We weren’t out of the car five minutes at our rented condo at Grayton Beach, Florida, just off highway 30A, when my teen daughter screamed she’d been bitten by a yellow fly, an annoying species that defied bug spray and had its habitat in inland water where it can’t be eradicated due to environmental restrictions.
“Damn, that hurt,” she said.
“You watch your mouth, young lady,” I said.
“Wonder where she gets it,” my wife said.
“Okay, that’s enough,” I said and told my son, “Get one of those luggage carts, so we don’t have to make but one trip.”
My son pulled the cart toward us with one hand, swatting with the other. I knew about yellow flies having grown up on a lake in Southern Georgia, where I’d learned the females sucked blood from a cross-like incision. It had to be one of the few representations of a cross that was evil. Since we had moved to St. Louis, we had forgotten about most snakes, yellow flies, heat and humidity, and gnats. In the parking garage, the yellow flies were flying around my wife and son, too. The yellow files didn’t come near me, and I assumed their radars detected my bad, cholesterol-laden blood. To add insult to injury, I planned to eat grilled and fried shrimp and drink marguerites the entire week, doctor be damned. I loved shrimp as much as Bubba Blue and Forest Gump.
Once unloaded and in the condo, we stood on the balcony and stared at the still, glass-like sea with its green and blue tint. The white sand and sparsely populated beach were only twenty or so miles East of Panama City and fifteen miles to Destin toward the West; either horizon reflected skyscraper condos.
I found the parking pass where the operator at the realty company said and rode the elevator down to the parking lot beneath to display it on the dashboard as instructed. When I exited the elevator, I noticed an older woman with a security guard next to my vehicle. They blocked my view of decal notices slapped onto the windshield and driver’s door window.
“Excuse me,” I said. “What are y’all doing?”
“Is this your vehicle?” The old woman asked.
“Yes, it is.”
“Well, you don’t have a parking pass properly displayed.”
“We just unloaded, I got it in the condo, and it’s right here.” I held it up, waved it back and forth, and wanted to wave it in her face given her attitude. The rental guard was sheepish and dropped back.
“That’s blue. You are supposed to have a green one,” she snapped.
“Excuse me, just who in the hell are you?”
“I’m over the condo association here. Which condo are you in and who did you rent from?”
“I’m in 313 and I rented from Gulf Rentals. This has the correct dates on it. See?”
“It doesn’t matter what it says. You’re supposed to have a green one. It’s the rule. We just issued warning stickers. You won’t be towed today.”
“I didn’t pay three thousand dollars to come down here to be harassed and nobody better tow my car or I’m gonna whip somebody’s ass.”
“Sir, you have no argument with me. The real estate company has the green ones and has had for two weeks.”
She and her dutiful servant disappeared into the elevator, I cursed, and called the real estate company on my cell.
When I got back upstairs, my wife said a condo lady and guard knocked on the door to let them know our beach chairs couldn’t be left in the hallway, that it was a rule. I shared about the parking pass and later when we came back from dinner, I had to park on the road because all the spots were taken. The next day, I went out to pull the car underneath the condo in the shade and I had another warning about parking in the sand. I told my wife if the old yellow fly came around again, I’d get the fly swatter after her. I imagined her a combination of a Socratic gadfly and a Jeff Goldblum fly character flitting about and stinging people with her words. Fortunately, the realty company sent a green pass over and slid it under our condo door. I put it on the dashboard and didn’t get another warning.
For the next several days, I got sun burned, ate shrimp, drank marguerites, and we took long walks in the morning and evening along the beach. We ate at Fresh Catch, Goat Feathers, and A.J’s, all equally delicious and worth every penny. We rented paddle boards from a KA from the University of Alabama who was at the beach for the summer to rent boards, kayaks, and chairs and umbrellas. I’d caught him checking out at my teenage daughter, but he looked away when I smirked at him. We paddle boarded for a couple of hours and saw a small shark, a man-o-war, and several jellyfish. When we walked the beach, I was fascinated by the sand crabs and their burrows, washed up pieces of driftwood with miniature shells attached, and shells in shallow pools carved from the coming and going of tides. I wasn’t impressed with the aftermath of beach goers: garbage, left behind plastic shovel and buckets, a lone flip flop. I wasn’t impressed with the signage every so many feet that designated space to a condo complex or house and wondered if these were necessary since they detracted from the natural beauty.
On our way in for the day, we walked by the pool, and the old yellow fly condo lady struggled to move patio furniture and clean up, and I offered to help her with the furniture.
“Are you all having a nice time?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Why don’t you make the renters rearranged the furniture since they messed it up?”
“I probably would have, but I took a nap and missed them. Plus, it’s my job. I get a small condo by the elevator with no view in exchange for keeping up the place and making sure renters follow the rules. That plus my Social Security and I’m not homeless.”
I thought about my own aging parents, their constant financial struggles on Social Security. “Watch it. You’ve got a yellow fly on your shoulder.”
“Oh, if you live here, you just get used to them.”
Niles Reddick is author of a novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in nineteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over four hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, BlazeVox, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Citron Review, and The Boston Literary Magazine. Website: http://nilesreddick.com/
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