November 18, 2010

How I came to have a dead roach in my sink.

I don't consider the following to be a particularly harrowing tale, nor do I consider my foe to be a particularly harrowing foe. He (she?) is but one of many roaches I will encounter here in Puerto Rico, and I suspect I should encounter larger, stranger bugs under even more precarious circumstances later on. But the roach in this tale has the distinction of being the first living roach I encountered. So he (I'm going to make assume for the purpose of brevity that it's a male) gets his own blog entry.

I was cleaning and reorganizing my kitchen a bit. I had just replaced the liner in my garbage can. It was pristine and unblemished, its mouth stretched wide, the plastic pure and white and clean down below. If you happened to, say, deposit the last bit of toast or fruit inside, one could still retrieve and consume it without much apprehension.

My dishes and food items had heretofore been somewhat intermingled between kitchen cabinets and open hanging shelves. I had decided, for wont of avoiding insect-related contamination, to place the dishes in the cabinet and the food items (properly sealed, of course) on the open shelves. Time would tell if this was a wise decision or not, but at that point I'd shuddered at the idea of dishes out in the open, crawling with the massive bugs I'd been warned of by those who'd journeyed here previous to me.

I had seen bugs. Why, just that day I'd encountered more than a fair allotment of mosquitoes, whipping weeds as they ignored my exposed and Off!-greased limbs, penetrating to my shoulder blades through the defense of a single t-shirt. I would later inspect the damage and find each shoulder blade tragically festooned with dozens of bites. And of course, in my weed-whipping I'd made enemies of several fire ant colonies, effortlessly lopping off the tops of their habitats and watching as they gushed forth to repair the destruction I'd left. I'll stop short of promoting the theory that all bugs are in cahoots. But I have my suspicions. I have reason to believe that a certain cockroach was sent my way.

There, behind a humidity-crusted Gatorade can left by an intern who lived here before me, he lay in wait until I began my domestic duties. I began to transfer the goods. And as I moved the can aside he emerged, bold and surprisingly mobile, shocking in his agility. He skittered off behind the nearest defensible position, an empty tupperware container. I leaped back.

I stood there for a moment. This is it. It's going down. Me and him. At least, I hope it's just me and him. He better not have friends. Don't roaches always have friends? How many am I dealing with here? Assess the situation. One small cupboard. One small roach. It's time to move.

I approached the cupboard. I removed everything from the left of his position. Then everything to the right. I searched nearby for a non-cooking-utensil that was blunt and capable of flattening a cockroach. I settled on a broom. And then: Quickly snatched the tupperware from the cupboard. He fled to a corner and stopped.

I stared at him. He stared back at me.

Get the camera. No, he'll be gone.

I stood there for a minute longer. Not time to smash him yet.

How do roaches like fire?

There was a lighter nearby. I flicked it again and again, increasingly closer to him, illuminating the cupboards. He cowered. I was clearly the one in charge here. He'd gotten himself in way over his head. Barring some last-minute death-defying heroics on his part, I was going to win.

With a sharp jab of the broom handle, I squashed him into the corner, and he fell to the bottom of the cupboard. Victory. I jabbed him again. There was a stain of roach goo on the wood behind him.

Those who have encountered roaches before will know it's far too early to call this match.

Very soon, the roach popped up again, skittering in a circle, less agile but every bit as quick. I leaped back again.

I cannot say how he did what he did next, only that he did it. In his limp, half-smashed condition, he managed to get up over the lip of the cupboards and get airborne. Flight, blessedly brave, courageous flight. Now, when a thing manages to get itself launched like that, it is beyond the realm of reason and nothing can be assumed about his capabilities. As his flight carried him downward, I instinctively stepped back and tried to guess what his trajectory would be upon landing. He came to a hard landing on the lip of the sink, and stumbled clumsily toward the drain.

And there he stayed, exhausted, his antennae waving in the sultry Caribbean air, waiting for me to end it.

Very slowly, I raised the handle of the broom, and brought it down with a crunch, halving him over the grate of the drain.

And that is how I came to have a dead roach in my sink.

I fished him out with a plastic bag and tossed him into the garbage can. And there he presently rests, wrapped in a plastic bag, the sole occupant of an otherwise pristine garbage can.

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