Sin To Kill Flies
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD - Much like basketball, to perfect the art form of Fly-Swatting, one must develop accuracy, technique and repertoire. Think, Kobe Bryant.
Back-hand, left-hand, underhand, ceiling shots, rim shots, back-door, screen shots, no-look, head-and-shoulder fake, double-clutch, slam dunk, sidearm slap, two-in-one, off-the-glass, ‘The Ole One-Two’, the Pizza Hut Box Slap Shot, the Bo D. ‘DFS’ (‘Dead For Sure’) Shot, the rolled up newspaper shot, the Misty Sioux Davis ‘No Bounce’ shot, and one of my all-time short-list favorites…the clean air grab.
Irrespective of man’s relationship with flies since the beginning of time, historic bacterial diseases, bouts of plague and pestilence; malaria, tse-tse, dengue fever, black fly, biting fly, horse flies, darned flies, hang-around-your-barbeque flies, cholera…huh? Well, yeah, malaria comes from mosquitos, doesn’t it? Dengue too?
Ok. But the case can still be made that flies bring some nasty shit. Holy Smokes, they eat shit. They make maggots, and leave snot on your computer screen. They’re cannibalistic, and necrophiliacs, as well. Like Dracula, they can rise from the dead to suck your blood.
“Necrophiliac?” asked Tom. “What’s that?”
“They fuck their dead relatives,” I replied. “How bad is that? Ask Louie, he’ll know. He studied the mortuary sciences.”
Sure enough. Louie knew.
He swung by here on his way to sweat lodge, and pulled up a seat at the table, immediately immersing himself in the unfinished L.A. Times crossword puzzle.
“Hey Louie, tell Tom what a necrophiliac is.”
“They fuck dead people,” he muttered without looking up.
Grabbing the opportunity to use one of Lupe’s lines, I said to Tom in a Mexican accent, “The reee-son we’re telling you this now, is so next time…you’ll know.”
Tom looked off into space with a big ‘why?’ look on his face, and I think it was Milo sitting there who, picking the question out of the air, said something comical and rude, like, ‘they can’t get away’, or something to that effect, degenerative as I recall, to which everyone laughed.
So cannibalism and necrophilia are part of a fly’s nature, the Ted Bundy’s of the insect world, along with the praying mantis. You might say there’s a place for everything in the universe, but you tell me, what purpose do they serve? Population control? Torment? Glimpse of the periphery of hell?
So I had two questions for Jesus the next time he came through. One, which I kept forgetting, is, Is it okay to kill flies? Two, Is God just in our heads? And three, does it bother him to keep wearing those pointy cowboy boots when his feet are so spread out and accustomed to sandals?
Father Paul Steinmetz unexpectedly stopped by Tom and Loretta’s the other morning, looking for Loretta, who wasn’t there, before he headed back to Minneapolis ‘for a more contemplative life’, he said. He’d been here on Pine Ridge throughout the summer, over at Holy Rosary, filing paper records onto disc and doing mass, he said.
We’d been meaning to have a theological discussion earlier at the sun dance, but the conversation never actualized, including an opportunity in the truck on Tree Day night, heading down from the arbor to main camp for our last meal for four days.
Instead, we ended up talking about the truck, my ’60 Chevy, careening without brakes down the hill.
“I can turn off the motor and coast all the way to main camp,” I told Paul, who in wide-eyed fear, grabbed the door handle and dashboard, as if to prepare for a crash or maybe a desperate last minute leap from the passenger’s seat.
“Saves gas,” I said, turning off the ignition.
I needed to reassure him. He appeared to possess no confidence in my truck or my ability to stop us, and seemed really frightened, so I thought, ‘Christ, maybe I’d better not scare the old man too much. He looks on the verge of cardiac arrest.’
We needed to slow down, for Paul’s mental comfort and heart rate, and to negotiate that sharp right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill, but we still needed enough momentum to make that final dip, and roll into camp in neutral with the engine off. I wanted to show him we could do it.
“It’s got brakes,” I said with a half-laugh, looking over at Paul. “You’ve just got to pump them six or seven times.”
He never took his eyes off the road. And we never got around to that theological discussion.
At 80 years old, Father Paul is one of our oldest dancers, never mind that he’s a Catholic priest, steeped in theological doctrine from a lifetime within the church. Bo, who ended up behind him in the lineup, laughed later, saying to Misty, ‘Your dad would probably roll over in his grave seeing me fan off a Catholic priest with his eagle-wing fan.”
He danced the entry and exit rounds, between Lou and I, with Bo behind him. Tom asked us to keep an eye on him. We teased him out there a little bit, “Pick ‘em up, Father Paul. Look alive!......You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” he’d say, beginning to shuffle his feet.
It was good to see him when he popped in the door the other morning. Over toast, eggs, and orange juice, we sat with Tom and David Frankel, who had just wrapped up his work downstairs for this legal leg of the water fight with the uranium people.
“Did you know that flies are necrophiliacs?” I asked. “Do you think it’s okay to kill them?”
“What?” asked Paul, taking a seat at the kitchen table.
“Do you think Jesus would say it’s okay to kill flies?”
David softly asked, “Father Paul, would you care for some breakfast? Some eggs? Some orange juice?”
“…and, if so, what about someone on life support?”
“I’d like some orange juice,” he said. “Christ would probably say all life is sacred.”
“And then, bacterial life. You’re killing them with an antibiotic.”
“Well, there’s good bacteria, and bad bacteria.”
From there, the conversation went off track, then back on, hopping around absolute truth, relative gods, discarded gods, irrelevant gods, the God gene, Jungian archetypes, 2000-year old desert camel gods, semantic twists and turns, and Paul kept reconciling everything…the pipe…the dance…our animistic pagan ways…through his Jesus filter. “Jesus was the first sun-dancer,” he said, “the first pipe-carrier.”
Well, Paul wrote, ‘The Pipe and Christ’, so what would you expect? And that got me to thinking about another question for Jesus.
W…Wait a minute.
“WHAT?” Jesus didn’t carry no pipe! That’s blasphemy!”
“Well, figuratively,” said Paul. “You could say Christ was a pipe-carrier.”
I knew he’d say that. Jesus was the common denominator in all things, ‘the Alpha and the Omega’, as Father Paul would say, and did. What’s the opposite of cognitive dissonance? That would be something like ‘cognitive harmony’, to continue the symphonic analogy, or maybe ‘adaptive cognitive resonance’, incorporating new info into a new world view, huh? Not necessarily a 180 degree ‘flip-flop’, or changing your mind, but kind of like, changing your mind.