Al Batt: ‘WHAP!’ There was a flyswatter in the ointment

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It was a fly year.

Al Batt

It was hot and humid, and the flies were sticky. Flies were left, right and center.

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I’d finished a gig of telling stories at a fair.

People had been milling about, but now there was a lull. Feeling peckish, I procured a malt and looked for shade. I found it where wooden cable spools acted as tables and looked like the yo-yos of a fee-fi-fo-fum-sized giant. “Need a place to park your carcass?” asked a fellow the size of the better part of a barn. I sat down on a weak-kneed chair next to him. It offered little comfort, but was the safest ride at the fair. I grew up near a village too small to have enough chairs to be a sitty. I smiled the smile of someone who had a strawberry malt.

“What are you up to?” I asked.

“If I told you, I’d be lying. What do you have there?” he asked.

I told him it was a malt. It’s difficult to look dignified while eating fair fare.

“It doesn’t look like a malt. It’s not chocolate.”

I explained I didn’t favor chocolate.

“Well, it takes all kinds,” he said.

He had a boot on his foot. I asked him what it was for. He replied it was a deductible, copay and coinsurance.

I noticed he held a promotional flyswatter shaped like a guitar. He said nothing for a couple of minutes as I swilled my malt. His motto was to speak softly and carry a flyswatter.

He broke the silence when another man walked by. “Hey, little buddy,” he said, as if he were the Skipper to the other fellow’s Gilligan. That opened a floodgate of words. We talked of this, that and the other thing. My chair wobbled, but it didn’t fall down. I talked about my fondness for fireflies because it was nice to see someone using their blinkers.

He told me about how he’d obtained the weapon he used to fend off fly attacks. “They wanted to give me a sticker advertising their business. They took me for a rube, but I showed them. I held out for a plastic flyswatter. Hard to swat a fly with a sticker.”

I was about to ask him what vendor had used a guitar-shaped flyswatter to promote its business, but I didn’t get a chance.


He’d missed. The fly flew away to pester another day. Houseflies are found where humans are. They detect changes in weather and a lower barometric pressure preceding a storm can cause insects to fly lower and want to feed. An old saying is that if a fly lands on your nose, swat it till it goes. If the fly lands again, it will bring back heavy rain.

Another fly landed on the table. WHAP!

Another miss. He growled. A flyswatter makes a man feel powerful. Every stick is a sword for a boy.

“The flies are sticky. It’s going to rain,” I said.

WHAP! I couldn’t help but notice he’d missed. I suppose it’s hard to concentrate while watching someone enjoy a malt that wasn’t chocolate.

WHAP! He missed again. He missed them all. I wondered if flies giggled.

“Have you ever hit a fly?” I asked.

“I’m sure I have, but now that you mention it, I don’t remember hitting one today. They are greased lightning. If I bag a big one, I’m taking it to my son-in-law, the taxidermist, and have him stuff it for me. It’d look great on the wall of my man cave.”

I had to ask, “Did you ever play baseball?”

“I did. I was more of a misser than a hitter.”


Missed again. He wasn’t good at enforcing a no-fly zone.

I finished my malt. It was powerful good. “I think I’ve got to go,” I said.

“Do you know what I think?” He paused. “I’m trying to think of something worth thinking about and I think this is thinkable. I think I need a bigger flyswatter.”

I wished him a day of easy answers.

His goodbye was, “Having a flyswatter provided an easy answer when a fly landed on my brother-in-law‘s ear. No thinking was required. Easiest decision I’ve ever made.”

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday in the Tribune.