The story keeps changing and yet remains the same. It’s your first Monday working from home, and the pests are circling. You’re trying to make sure your one-year-old son doesn’t fall down the stairs while you’re also swatting at bugs and attending to your job. You looked up the insects online after killing five: cluster flies, a phenomenon common in autumn. After pupating inside earthworms, the flies eat through their epidermis and seek a warm spot in the house to winter and lay their eggs. Your son watches from the floor, crawling about, gazing up in wonder. An hour has passed, and the body count is somewhere in the upper-teens/low-twenties, a cluster of corpses, the remnants a yellow smear on every window on the first floor. In addition the flyswatter, you carry paper towels and Windex, but you’re killing faster than you can clean, and a funky residue remains.

Working from home isn’t officially sanctioned at your office. You’d negotiated for it because they can’t afford to give you a raise, and you can’t afford to have two children in daycare fulltime, so you send your daughter to school and keep your son home. But the setup feels tenuous. You’re worried they’ll take the option away if you can’t perform, and so far, today is a wash. You couldn’t connect to the wireless internet for the first hour, and the only place you can plug in is a coffee table in front of the TV that forces you to sit lotus position and leaves the computer vulnerable to your son banging on the keys. Now there’s these flies…

In essence, this is the story of a man with three jobs—father, editor, exterminator—who’s only paid for one. Though mostly, it’s about a father, who’s forced to be an exterminator, while trying to be an editor. It’s also about what happens when you have other plans, other work. It’s about rage, too. The rage of being divided, of trying to work while caring for a child, and at the same time, dealing with a fly infestation. Though the house, too, is a cause for rage. There are times you feel that you and your wife were tricked into buying it. Which is not to say you dislike living here. You just weren’t prepared for certain eventualities.

First, you’d had to buy flood insurance, a condition of the mortgage. There was one price advertised, then another for the mortgage, jacked up because of the creek next to your home. And the creek gives rise to insects. You have mosquitoes, and you blame the waters for them—standing pockets in the stream where they breed, the thimbleful that remains in the cups of bamboo after rain. Then, there’s spider’s, too. The spiders aren’t a problem of water but of trees and bushes, attracted as they are by the mosquitoes, and stink bugs live in your walls, though the stinkbugs come in spring—trapezoidal, dime-sized, hideous.

Before you moved in, you and your wife assembled a futon in the attic. You were painting the house and slept there at night. There must have been a hundred stink bugs crawling across the exposed brick. You could hear wings beating, bodies hitting the screens. But you can’t kill that many with rolled-up magazines. So, you went to the store and bought poison. You had facemasks already, for painting the walls, and you pointed the nozzle of the can of poison at the brick and unleashed its spray. The bodies fell in droves. And since you hadn’t yet bought the vacuum up to the house, you let them lay there, the floor littered with shells, husks in the crevices, the space between the brick and beige carpeting a grave in the wall. But that was years ago, and they haven’t returned in force. The cluster flies are current, and force is their métier. You’ve read they don’t carry disease, but they’re abundant, slow, which makes you good at killing them, but even with the killing, they keep coming, dive bombers buzzing past in the early-September heat.

So this is also about stressors. About entropy and renewal, ephemerality and the eternal—for what are bugs, if not eternal; our concerns, if not ephemeral? There’s the ding of alerts as new emails hit your inbox. There’s the sound of your son whining, hungry, starved for your attention. And there’s the omnipresent buzz of flies fanning out, hitting the windows, testing your resolve. They’re looking to reproduce, to bequeath another generation upon your home. A frayed tension courses through your muscles, your joints, cracks emanating from the center. Your reserves are ready to dissolve and unleash a flood of adrenaline. Which means you’re trying to hold yourself together, to keep from shouting, descending into savagery. You’re committed to not snapping, not shouting at your son, to doing your job as well from home as you would at the office, to not dumping your stress on your wife when she gets home. If only this would end.

So the story switches to trying to get through a trying day. Which is what the story always was. Which is was the story always is. The hurdles are small but cumulative. You call your wife, but she has access to the same information as you, the same choices: call the exterminator or wait them out. Given your finances, you’d rather wait. They’ll die soon enough. And that’s without swatting them. But swatting proves cathartic. Even the shadow of action feels like action. You can do it, perform these tasks—father, editor, exterminator. You’ve been through worse. You turn and swat and hit one, then pound your chest and grunt. You son laughs, and you laugh, too. It’s good, that sound. You’ll never win. But still, you’ll fight. There’s nothing else to do. You’re only one man. And the flies are legion.