Killing Flies

by Rosaleen Lynch

“I heard a fly buzz – when I died”

Emily Dickinson


My father begins killing flies the morning my mother dies, he hits out with the book he’s reading her, blindly smashes about, opens the windows and doors to let them fly out and when they’re gone, dead or flown, he leaves the house in search of more, the book, broken-spined and limp, face-down on the floor while out back, in the refuse block, he kicks the metal dustbins, lifts lids, swats flies as they rise, does the same to neighbour’s bins, and when Mr Blake asks him what he’s doing, my father says providing a service, ridding the area of pestilence, but our neighbour tells him to let it be, it’s better out than in and Father looks up at the window of mother’s room but doesn’t see us there, as we watch him turn away and leave our end of the cul-de-sac, to march down the drive towards the main road where cars swat by and then he’s gone and we imagine him jumping in the stream of traffic, as the flow slows for him, and he slows to still, and becalmed he floats, in the middle of the road, until Ms Dickinson rolls down the window, to ask if he’s okay, and how mother is and he brushes a fly away in the air, wades after it and she thinks it’s a wave, as he’s crossing to the other side where the fly smacks fast against the clear glass of the Chip Shop window then crawls the ‘C’, of the red and gold vinyl lettering, before flying round the side towards the bins, and Mr Golding, white paper forage capped, spots my father passing the burnt out bike, a stack of worn lorry and tractor tyres, heading for the bulk wheely bins in back and calls out, ‘What the hell you doing Jack?’ and Father replies, ‘Killing flies,’ and Mr Golding says ‘Right,’ with a salute, ‘As you are, soldier’ and he scoops another serving of chips into the waiting funnel of paper, another window framing my father’s battle with the flies until that war is won and my father follows the main road out of town, to the county council dump where the cranes, diggers and dumpers are done, so no one sees him there, but seagulls, sky and maybe some flies and no one knows what happens there under the cover of that night, and first light he joins us in mother’s bed to read the book aloud once more, and when he’s finished the last words of the last page, he picks up the bedside phone, he says, to call upon the appropriate authorities, ones who have read all the books with this story who will tell him what will happen next and what he must do now our mother’s gone and it’s when he clicks the phone down, in the quiet, I remember I heard a fly buzz when she died.


Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London with words in lots of lovely places and can be found on Twitter @quotes_52 and