Happy Sad Creative Nonfiction

One would not normally use a fly swatter to remove a pizza from an oven. It doesn't matter that they are the same basic shape.

I'm trying to explain this to Bedo who looks forlorn. His yellow plastic flyswatter is the only item he brought through customs besides the necessary change of clothing and one toothbrush. It's less than satisfying because most people get wonderful gifts when they host a child.

My neighbor Henry points to his Hyundai in the yard.

"Come on Bedo." We walk right past the green bedazzled Hyundai as my neighbor is trying to wave us over for the second demonstration. He has found new buttons that are listed in Korean. It's an exceptional prize for a man from Fiji that parks the Hyundai next to his altar in the yard.

Neighbor Henry changed his name because a missionary saved his family from starvation when he was young. The fact that we both rent from the First Baptist Church is no reason that he cannot spend the weekends with Diwali, pulling up roots that smash into an Indian alcohol. He tells me that you can drink this root to excitement and pass any DUI in a Hyundai. He has practiced in a ten year old minivan many times.

I don't have to pull the boy because he is practically a tail, holding his yellow fly swatter as we step onto the road. We are the only ones without a sidewalk in this beach town because the church is older than the city charter.

Bedo holds out his swatter to signal to the cars that he is alive and I am not embarrassed because Bedo didn't bring me a car. I'm not remotely worried that he will tell the church that I took away his fly swatter last night and he cried for many hours.

He is dragged into the parking lot by those short legs. The flowers on the side of the building are in birthing blooms– daffodils, spring sprouts. There is an expectation of seasonal pleasures though the sky is a gray blanket of suffocation. Bedo stops to point to a drone in the air and I have just a moment to scold him:

"Oregon is not spying on us."

By the way he pegs his feet and arches his back I can tell that Bedo wants to swat the drones. He is waiting to see if they will come closer but our drones only watch at a distance.

Push open the glass doors. Charge into the secretary's office while Bedo is still ready to battle the drones. I try to put his little hand into 82 year-old Carolina's hand. She has her glasses down and the chain is suppose to keep them around her neck.

"I got a return."

She is incredulous. Bedo is unmoved because he doesn't understand the great humiliation a person gets while returning an item. We have to stand in lines, give identification, reasons, check the packaging. Only in Returns is there an assumption of Guilt before Innocence.

She won't take his hand. Whoever touched it last…

Carolina puts her hand together on her waist and changes her secretary posture to be upright. Bedo looks to the windows to see if the drones are closer. He might even make the twist in the hall, a flying leap with his swatter. The drones do not come closer because Oregon doesn't care if Californians are living well.

"Now Tom, you can't just go returning a child."

I don't want to say the child is 'defective' but clearly the church gave me a refurbished or off-brand model. My neighbors are enjoying bugogi right now and I have to deal with a child that holds a yellow fly swatter like a teddy bear. To hug this child it to become colored by endtrails and destruction. He is a biological hazard.

Carolina is hospitable and direct. But she won't get out of her chair to hug the child and take him away from the bad man. I even try to think of a way to make Bedo cry, but he is unmoved, simply bobbing his head toward the windows. Waiting for the large drone to flash its light.

She looks at our mismatched heights. The way we both came to her office in pajamas and slippers. I want to tell her that the child won't wear sneakers into the home. He is not really ready for an emergency. It is scary the way he is so comfortable at 19 hours away from his people.

The holy spirit grips the Church Secretary and she dries her eye with the off brand box of Kleenex. She stares into the corner because Bedo can probably kill the spider in the corner. It's a continual problem on a dark beach before the mountains. Seven hundred varieties of spiders. They have eyes everywhere and do not make the sound of drones.

Then she is lifted. That holy spirit that Carolina is always talking about lifts her. She is out of the chair. I think she is realizing the futility of words and will take the hand of Bedo (who is obviously not a Type-A personality and has neglect to even notice the spiders in the corner).

"Tommy… you have to let go."

I'm not even holding Bedo's hand. What does she mean? Is she really that blind?

She walks over, completely ignoring my ward, the child product I want to return. His glassy eyes are a reflection of the window reflection, an Escher image, a house of mirrors. The best way to stop the internal reflection is just to charge forward and break glass.

