It’s ten-thirty on Thursday night. Lilah and Alex are asleep, Hugo has been walked, and I’m in the dining room, trying to write.
But now Hugo appears beside me, wide-eyed and whining. I run through the list of things that might be troubling him:
Does he have water?
Is there a mouse in the kitchen cabinets?
I find no evidence of this, but much like the existence of God, it's a difficult thing to disprove.
Did the cat die again?
No, Spalding is still breathing..and now he’s meowing at me because I touched him.
Is Hugo about to have explosive diarrhea?
I take him outside again, and he casually attempts to pee on the new Japanese maple. When I snap the leash, he pretends to have been aiming for the fence.
Is Hugo distressed by that new rawhide, resting so tantalizingly atop the china cabinet?
I take the rawhide down and give it to Hugo. He runs off to stash it in his crate with his other rawhides, and then returns to whine at me again.
Would Hugo prefer that I write in the living room?
I relocate myself to the couch, which is far too comfy for productivity at this hour. Hugo is still upset though, pacing back and forth in front of me…
…and that’s when I finally see it, the source of his agitation: there’s a fly in the house.
This is very bad news, perhaps worse than all of the other possibilities combined. Something about a fly’s buzzing tickles the most primal parts of Hugo’s brain. If I don’t banish this thing, Hugo will be barking and chasing it around the house all night, pausing only to chew out his frustrations on unsuspecting shoes and books. And none of us will sleep.
My fly-killing skills are notoriously weak though, a point that was driven home by our cat Theo a few years ago. I'd been chasing this monster fly around the house, flailing and cursing at the thing for a good ten minutes, when it made the mistake of buzzing past Theo, half-asleep on a chair. Without even rising from his reclined position, Theo snatched the fly out of the air, dragged it straight to his mouth, and ate it in front of me.
I'd never been so impressed and revolted at the same time.
But Theo has since passed away, Spalding has no interest in insects, and Hugo is all enthusiasm and no skill. I grab Lilah’s slim paperback of Henry and Mudge from the table and, with little hope of success, begin tracking the fly. It circles just out of reach, resting first on the ceiling, and then on the inside of a lampshade.
When it finally stops on the wall, I strike. The fly lurches back into the air, stunned but alive, and Hugo lunges after it. His snapping jaws knock the fly off course, but it's just another glancing blow.
Seeking a more substantial weapon, I grab a magazine from today’s mail. The fly lights on the blinds and I strike again, knocking it to the windowsill while Hugo barks in near-rabid excitement behind me. One more bash, and the fly is finally dead.
With equal parts pride and relief, I get a tissue to collect the corpse and clean the errant bug-bits off the murder weapon, the Fall 2009 issue of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. I recognize that there will be karmic consequences for what I've done, but at this point, I'm ready to accept a few lifetimes as a dung beetle if I can finally get some fricking work done.
But as soon as I return to the couch and the computer, so does Hugo. He's whining and wedging his head up onto my lap, every bit as agitated as before.
What now? Another bug?
No, it seems that Hugo just doesn’t understand what happened. He never saw the dead fly, so he's convinced that it's just hiding somewhere, waiting to start buzzing again.
Or maybe Hugo knows exactly what happened, and this is just his way of asking, "Aren't you going to eat that?"