The Secret to Living in Peace
I have, from time to time, considered that I would make a good, tree-hugging, animal-welfare-advocating, ecology-embracing, law-abiding, peace-loving hippie. Alas, I was born too late, so I must work with what I have. Karma helps me.
I think that Karma follows me around, just to see what I will make about this born too late thing. I am tempted to think that Karma arranges for bizarre holidays, like the International Day of Non-Violence, just to test my hippie resolve.
One October, not too long after I discovered this holiday, I wanted to gather my children around me and together, we would organize our own peaceful sit-in. I would have had to utilize duct tape to accomplish this, but I figured it would be okay. The makers of duct tape had a roll decorated in rainbow peace designs. I would use that design to strap them, cross-legged, to big cushy pillows. It would lend more to the non-violent atmosphere than, say, the roll that was decorated in skulls and crossbones. Anything in the name of peace. In my head I envisioned clouds of incense, gently flickering white candles, the soothing sounds of a wooden flute or acoustic guitar.
I did not envision the flies.
You see, at that time we lived in a small house in North Middletown. At the house, there was a front door. At the front door, there were mysterious swarms of flies. They must have been drawn there by all the peacefulness and the happy vibes. Or maybe Karma sent them to help me. I grew up on a farm. I know where flies prefer to hang out before they land on my kitchen table, or rest on a picture frame, or touch my arm. It would be very difficult to truly contemplate the depths of non-violence with flies buzzing around. Flies who do not understand the importance of washing their nasty little feet before they touch my stuff.
So a week or so before the planned sit in, I began the habit of spending a good fifteen minutes each evening hunting flies. No one was allowed in or out of the front door. The children were required to shout out fly sightings. I sat in plain sight, brandished my bright yellow fly swatter, sipped a cup of steaming hot coffee, and waited.
On a Wednesday evening, I set up my post. Anna practiced her flute in the living room.
Within a space of ten minutes, I had killed six flies. I thought that if I moved their squashed bodies into a pile, it would serve as a warning. Ancient headhunters placed impaled body parts on stakes to ward off intruders, right? For an added emphasis, each time I made a kill, I counted out loud. Somehow, that was a bad thing. It increased a strange thirst inside. A thirst I didn’t know I possessed.
At one point, Anna came and admired my pile of fly corpses. She looked at me. I smiled at her, much like a child who has just created a masterpiece on the living room wall with a permanent marker. Anna shook her head and turned to practice her flute again. Except that she got distracted by the spider. Simultaneously, Karma strolled by the house, peeked in the window and assessed the situation. It listened to our conversation. It watched us. It counted the fly corpses.
“Oh Mama! There’s a freaky, weird spider. Kill it!” Anna cried out in distress and pointed to that tight corner where the ceiling meets the wall.
I was drunk on violence and the thrill of the swat. I didn’t, for one moment, stop to consider that spiders catch and eat flies. It never occurred to me that allowing the spider a chance to live would be a more peaceful, more natural end to the flies.
With death implement in hand, I deep-squatted. My muscles were tightened springs of sinewy strength. I launched upward.
Much like when I skewered my forehead with a c-clamp, it took me a moment to feel the effects of my obvious faux pas. When I did, I crumpled to the kitchen floor. I didn’t even try to suppress the expletive that burst from my mouth.
Violence begets violence, indeed. Fueled on a murderous, adrenaline-soaked ego rush, I not only sprang upward, but forward, thrusting my thigh right into the sharp corner of the rolling kitchen cart that had been in that exact spot for almost two years. This time, it didn’t roll. Karma had chocked the wheels.
Anna rushed to my side, and then ran for the peroxide and bandages. It took me a while to peel the skin off the inside of my shorts. The resulting bruise remained for a month.
While I healed, I cancelled the non-violent sit-in and wrote apology letters to all flies everywhere. In the silence of my kitchen, I heard Karma’s belly laugh. Apparently, October is also Sarcastic Month.