by Sheree Shatsky

The compost pile knocks at my front door. It makes waste in the yard of my crazy neighbor, local famous for keeping alligators in the moat he dug around his property.

I throw open a window and ask what it wants. ‘Hey, sorry to bother,’ the pile says, ‘but I’d like to speak to you about the fly traps hanging from your trees.’

‘What about them?’

‘I’m a science research writer and flies are fairly important to my process.’

Flies buzz the window screen. A housefly sticks its head through a hole in the mesh. A fruit fly bookie takes bets on its chance of breaking through. On the windowsill, a botfly hits on a long-legged mosquito and asks her to carry his baby. He lights her cigarette. She pops a smoke ring my way.

‘Maybe you don’t realize,’ it says, ‘my importance to the permaculture community. I breakdown garbage into organic material for use in gardens. I help bring forth new life.’ It stuffs yellowed kale from the top of its head inside a rotten jackfruit and gives it a swirl. ‘We go crazy for kale,’ a tenor trio of maggots sing. 

‘I contribute. I buy organic.’ I ease a can of personal-sized bug spray from my back pocket.

It chews what looks like a leftover Caesar salad. ‘The fly traps interrupt my process of decay.’

I haven’t sat on my porch since the compost pile moved next door. The pile draws flies faster than roadkill on a hot day. Flies in my hair, up my nose, floating in my tea, stuck between the pages of whatever I’m reading. I’m plagued by flies. The afternoon a fly landed in my ear and asked directions to the best barbecue joint in town, I’d had enough. I googled ‘fly control’ and ordered the fly traps off Amazon.

I bug juice the screen, once, twice, three times. The compost pile sheds a single mushroom tear. ‘Are you a parent?’

‘Not a maggot parent.’ 

‘Neither am I, I’m more of a vessel than a parent, but love the squirming ones tickling inside me as if my own.’ It pauses, one moldy grapefruit eye on me, the other closed in a moist wink fringed by an eyelash of celery leaf. ‘The most recent brood, all compound bright-eyed innocent without a bit of sense flew straight for your bait.’ 

‘If it were me, I’d think about relocating, maybe near the garbage bins. The little buggers can make friends with the rats and raccoons.’

The compost pile puffs putrid pompous. ‘My research residency guarantees a prime working location along with full health benefits and daily upkeep.’

‘Fair warning, compost. Get control of your flies or I’m getting a bug zapper.’ I drench a clan of cluster flies crawling the corner of the screen.

The compost pile sucks wind and holds its breath. It swells spoiled self important, as big and large as twenty heavy-duty trash bags. A shimmer, a shake, a bit of hocus-pocus dazzle and the compost bursts into two angry mothers. Egg shells, pine needles, the rat-a-tat-tat of corn off the cob shrapnel the house. A pond apple and a couple of mangos smash through my car windshield and out the back. A possum pilots a papaya into the palm trees and skitters a nest of mice north, south, east and west. Flies line dance the window screen and I would later swear, the lead damselfly pulled off a damn impressive impersonation of Gloria Estefan singing ‘Conga’.

I grab salt shakers from the kitchen and run outside. High grade granulated, natural foe fighter of flies and fleas. Salt is no yolk to flies. I standoff the twin compost piles, wild west style. ‘I challenge you flygirls to a good old-fashioned showdown,’ and with my thumbs, flick open the red tab action of the seven-hole 3 oz. matched set shakers. Tupperware. BPA free plastic. Airtight. Moisture proof. I imagine myself a salt-slinging Annie Oakley.

‘On three, you mothers,’ I say and count one, shakers at my sides, quick draw ready. The compost grabs hold of its sister self and hits the trail full gassy, a zucchini, a squash and a full size Old English fruitcake breaking wind south of a half-eaten pumpkin pie. 

Sheree Shatsky writes wild words. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, most recently Ghost Parachute, BLACKCACKLE at Entropy, Tiny Molecules, The Wild Hunt and Ellipsis Zine with work forthcoming at little somethings press and The Dead Mule. Read more of her work at Find her on Twitter @talktomememe.