Flies DO Get Dizzy

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Yesterday Emily wrote about her youthful and painful experimentation with bees.

It triggered some fond and happy childhood memories of me as a budding entomologist eagerly conducting my own insecticide experiments.

But in my case, it wasn't with bees. It was a matter of supply and demand, you see, and there was one species in particular that we had no shortage of on our South African bushveld farm:

The Musca Domestica, more widely known in plain English as your common, germ-infested, house fly.

Before you call PETA on me, allow me to blame someone else explain: It was all my one sister's fault.

One weekend, when she was home from boarding school, she told me that she had learned a magic trick, and that she was going to teach it to me too.

I was immediately suspicious. Such generosity to share something with me, especially something as powerful and valuable as knowledge of magic tricks... well, that was as unheard of and as uncharacteristic of my sister as snow in a South African December.

I mean, after all, this was the same sister who had threatened to slowly, painfully torture me in ways that hadn't even been invented yet if I had dared to come anywhere near her "Doctor's Kit," a case filled with all sorts of fascinating, irresistible treasures like a toy stethoscope, a white plastic apron with a red cross on the front, and a thermometer.

If I had been allowed near her prized Doctor's Kit, and if I had any nerve to boot, I would've used that same toy thermometer to check her fever right there.

Instead, and without launching into the usual questions ("Will I get hurt?" "Could I get into trouble?" "Will you swear not to tell Mom and Dad?"), I responded without hestitation and said: "Okay!"

She smiled. "Well, of course I'd have to show it to you first, before I can teach it to you."

I suddenly regretted that I didn't take the time to ask the check-list personal safety and security questions before agreeing to anything. Because after having a few extra moments to think about it - AND taking my sister's unusual eagerness to show me ANYTHING of value into consideration, and for believing that it would be free of charge or consequence - I suddenly remembered some of the magic shows I had seen on television. And, lurking just beneath those pleasant memories of an endless stream of colourful hankerchiefs being pulled from a sleeve and fluffy rabbits being pulled from top hats, I suddenly also remembered scary things, like vanishing maidens and smoke and fire...

Since I knew that I couldn't possibly outrun my sister, I wanted to get that all-important verbal agreement that she wasn't going to hurt me. But instead of asking her, I resigned myself to my inevitable fate and mumbled: "As long as you promise that you're not going to saw me in half or anything."

She laughed, a little too loudly: "No man. Don't be daft."

And as I was still busy breathing my sigh of relief, things took a turn for the worst when she said: "Now, I just need you to get me a few things. A glass filled with water, a saucer with salt on it. And a fly."

"Only salt on the sau..? Wait a minute. Did you just say 'a fly'?"

"Yes. A fly." I could see that her patience was wearing a bit thin. "Oh, and the fly needs to be alive, so when you swat it, do it just hard enough to temporarily disable it so that you're able to catch it."

I went over the list of things in my mind: glass of water, plate with salt on it, a fly, alive but unconscious for the most part... and it's around then that something occurred to me and I started wailing at the top of my lungs: "WHAAAAAAAA! YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE ME EAT A FLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

At first she was amused, then, realising that my parents were probably going to come and investigate the commotion I was making, she hissed: "Look, now you ARE being daft, and if you don't stop screaming soon I'm not going to show you ANY tricks."

When that wasn't enough to calm me down, she added: "If you don't stop screaming with your mouth wide open like that, you might soon enough find out for yourself just what fly meat tastes like."

THAT shut me up.

After I had cooled off a bit, I ran to the kitchen to grab the salt, the saucer, the glass of water and the fly swatter.

In another unexpected benevolent act, my sister decided it would speed the operation up considerably if she took the fly hunting part of it upon herself. She was right, because I had barely poured the salt into the saucer when she was back with a dazed-looking fly trapped in a jar.

What I learned next kept me entertained for the rest of that year and made me highly respected and feared at school... Well, at least until the novelty had worn off and everyone else knew how to perform the "magic" trick themselves.

My sister dropped the dizzy fly into the glass and pushed it under the water with her fingers where she held it for a few seconds.

"You have to make sure that it has drowned and that it is dead. See? Like this," she said as she scooped the fly, indeed looking very lifeless and bedraggled with its drenched wings, from the water.

She opened my uncertain hand, dropped the fly into my palm, folded my hand shut around it and told me to shake it as vigorously as I could. I was SO afraid that she was still going to push the dead fly into my mouth and down my throat at any moment, that I decided it was in my best interest to do as she said, even though I very much wanted to know why I was doing it and whether all the shaking wouldn't be enough to wake it up. Instead, though, I remained quiet and proceeded to shake that fly around with all of my might.

"Now for the true magic," my sister said as she, with theatrical flourish, took the still motionless fly from me and dropped it into the saucer of salt.

"Watch," she said, as if I hadn't been paying close enough attention all along.

She gently rolled the fly through the salt with her finger. "Ladies and Gentleman," she said very solemnly in her pretend grown-up voice. "Earlier today you all witnessed the certain death of this fly."

She looked at me, her captive audience member, searching my face for confirmation.

I confirmed with a vigourous nod.

"Well, then, ladies and gentlemen. Now I need you all to remain very quiet because what I am about to do is going to demand the greatest concentration."

Still unsure about my own well-being and afraid to attract any more attention to myself, I was only too happy to oblige.

"You see, ladies and gents. Today, for your viewing pleasure, I'm going to..." here she gave a dramatic pause: "I'm going to REVIVE THIS FLY! Yes, indeed. I'm going to resurrect this dead fly!"

Almost right at that moment, the salt took effect and the fly got up and began to move on wobbly legs, stumbling through the salt for a few moments before taking off and flying!

"And look, ladies and gentlemen! Because my assistant shook it," (I was ecstatic about my unexpected promotion) she said, "You'll now witness that the fly is dizzy and flying a bit erratically."

And so it did! There was this fly, flying about like a regular drunk, well on its way towards freedom and, I firmly believed, the beginning of its second life...


martha said:

oh Red - you fly torturer you! I'm not sure I can speak with you anymore... jk. That's a pretty cool trick though - how's it work?

emily said:

Ohhhh. Neat. Now I'm going to have to try that.

deeleea said:

Wouldnt you know it... I am the big sister... I totally taught my siblings this amazing magic too...

Thanks for the reminder! Got to teach some kids, and you know that there are plenty of flies Down Under.

M said:

Cool trick! How does it work?

kdeweb said:

Now I know what everyone else was doing while I was inside reading about politics.

To each his or her own geekdom!

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)


  • kdeweb : Now I know what everyone else was doing while I was inside reading about politics. To each his or h... [go]
  • M : Cool trick! How does it work?... [go]
  • deeleea : Wouldnt you know it... I am the big sister... I totally taught my siblings this amazing magic too...... [go]
  • emily : Ohhhh. Neat. Now I'm going to have to try that.... [go]
  • martha : oh Red - you fly torturer you! I'm not sure I can speak with you anymore... jk. That's a pretty cool... [go]
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