Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Brown Nemesis

Growing up, whenever we had company, principally the in-laws, my mother always seemed to have a problem with cockroaches. Wood roaches, to be specific. They are medium-sized things that flitter and flut and only appear when least desired. Like during dinner. Or just before retiring to bed. Cockroaches to me are not a symbol of unsanitary living conditions—they are a lighthouse beacon that the house is spotless. So spotless that the Insect’s Human Morality Monitoring Committee decides to nip the sin of pride in the bud and send an unannounced visitor in...

In Brazil, it seems impossible to rid a home of cockroaches. They are large and hideous, brown crunchy things that ooze yellow liquid when squashed. I have nearly broken my finger due to their malevolence, as I wrote about here. From the fanciest apartment building in the Zona Sul to the humblest shack in the favelas, the dark underworld of the undead moves about, silently occupying corners until an appropriate moment...

I once dreamt about a roach, whose delicate legs were crawling on my bare skin, and I could feel even in my dream the slight itch that accompanied each step, the whooshing sound of his feelers. I awoke so revolted that I ran to shower and remove the dream residue (because perhaps I wasn’t dreaming. Horrific thought.)...and then shook my bedclothes out thoroughly.

Tonight, ushering friends to the door after a huge Thanksgiving meal, I hear my friend scream and jump onto a nearby bench. My Supportive Boyfriend raises his eyes and returns to his internet browsing. The screamer’s brother becomes concerned. The other guys are standing around laughing. I am confused until I see the brown lump in the corner. Of course. I’ve been visited by the cockroach morality squad. Great.

But then...when one of the guys attacks with a nearby shoe, Officer Roach spreads his wings and...FLIES. Straight at us.

Why did I not know that the big ones fly too??? Shouldn’t someone have warned us? Isn’t that mandatory 8th grade biology information?

So we have eight adults dodging aerial attacks, one oblivious to the situation and one screaming on a stool. Our swatting is ineffective and Ben comes to the rescue with a can of Raid. Unfortunately, that just causes the thing to run up and down the stairs like a drunken marathon runner.

“It’ll die here in a couple of minutes...”

A couple of minutes is long enough for them to regenerate, oh, who knows, a new head? Spawn others of its kind? No.
And so, with incredible courage, and a brand-new leather sandal in hand, I kill the roach with one fell blow.

And escape unscathed.

Arch-nemesis, you have not defeated me. I’ve left your carcass at the door to deter others...or maybe to feed that stray cat that keeps on pissing on my doormat.

Stray cat, you DO NOT WANT to be my enemy.


Anonymous said...

Jenna - You need to reread Archy and Mehitabel. Do you want me to bring it? Remember the time the hamster crawled in your ear while you were sick and sleeping?...the cockroach story reminded me of it. What fun I am going to have telling tales of your childhood!!

Love, Mom

ben said...

jenna -

i'll have you know that raid is the cockroach equivalent of sarin or mustard gas. it was as good as dead. you just have to have patience. and if you still have doubts, remember that when you kill cockroaches MY way, you have a 0 percent chance of breaking a finger, or any other body part.

and, i believe it's big brother came by tonight looking for it - flew through the window, into my face and hid for a while. however, i calmly turned the light on, opened the door, gave it a little shove with the broom, and out he went. nonviolence all the way...


Ellen said...

have u ever had a cockroad try to crawl in your ear? thats an interesting experience to wake up to.

Keith said...


You certainly have an interesting family! I hope I get the chance to meet them someday. You are always in our prayers.