Carolina strangles me with a hug. I'm waiting for the old lady sweat, the way they bathe in perfumes, a pearl necklace to catch the ear. She doesn't stink or fail. Carolina is an expert level hugger. She starts the pressure around the shoulders and it feels like a capture. Then she she shrinks the space between our chests. Even at an angle it feels…

It feels…

Bedo senses my tension. I will not be disarmed. It will not be ensnared, trapped, blindly following her spirit. She is struck on the rump with fly swatter so many times that the international courts will know that Carolina is an 82 year old bad girl.

I step away.

The child, the Bedo, he is completely free – swatting Ms. Carolina with an angry face to the point that she must take his palms. She tried to pull the fly swatter from his wrist and this boy child of lovely beauty won't remit. He is in a quest, a knight, a beautiful defender of the realm. I laugh inside and get so warm in the throat, it's like porridge. Hot oatmeal hope. That a statue can beat from within it's plaster-of-paris.

Just need to cock my head. This means "come" or "release the bird" …in fact, this host child came mostly trained with basic commands. He is so impressive that I could probably have him stand in front of 7-Eleven for 22 minutes. Waiting. He is loyal.

I like that.

Loyalty is the knowledge that someone won't leave, die or disappoint you on purpose. Loyalty is everything. This child is teaching me things about the world that I can admire. He is, perhaps, a sign that two countries can learn from each other.

I take him to Walmart in an old Prius. It doesn't matter that he can't magically fix the cells in my Traction Battery. That the gas mileage has declined to less than 40 miles-per-gallon. After all, the Prius is Japanese. There is no way he should know the workings of the enemy. The way the 80 miles between Hyundai and Toyota are enough to stave off the Mongol Horde. How the phonemes between the two nations are unequivocally from the same source.


It's his first American toy shop and Bedo is not really interested in Nerf, Transformers or an electronic Battleship. I only noticed at the last moment that Walmart no longer sells shotguns and the last Daisy Red Rider is stuck in the exchange department. This is a kinder and gentler Walmart than my youth. I want to show my new kid that we can take down the drones together. Aerial trespassing is still a crime or sin and Americans are supposed to own their own sky all the way to Neil Armstrong's flag on the moon.

Bedo takes my hand and I am powerless to stop him walking the aisles. He seems confused at the organization of soft goods and pet supplies inlaid to the cleaning aisle. He takes me right up to the section where rats are given their last poisonous meal. Bait traps for most anything. There's even a product by Raid that promises a genocide on three generations of spiders.

What's this?

The child's eyes and hands are well trained (I think I said this before) and he goes right for the small SKU of fly swatters that are turned on their edge. Taking the least amount of space for the world's largest retailers doesn't believe that people want to be involved in very personable defense anymore.

Sure, they cede their demise to chemicals and traps – but the really personable way to defend your space is a piece of plastic on a long stick. Bedo unstacks the swatters and stretches them out like a deck of cards. He sees baby blue swatter in the shape of a butterfly. There is a pink swatter with the silhouette of a rose. An orange swatter has a large happy face with only cutouts for the mouth and eyes. Are cutouts necessary?

I confess that I am no great practitioner and cannot tell you that the head of a swatter must have holes to make the swatter fly through the air at some great speed. I suppose it is like rifling for trajectory, like the spin of a football – the way a kite needs a string, the fact that the very air resists invisible justice: To crash a piece of plastic against a fly.

Someday they will take away our last legal means for defense. The immediate justice, corporal punishment is "sure" and "swift" so long as the executioner is practiced. In the future we will all have to put flies and pest in a small prison and let them wait to perish. The fight will be over.

"Did you decide?"

This child, my child, looks very uncertain. He must not understand that the new swatter doesn't have to take place of his trusted and true personal swatter he brought from his homeland. We say, "Don't fix which ain't broke."

I kneel down and repeat this mantra slowly.

I tell this lovely child, my child, that it's Christmas. In fact I don't even try to care if the price is 3.46$ when we can get the same death-on-a-stick at the Dollar Store. I understand that connoisseurs give great value to small details and will pay twice as much for a miniscule advantage. Bedo compares the handle of his old swatter which is a stiff I-beam of gray plastic against the wire-style of Walmart's heritage model. The American fly swatter has been killing problems since before The Great War. It probably saved us from the 1918 Spanish Influenza and is as southern as iced tea. Everyone should have this weapon.

He's daring not to touch the Heritage wire swatter even though he has selected the large orange happy face. The head has no corners and I am wondering if that's a problem. It is round like Coke bottles, round like a child's version of Saturn. To me, it is the romance of hamburger patties, pizza and the shape of glorious holes one finds in selective restrooms.

