July 4, 2022 UPDATE: A swarm of oops hit me full in the brain cells when I returned from a Franciscan retreat at the Christine Center in Wisconsin. I thought I was so clever to have figured out my post and collection in advance only to return and realize I had closed down the entry form!
My apologies to all the writers. A big growl…GRRR…to all the spammers who hound the entry forms at Carrot Ranch, which is why I remove the forms. Only, this time I shut down the current Challenge. Because I made a muck of it all, I’m extending the deadline. For those who had to share in the comments, I’ll collect them from the links this week. If you want to write a second 99-word story, feel free to do so.
ORIGINAL JUNE 27, 2022 POST: Growing up on the arid side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a swarm of flies, gnats, or mosquitos meant a dozen. To me, twelve flying insects spelled s-t-a-m-p-e-d-e. My horse would have bolted at the bites of such a stinging throng. I was a good buckaroo, thoughtful and patient, and before I set out on summer rides I’d slather bacon grease on Captain’s belly, hindquarters, and around his big brown eyes. It kept the bugs away and the bears curious.
How naive I was back then in the days of my Old West.
Nevada and Montana introduced me to bigger mosquitoes. By the time I swapped out baby buckaroos for horses, flies didn’t cross my mind much. Then we moved to the midwest. Gone were the quaint days of tiny swarms of summer insects. Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin expanded my buggy experiences.
Then, I settled in Michigan on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Although we arrived late in June, Black Fly Season had ended. With my newbie’s ears, I heard, “black fly season.” Truly, it is BLACK FLY SEASON. I found out the following summer when blood slipped down my face from the tiniest dot on my forehead.
“What was that all about?” I asked my daughter.
She grimaced (having lived on the Keweenaw for several years) and said, “Black fly.”
This time I heard, “Black Fly.” The blood had alarmed me but after I read about buffalo gnats (what we call BLACK FLIES in Michigan) I understood that something in the blood of a female causes blood to flow freely. The initial bite does not hurt.
I felt ill. My heart raced, I felt feverish, and my joints hurt. The bite on my forehead swelled to an acorn and hurt-itched. I wanted to rub and scratch at the same time. I knew from mosquito bites not to. I wanted to howl. It took three weeks to fully heal and vowed never to get bit again.
The next summer I got three bites and felt the same sickness come over me. Some locals suggested I was allergic. Some recounted how they reacted initially but after five years, the bites got easier to take. This is year four and two Black Flies in Hancock took me off guard. I reacted the same as in the past, but this year I had CBD oil. It reduced my anxiety.
Thinking my ordeal over, after all, BLACK FLY SEASON came and went, I visited my Very Grand Goats. Big Chip still stinks enough to make me gag, but he’s funny and charming. Pegasus demands her back massages, and the kids nibble at me until I feed them grass or bush trimmings. Molly is healing from a leg fracture and I noticed a swarm of flies harassing her.
To me, BLACK FLIES are stealth bombers. I never see them coming, biting, or going. For Molly’s fly trouble, I figured they were of the barnyard sort. I harvested a small branch of cedar to fan her while the human kids (my daughter and SIL) milked her. Then she ate the cedar.
As we walked away to visit the piglets and watch corn grow, I brushed my neck and swiped away what looked like a gnat. A few moments later I felt a crust of blood on the top of my head. I panicked but remembered that BLACK FLY SEASON had passed. Apparently, Ghost House Farm has a bumper crop of BLACK FLIES and they found my head almost a month after their predecessors nailed me.
By far, this incident is the worst encounter I’ve had. Immediately, I poured enough plantain oil on my head to self-anoint. My hair was greasy and I had to wash my pillow, but I felt it was worth it. I remembered the CBD oil and avoided most of the sickness. That felt like a win.
But the knot in my neck was growing and causing muscle spasms. Day two, and I was asking FaceBook for remedies. Several friends called and advised getting a steroid shot. I decided that would be a last resort. I had so many responses to try!
Let’s review what works when BLACK FLIES swarm:
- Benadryl (liquid works faster; take according to directions but keep it consistently in your system for 2-3 days).
- Wash your scalp and neck with straight tea tree oil; it feels amazing until the burn wears off but it also keeps the bites clean.
- When the painful knot forms, use lidocaine or steroid cream (like cortisone) or get a steroid shot.
- Take Advil for the pain, fever, and joint swelling.
- Take CBD for the anxiety from the adrenaline the venom dumps into your system.
- Treat the bites with plantain (chewed or cooked into an oil), a paste of baking soda, lavender oil, meat tenderizer, or any over-the-counter product for bug bites.
- Do not use both oral and topical Benadryl as it dumps too much antihistamine into your body.
- It’s okay to cry and curse flies.
It’s been a miserable week but at last, the massive bite on my neck reduced in swelling enough to identify a cluster of four bites and an angry lymph node. In all, I have nine BLACK FLY BITES on my head and neck. The cluster swelled into my scalp and down toward my throat. There’s apparently not enough scalp space for skull swelling. When my head started to spasm, I thought I would lose my marbles.
Benadryl was the ticket. Now I know to take it IMMEDIATELY. I will carry it around with me in a flask all summer, and start taking shots at the sign of the first swarm.
June 27, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about swarms. What could swarm? How does the swarm impact the people or place in your story? Is there something unusual about the swarm? Go where the prompt leads!
- EXTENDED! Submit by July 9, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
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