Battlefield Kitchen

fruit-fliesIt was early October when I first realized that the fruit flies hadn’t gone with September. They usually arrive in the summer, finding little pockets of moisture in the dish rack or laying eggs in the cat’s food.

In summer, I try to keep them to a minimum. And by mid-September the cooler weather kills them off in droves.

But we had a serious Indian Summer this year, which lasted well into September. Thus, the fruit flies weren’t killed off. So in October I began the opening salvos of the battle for my kitchen counter. I left a few of my living room windows open one night in the hopes that the relative cool of an October night would kill them off.

In the morning, I opened the doors to the living room and kitchen, allowing the cat to head to her food bowls and her litter. We were both struck by the chill in the outer rooms. Even the cat wanted no parts of it and left for the warmer climes of my bed. I saw no fruit flies, so surmised that victory was mine. When I picked up the cat’s bowl, a dozen or so living commas drifted out of her food and held airborne patterns of dizzy squiggles.

They had not died, they had multiplied.


This would never have bothered me when I was younger. In my twenties, accomplishing domestic chores was secondary to any other task imaginable and fruit flies were a part of life. They were the perennially squatters of my flat. They lived in potatoes, they heavily guarded fruit that had gone off weeks before. My visitor’s drinks were littered with the corpses of their curious ranks.

‘Oh, it’s protein,’ I’d say, ‘on the house.’

But things change, and so do people. And now, the army of fruit flies living in my kitchen were telling me that I was not doing a good job on a domestic level. They are pests. I was so poor at keeping house, that I had invited pests into it. And that couldn’t be good.

They had to be destroyed. And so began a campaign against them. It started with the standby: a jar of red wine topped with a hole-filled saran wrap lid. It did nothing. I hadn’t killed them, I got the little bastards drunk.

This was followed by two weeks of research and tactics. I filled another jar with rotting fruit and balsamic vinaigrette. I flushed out the sink drains with a combination of warm water and bleach. I used apple cider vinegar and dish soap, rotten bananas and apple skins. I threw out my dish rack, scoured the linoleum walls and floor of my kitchen, and washed out the trash can. I became an obsessive wiper of the kitchen counter, no empty bottle lasted more than a day in my recycling bin. The dishes were done with a dedication that would vindicate my mother and every flatmate I ever had.

And on a morning in early November, when I came out to see that my traps were empty and a few light brown spots on the clean walls, I sat on my couch and pressed a pillow over my face. I had to admit it now: I was depressed.

There were surely other factors. The most antagonistic, childish, and bitter race for the presidency I had ever witnessed was coming to a close, and an eerie sense of foreboding told me that I wouldn’t be happy with the outcome. The long, blue afternoons of October were traded in for the long bleak nights of November. These nights would remain for the next three months, and get a lot worse before they got any better.

Whereas my students started the semester full of hope and enthusiasm, they were now doing a fetal position in a mid-semester rut built of mounting assignments and the looming spectre of exams. And I was in the same boat, exhausted and buried under work, both at home and at school.

And now I was at war with my fruit flies. It was a little war I needed to win because I was losing all of the others.

I wish I could report that I found some way to eradicate my flat of these silent pests, but I didn’t. The weather did. The second week of November brought winter in full force: thin air, snow, bitter cold, frost in the mornings.

And dead fruit flies.

They are gone now and while I won’t go as far as to say that I miss the little bastards, the victory lap was brief. Gone with them are the long days and warm nights, a presidential election that still had a chance to fill me with hope, and enthusiasm for the beginning of the semester.

Oh well. They’ll be back next spring.

  1. #1 by Maria on November 14, 2016 - 12:27 pm

    When they´re back just hoover them while they sit around places they like. That works best 🙂

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