"What's the matter?"

Bedo is shaking and trembling. He seems to think a new swatter is some disloyalty when anyone can plainly see that the Walmart Heritage Fly Swatter is clearly the better killer.

I take a look at his old I-beam swatter and actually look at the head's filigree, the grill. The kid must have spent a hundred hours for those kinds of trophies. I wish he would knock on the edge so I could try to see the hangul writing. There's some round script on the grill head of his precious tool. Something bubbling and once joyous which proves that Korean

Is much more poetic language than the hard boxes of Kanji, much more restrained than the free hand of Thai.

"What's it say?"

Absolutely fascinating. What would a Korean write in the head of the fly swatter? Something so vitally important that the literate pests might contemplate at the last second? You know how they are more literate in Asia.

Bedo won't tell me and he won't flap the swatter against the shelf so it can shake off the old rubbish and I could use Google to translate. There's a fine kana dictionary that just requires a finger or one could look up their alphabet which is less characters than a deck of cards. Slightly more than Hebrew or Phoenician but at least they have vowels attached.

"Come on….what's it say?"

I was waiting for ancient wisdom. Some new perspective to redefine the role of a fly swatter that a Korean boy held like it was his own mamma.

He turned, moved his head up, blinked with long eye lashes and said: "Here."


Is it a common problem for people in Korea to swat at flies using the stick instead of the obvious destructive part of the head? It takes only 32 lbs of pressure to snap a human neck, perhaps 32 years of torment to snap the human spirit but we hold no great reverence to directions when we want to swat, spring, rally or shoot to action. We are a passionate and responsive people in the Americas. When a fly should make itself known we don't ask it why it comes or if the fly could answer some great riddle if only our ears were ready.

Any child with a stick and a head is capable.

"Is that a Buddhist thing?"

Bedo blinks twice.

I don't care if Billy Graham got a million people on their knees in Seoul to pray on the street. They must obviously be controlled by the ideals of letting villainous flies cross-contaminate jam and items with putrid odors. They rage around on counter-tops and land on people's noses. Their lives are too long and their descendents exponentially more evil in swarms. I have to shake the child, just a little. American and Walmart law are very much construing six finger hugs as shakes and these are all considered evil by chiropractors.

"Why does it say HERE?"

I would have that no child of mine should ever lie, even a host child, even a substitute. I can't stand to wait for his fledgling words of "Korea style" or "truth". Or whatever hoodoo makeshift explanation of why I"ll never understand.

In 1992 a Hawaiian won three championship Sumo competitions but they wouldn't make him an Ozekii. They said that the American lacked the parts of the spirit to ever lead in the sport. It's all mystical, undefined, elitism.

"Come on," I barked. He was obviously not going to part with his HERE swatter, not going to grab a spare, not going to hoard the hope that he is infinitely ready to use that swatting tool to its end of life cycle, grab another, grab another. Who uses a #2 pencil till it is ground? THE children of India, that's who. They respect the pencil nub and would be joyous at the heritage Walmart American Fly Swatter in the shape of Saturn, happy, or even the elderly looking rose. They would not look a gift horse in the mouth and check for cavities. They would not be ten paces behind their host father as he charged out of Walmart and the door greeter security officer wouldn't demand a receipt.

I turn around.

Bedo has his hands in the air for the Walmart Security person on a stool. They have no gun, no taser – only an authoritarian navy blue vest/apron with a gold trademark insignia that boast of pretend authority.


He's on his knees like tatami. Except the glossy one foot by one foot floor tiles are not battened with straw. They are not even hygienic after twelve hours of shopping.

The Walmart person on a stool is healthy. Make that Dumbo sized obese with a belly that has its own zip code, denim that probably cost an acre to plant. Maybe the cows really will kills us all. This guy has a moustache that must have come from a scrub-brush. It's half gold and some brun; some white moldy color. He definitely stole that moustache from a used scrub-brush. He's bending down because a beast that size should have an elephant trunk. Bending down for the Korean used fly swatter, the evidence that he's caught a shoplifter. A docile and defensive child. One who believes in Walmart Authority. One who pitches his face into the semi-glare of the tiles, waits for his inspector, trusts that there are protocols and customs.

Bedo is on his belly, prostrate, hands outstretched. His weapon and talisman is only a foot away. One floor tile away.

