When I have those moments of despair, when all else fails to cheer me, well, then there are the flies and I tend to them religiously. I laugh thinking about myself doing that. Tending to flies. I laugh. I realize someone might think that I enjoy killing flies.
Absurd. That is never my intention. Well. Perhaps occasionally it is…
The cafe downstairs -- Kitty's place, is a breeding ground. Kitty and Señora are always frying. Endlessly. Bread dough. Donuts. Chicken. Home fries. Or if they’re not frying, they are baking rolls or stirring tortilla soup or grilling steaks in flat pans, and the odors bring the godawful flies up to the windows and I know I shouldn't kill them but I do, I am determined to keep the windows clean, I mean I see that as part of my job.
So I try to catch them in the dishtowels. I try not to squash them, as it bothers Sister Teresa so, she values all life, every morsel, so I try not to let Teresa see me do it, if she happens to enter the room and I am about to swat the fly, I just scoop it into the towel or…
Sometimes if I’ve just killed a fly, I will sit on the towel.
But that's not what I want to tell you. What I want to tell you about is the visit to the newspaper office two days ago with Kitty and toothless Bean, the old jailer who put me in cuffs behind my back. I was allowed to go only because of Kitty's letter campaign, she is determined to convince Governor Stoneman to free me, she is a saint that woman.
What can I say about Kitty is she is becoming a dear friend to me. It doesn’t matter, but I do care deeply about what motivates her. I believe that she lost a daughter. I know now the name of the child in the portrait, the child with the mass of strawberry ringlets, her name was Lynda with a why. I do not mean why, I mean Y.
Why and how she died, I do not know. I have tried to ask Kitty but she will say nothing. I have begged Teresa to tell me the story but she simply shakes her head.
Oh. There now. There is another one, excuse me, I am determined to keep the damn windows clean and fly-free, I mean, I am sorry for swearing, there is more of that these days, Teresa heard me take the Lord's name in vain, she complained to me, but that's what has happened, I am changing, I am...something is coming loose inside me, my tongue feels unhinged, my mind, pressed, I think perhaps it is the flies buzzing, and me waiting for the worst possible end, the buzzing, the waiting, they will drive a person crazy.
I've got the dishtowel but now the fly is gone.
That being said, what I am meaning to tell you about is our visit to the newspaper, the reporter sitting there when we arrived, tapping on an elegant old machine, I've never seen one th…
It’s back. Excuse me. I will get the fly and that will be the end of it.
Frankly, when Kitty told me that we would "drop by" the newspaper, I was horrified. The idea that they were going to do a story, I was at first so very concerned. Not surprising, considering what the San Francisco newspaper wrote about me, hanging me before I had even been tried!
I told Kitty that I was quite upset. I told her that I wouldn't go to the paper I call it The Gaze-Ette -- because they were sure to write a piece that, my God, there, there is another fly.
I got that fly. I …
And another, landing here beside my journal.
And another. UGH. A bloody mass here, a cloud of a dozen or more swirling around me.
I apologize for the interruption but I had to get them all. I must get them. They buzz and circle, surround my head and they land in the windows and bounce against the glass. Rather disturbing to me.
I know all this about the flies might not seem important but I dreamed about flies last night. I am not certain why. Perhaps because they are trapped. Perhaps because they are trying so desperately to flee. Because the flies remind me a bit of myself.
Trapped as I am. Both of us. Black and going in circles. The flies and I stand at Kitty’s window and we desperately want to be free, and so I let them go if I can but when there are a cloud of them I fumble with the dishtowel.
Too much. Too many. So many that I must kill them, I kill them and the truth be told there is some kind of unhealthy satisfaction in that.
Back to the visit. This is a newspaper that prints lies. Or at least, opinions.
We arrived at the newspaper office – a single room with a kind of closet attached where they keep and operate a telegraph – we got there just after noon. The room was intensely warm.
A gaunt young man sat at the typewriter. I was introduced but as my hands were cuffed behind me, I could only drop my head.
He gazed at me over his spectacles. Which by the way were dirty. Streaked!
His name: John Dimson. Dark and wavy blonde hair, rather oily. And a wiry blonde mustache. Black topcoat. So formal. So funereal. And in that heat. What possesses him? In my case, I have no choice but to dress in black. Sister Teresa brought me a brand new habit, after my last disintegrated in the prison.
After we sat down, he removed the topcoat. White shirt, yellowed collar and beneath his armpits, great wet stains. He pressed the nose of his round spectacles to his face. He has a most unpleasant laugh. And he refused to look at me. He has a way of swaying slightly right and left as he speaks.
He banged on the typewriter, snapping the keys into submission while Kitty explained to him her letter-writing campaign. He stopped when she removed from her purse and presented to him the letter from Governor Stoneman. He sat back and read it and then pulled at his mustache. He laid the letter down on the oak desk.
“I don’t see the Governor here making anything that begins to sound like a promise, Ms. Kitty,” he announced rather somberly.
“Well of course not,” Kitty snapped back. She took the letter and folded it carefully and tucked it back into its onion skin envelope.
“The point, Mr. Dimson, sir, is that we have to convince him, the whole town must be on her side writing letters, all on her behalf, all sympathetic, and then we send them to him, and then perhaps he can be convinced.”
Another. Another fly. Three. Easily caught however in one dishtowel swipe. Oh, sorry, just two. One injured. Not sure. Ah. Here, now, a fleck of a wing right here. IN my hand.
Then I wipe the window clean.
“So, Ms. Kitty, this letter-campaign. How many have you collected? And how is it that you are approaching individuals, to ask folks to write them?”
Kitty pulled herself upright. Nodded and smiled. Explained her pitch. Told Dimson how she gives one free café meal to each letter writer.
Announced our up to date total: 27 letters.
Dimson took a handkerchief from his hip pocket. Wiped his forehead. I sat, thinking about my own face. I had to be, pink flushed damp. But with my hands at my back, there was nothing to be done.
It was at that moment, I saw the fly.
Land on Dimson’s typewriter. There.
It sat. Dimson was asking Kitty how many letters she thought she would be able to collect.
I watched the fly. I stared as it dropped into the pit where the keys pound the paper.
I didn’t see it.
Kitty was saying there was – obviously -- a “time constraint.” I am scheduled to walk those five steps to the gallows on the 6th.
“I am hoping for 200 letters,” she said. She lifted her chin in defiance.
“Miss Kitty, for heaven’s sake, that would be remarkable. We have only 642 citizens. You are saying that approximately one in three people will be willing to wr...”
“It is entirely possible,” she interrupted. “And there is no loss in trying, now is there Mr. Dimson?”
He gazed at her with a narrow-eyed look, and gave a quick shove to his spectacles, pressing them to the bridge of his nose. Wrinkling his mouth, and looking a little bored, he turned to the typewriter. He placed his fingers on the keys. I thought about the fly there in the pit. I gasped.
Dimson and Kitty looked over at me. My eyes widened. I kept staring. I felt like
“I…” I nodded. “A fly. There. Just now landed in your typewriter.” I nodded again. Kept pointing. Dimson frowned. Looked rather annoyed by this whole business. Our visit.
Just then the fly lifted out of the typewriter and circled once, then headed for the window.
Dimson continued typing.
We left. No sign of fly as we left.
The article, Dimson says, will be in the newspaper by week’s end.