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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

short story by David Sedaris - 'I'm actually more of a barfly'

This story took me back to when I used to study Drosophila, its exactly the type of thing we would have found hysterical. Warning: if you are weak-stomached this one is probably not for you. - MA

from the telegraph via the david sedaris fb page

The fly was at the bus station when he saw a man in a sailor suit clutch his stomach. Then he leant forward in his plastic seat and vomited onto the scuffed linoleum floor. “Son of a bitch,” the man muttered, and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I just paid $6 for that!”

There was a bathroom next to the snack bar, and as the man rose unsteadily to his feet and stumbled in its direction, the people flanking him abandoned their seats, leaving a wide berth for what looked to be an excellent meal. The fly liked a hot lunch and was just tucking in when a second fly, this one a female, flew down from the ceiling and landed on a narrow peninsula beside him. “What have we got here?” she asked.

“Chinese,” the male said.

The female picked half-heartedly at a snow pea. “Ten will get you 20 it’s from the Shanghai Garden,” she told him. “I had their pork lo mein once and was in the rest room for two days.”

“Well, I don’t mind it,” the male said, and he moved from a beef chunk to a sliver of ginger. “If you don’t like ethnic, there are some potato chips in here too. And a grilled cheese sandwich.”

“What kind of cheese?” the female asked. “If it’s American, you can have it.”

“Suit yourself,” the male said.

“By law, they shouldn’t even be calling it cheese, that’s how tasteless and full of chemicals it is.” The female glanced into a slick of digestive juices and saw her face multiplied a hundredfold, scowling back at her. “Anyway, when it comes to regurgitated food, you really need to consider the source — the class of person or dog or whatever. Take the lieutenant governor and his family, for example, whom I happen to know quite intimately.”

“Do you?” the male said. He had no idea what a lieutenant governor was, but out of politeness he made himself sound interested, the way he did when someone spoke about computers or yoga.

“Oh yes,” said the female. “Why, I was practically raised at Old Stoney, which is what they call their summer home on the lake. The lieutenant governor’s wife – Khaki, to her friends — is two months pregnant, though that’s strictly on the QT, at least until the formal announcement is made.

“She suffers from the most terrible morning sickness, and her vomit is outstanding, better than normal spoiled food, in my opinion!”

“You don’t say,” said the fly.

“Her faeces were good as well, at least what I could get of them,” the female continued. “Like most people of good breeding, Khaki uses a toilet, but then some horrible journalist wrote that she’d had a cocaine problem in college, so she defecated into a shoebox. The plan was to mail it to him at the newspaper, and while she pieced together a note I swooped in for a quick taste.”


“Excellent,” the female said. “The best faeces I’ve ever had. Almost like dessert.”

The fly pointed in the direction of the departure board. “If it’s sweet you’re after, there’s a bit of jam smeared on that handrail over near the front door. I also saw a peach pit on the ground next to the trash can.”

“I meant inherently sweet, spiritually sweet,” the female said. “It’s a quality the lieutenant governor’s wife has in spades. As has Monica Van Landingham.”

The fly looked at her blankly.

“The actress? Monica Van Landingham? Winner of two Spotlight Awards?”

“Sorry,” confessed the fly.

“Well, she’s a very important person,” the female told him. “Extremely important. We met when she was an overnight guest at Old Stoney — not more than five days ago, it was. There was a fund-raising ball for the upcoming election. Miss Van Landingham’s shoes were too tight, so of course she developed a blood blister and of course it popped on the brand-new ottoman the moment she returned to her room to put her poor swollen feet up. I tried to clean it off before she noticed, but she’s quick, Miss Van Landingham. Observant too, so I got no more than five or six mouthfuls before she dabbed at it with soap and water. That did nothing to get the blood out, so in the end she blamed it on the lieutenant governor’s dog, Chocolate Chip, which may seem dishonest but isn’t, really, seeing as he may as well have done it. It’s such a common breed, the Jack Russell.” She picked at a bit of onion. “I can’t believe you don’t know who Monica Van Landingham is.”

“I’m actually more of a barfly,” the male told her. “Certain sports figures I could maybe recognise, but otherwise I don’t have a clue.” He wanted to add that he didn’t care either. Life was short — with luck, you had maybe 30 days — so what did it matter whose crap you were eating? The same was true for vomit and blood blisters: just eat and shut up about it, for God’s sake.

“Perhaps you’ve seen Miss Van Landingham on TV, then,” the female said. “Not on a commercial — she’d never stoop so low — but on the news. You might think that’s odd for an actress, but she has opinions — important ones. Just last week, to give you an example, she came out against breast cancer — told the world, 'Hey, I think it’s a bad idea!’”

“Well, that’s great,” the fly said.

“Call me crazy, but I’m against it too,” the female announced. “I’m against breast cancer and drunk driving and the one where kids in other countries get their feet blown off. And it’s not just my association with Khaki and Miss Van Landingham — I’d be against these things anyway.”

On the other side of the room, a door opened, and from it stepped a janitor with a mop in a rolling bucket. “Just my luck,” muttered the fly, and he quickened his pace while monitoring the man’s progress.

“Tonight there’s a benefit for people who can’t count,” the female told him. “It’s black tie, and everyone will be there. Everyone important anyway. I’m just waiting until it begins.” She paused. “That’s not an invitation, mind you. I just figured you were wondering what someone like me was doing at the bus station.”

“That, I was,” said the fly, and he watched over her head as the janitor lifted his mop. “Especially someone like you, with American cheese stuck to her chin.”

“Oh my God,” said the female. “How long has it been there?” She dipped her front legs into a puddle of grease, and just as she’d begun to wash her face, the mop came down, and the fly took off for the other side of the room, where a woman in a straw hat had placed an uncovered Tupperware dish upon her suitcase. He parked himself on the NO SMOKING sign above her head, and watched while the janitor ruined a perfectly good meal.

As for the female, he wasn’t going to waste any time feeling guilty. Constant vigilance — that was a fly’s motto, and woe be to anyone who let her attention waver, no matter how good-looking she was. He had to give the female that, at least. She had been pretty. If she’d known how to keep her trap shut, he might have upped her to beautiful, but wasn’t that always the way with the ladies? For every good quality they possessed, there were two bad ones just waiting to be discovered.

The male waited another few seconds, and when the woman below shut her eyes for a nap, he moved a bit closer and saw that what she’d set atop her suitcase was pie. Blueberry, and almost an entire slice. A fellow could spend the rest of his life eating a thing like this. He might not finish it — might not even come close — but neither would he grow tired of it, the way he might of vomit or rot or even fresh faeces. Such succulent bounty, and all of it for him! The fly was rubbing his hands together, just preparing to tuck in, when he heard a familiar voice and looked up to see the female. “Talk about a close call!” she said, and she shook a bead of mop water off her wing. “Now, where was I?”

As the fly bit glumly into his favourite filling, she positioned herself in a sunbeam and resumed her monologue from the vantage point of the upper crust.

* This story, 'Vomit-Eating Flies’, will be published in the paperback edition of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (Abacus) next year. Read an interview with David Sedaris in He will be appearing at the Telegraph Hay Festival on Monday at 4pm

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