He looks at me and screams "Abeoji! Dangsin-i oil-yohaeyo" which means something like 'father help me.'

I'm transfixed at the picture of his body is in a shape of stiff surrender. The way he looks like a fly swatter. The way that his body is not twisted, his neck is not limp. There is no 4500 lb car that has broken his chest. There is no airbag dust, no re-

Straint by a seat belt. There is no reason that the Walmart man should end his life.

I can help him.

It feels….


With this child.

June 09, 2023 23:44

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Tommy Goround
11:09 Jun 10, 2023

Sasan sedigi...thank you.


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Graham Kinross
00:07 Jul 14, 2023

“One would not normally use a fly swatter to remove a pizza from an oven. It doesn't matter that they are the same basic shape.” You do what you have to do. I got some shade for microwaving a pizza but it tasted just fine. “In 1992 a Hawaiian won three championship Sumo competitions but they wouldn't make him an Ozekii. They said that the American lacked the parts of the spirit to ever lead in the sport. It's all mystical, undefined, elitism.” Most sumo wrestlers are Gaijin now. One was in trouble for assaulting another at a meeting because...


Tommy Goround
18:07 Jul 15, 2023

:) Thanks for the read through. Me on dog van vacation summer express. Back soon.


Graham Kinross
22:06 Jul 15, 2023

Dog can vacation summer express? What’s that?


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19:39 Jun 27, 2023

Hi Tommy, Another great story from you with a load of seemingly every day things put under the Tommy microscope and blown up larger than life. A very touching ending - I feel bad for both the kid and the narrator, but at the same time I'm glad they found each other. I spotted a few typos / missing words and things - but (perhaps I am tired tonight) I was finding this one demanded my whole attention to read it. So I didn't manage to take notes. If you want me to try again I will. But perhaps you could read it out loud to yourself to try to...


Tommy Goround
08:14 Jun 29, 2023

I saw a few. The site won't let me edit them anymore. :)


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Jarrel Jefferson
01:39 Jun 25, 2023

You put such deep thought into fly swatters in such a style I only associate with your writing. It feels like you’ve long sense found your voice as a writer, only to improve upon it with each new story.


Tommy Goround
23:16 Jun 26, 2023

That's very kind. I might have been using an electronic fly swatter to deal with a domestic terrorist situation when I wrote this. Early summer. :)


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06:42 Jun 24, 2023

Beautiful words.


Tommy Goround
23:17 Jun 26, 2023

Thank you, Derrick


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Philip Ebuluofor
14:20 Jun 21, 2023

Long haul. It seems to Peter with intensity and captivity towards the end. To be expected I guess. Fine work.


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Delbert Griffith
13:52 Jun 15, 2023

There are stories - and then there are Tommy G stories. This is quintessential Tommy G. I can't say that I licked up on a theme, for the tale had a wide-ranging, scattershot effect on me. Be that as it may, I found the story riveting and highly enjoyable. Your observations, from the minutiae of life to world events, are incredible. You, my friend, have a genius for observing something and then telling the reader about it in such a brilliant way. I simply can't begin to tell you how much I envy this talent. James Joyce meets whoever wrote ...


Tommy Goround
22:44 Jun 15, 2023

Wow. You are going for the bookjacket quotable. Nice. :)


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Michał Przywara
01:30 Jun 12, 2023

There's a lot going on here, and I suspect there's much I haven't caught. I love the opening paragraph! Indeed, you might think to use a fly swatter to take a pizza out, but that would be a misconception. A misunderstanding. Understanding comes with time. And so we have an unwanted child, who becomes wanted. And though the child is not the parent, he is a teacher in this story. An autonomous symbol. He's returned because he didn't come with a car as a gift, but we decide to keep him after "The holy spirit grips the Church Secretary" - ...


Tommy Goround
01:54 Jun 27, 2023

Delicious analysis. I'm hoping what is not said could be more interesting than what is said. Or else it's just a story about kids with tools. Thank you, Michal


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Lily Finch
16:49 Jun 10, 2023

This story is simple but deep. It works well. One spot to look at, "no res traint by a seat belt." Thanks for the cool read. LF6 Sent you some mail


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Mary Bendickson
16:22 Jun 10, 2023

Sorry for your loss,Tommy.


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Unknown User
23:06 Jun 17, 2023

<removed by user>


Tommy Goround
13:39 Jun 19, 2023

:) thank you, Joe.


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