Thursday, May 23, 2013

Roach Resort -- by Josh

Yesterday evening, I stumbled on a surprising scientific discovery involving some of God's tiniest, most disgusting creatures.  I've never been too horribly bothered by roaches, because they're ALWAYS preferable to rats.  However, there were the ones that would fall out of the trees and into my hair on the coast in Bulgaria.  There were also the discoveries of roach nests in an alarm clock and a wireless phone receiver in our apartment in Oregon (let's just say I rubbed off a good layer of facial skin before I felt clean).
But my latest encounter with these epic survivors makes me think they're becoming spiteful.  For a while, we only had the big roaches, including the flying kind, which are more like beetles and serve  principally as playthings for Danger the Cat.  Those I don't mind. But lately, their smaller, crappier (literally) cousins decided to move in as well.
I knew a great battle had begun as soon as I spotted the first little ones.  After our many years of fighting this arthropodic plague in Oregon, those six-legged terrorists who would hide in our wooden walls and withstand our onslaughts, I could only imagine, with horror, the scale of warfare it would take to push back such an offensive critter here in the Tropics.
Last night, once we'd finished our Declaration of the Bab pizza party and prayers, I opened the kitchen drawer to get a plastic baggy for the last slices of pie.  What I saw immediately reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude:

  • "[T]he cockroach, the oldest winged insect on the face of the earth, had already been the victim of slippers in the Old Testament, but...since the species was definitely resistant to any and all methods of extermination, from tomato dices with borax to flour and sugar, and with its one thousand six hundred three varieties had resisted the most ancient, tenacious, and pitiless persecution that mankind had unleashed against any living thing since the beginnings, including man himself, to such an extent that just as an instinct for reproduction was attributed to humankind, so there must have been another one more definite and pressing, which was the instinct to kill cockroaches, and if the latter had succeeded in escaping human ferocity it was because they had taken refuge in the shadows, where they became invulnerable because of man’s congenital fear of the dark, but on the other hand they became susceptible to the glow of noon, so that by the Middle Ages already, and in present times, and per omnia secula seculorum, the only effective method for killing cockroaches was the glare of the sun."

Behold my great, ferocious light (and shoe)!
Much like Al-Qaeda's mission to instill fear and insecurity by striking where one least expects, where one feels safest, these little critters' antennae had led them to a place designed to be impermeable to their presence.  The very purpose of those plastic bags is to protect my favorite treats and luscious leftovers from their filthy feet.
As it turns out, cockroaches love to settle in small cardboard boxes. The first, 1/4 full box I simply emptied out the bags, chasing down and killing the roaches one by one. Although there was some insect feces on each bag, they were all still new and sealed, so I figured I'd just wash them in some disinfectant and call it good.
Then Rebecca asked, "Did they get into the other boxes?"
"What other boxes?" I replied with a sense of foreboding.
Sure enough, another drawer had two full boxes, one partially open.  I gritted my teeth and pried up the lid. "Crap!" I thought.  Literally. Lots of it, and in the folds of the bags I could see their sickening bodies squirming and crawling. "Rebecca!"
It broke my heart, but there was only one, very wasteful, solution. In the garbage it went. They won. I didn't even get to slaughter them.  Maybe I should've poured some lighter fluid on the box and blown it up, like Rebecca tried a while back.  Bitter defeat was mine.
Ultimately, the lesson I think Marquez was trying to teach us, and which I struggle constantly to learn, is that although it's valiant and worthwhile to keep on struggling and cleaning and re-building and renewing ourselves, some things are simply out of our control.
Ah, the power of literature. It can make even cockroaches seem philosophical, though I still hope they stay out of our library.

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