alone. I felt myself drawn in, and couldn’t wait for the rest of the tale. “That was a blast,” she continued. “Clubs, lots of free drinks, gorgeous tanned boys.”

“Aussie men are the hottest,” the older companion mentioned.

“They are so wild,” the girl said. “But that’s not the best part. I had to catch a flight very early that morning, and by the time I flew into LAX, I realized,” she said, pausing, “that it was still my birthday because of the time change. So I celebrated it all over again in Hollywood.”

I patiently waited for the greatest story on earth to develop, but the women stopped chatting at that point and stabbed at their piles of lettuce.

A homeless man stumbled toward us. His is a frequent twisted face around Larchmont Village, and every time I’ve given him a couple of dollars, I could detect alcohol on his breath. He shuffled by without noticing me.

The women looked friendly enough, he must have thought. “May I interrupt for a moment to ask for a little spare change?” he asked them. I couldn’t be sure exactly what he said, though, as his words were garbled from a tongue too loosened by drink and sounds unrestrained by his toothless gums.

“We’re trying to eat here,” the older woman said, wheeling around in her seat and craning her neck.

The man stepped backward. His left foot swung dangerously close by the wet dog shit, still covered with flies. Lucky for him, his tattered boot missed the mark. But it was too close for the flies. With a collective buzz they blasted out in all directions.

Some immediately circled back to the mother lode. Others blitzed drunkenly in semi-circles above the heads of the two women eating Vegetable_Saladtheir salads. You can’t blame a common housefly for getting distracted. Rather than zipping back to the again-crowded turds, I watched two of the tiny black beasts crawl along the rim of the plate in front of the younger woman. She was chewing slowly and glaring at the homeless man, or so I presumed from the direction of her glasses.

The fly quickly hopped onto a sliced cherry tomato. Another fly landed on the rim of her glass, which held a pink liquid. I stood to tell the ladies. There are flies in your salad, I was going to say. And it won’t be enough to brush them away. These flies are especially foul. You should reconsider taking another bite from those plates!

I raised a hand to interject, and also to place a hand on the back of the homeless man so he didn’t squash the filthy mess with his heel. He was undaunted, though, by the older woman’s repudiation. He held out his hand to her companion and sniffled. From that angle, I could see one of his eyeballs was higher on his face than the other. A distressing facial feature that might have had something to do with his lowly plight on earth, and in our current society.

“Uh,” the younger woman said, holding out the sound. “We’re trying to have a conversation here. We don’t need to be bothered.”

The homeless man seemed to consider her words for a moment. He took a wobbly step away from the table and moved along, leaving me standing near the table with a hand out and one finger pointed between the dames.

Fair enough! I thought. Nobody wants to be bothered while dining out on a pleasant afternoon and telling the greatest stories on earth. The woman brushed away a couple of flies that teetered on the brim of her glass.

I trailed behind the homeless man for a block before I stepped in front of him and handed him two dollars. I’d rolled them up for some reason. The man grasped the money like a metal claw in a vending machine. He rubbed the bills with thumb and forefinger until he saw the two 1s.

I smiled when he looked up at me. His askew eyes bulged out from beneath his forehead, so I concentrated on the bridge of his nose.

“Well, that ain’t enough,” he mumbled, stuffing the bills into his pocket.

Well, I suppose not, I said, and patted him on the back.

[photo of flies on turd; salad photo by Sharon Gefen]


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1 Comment

  1. Poetic
    Poetic June 24, 20:12

    I particularly like the way the flies seem drawn to the women’s words like wholesome provender. Their empty exchange falls like loose dung out of lipglossed holes.

    Reply to this comment

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