I was thinking of foreign cockroaches yesterday. They came wandering into a conversation I had at lunch in a restaurant that had no cockroaches.
I suppose it may have been the spider hanging in his web strategically located ten feet above our table that reminded me of Hobart, Tasmania and the huntsman spider that terrorized my nights there. That led my memory through the electrical pathways and synapses to bring me to the cockroach in Sydney. That’s just the way my mind rolls.
Late night, Sydney. The lights of the city filter in through the gauzy drapes. I still hear traffic noise from the street, seven floors below.
I slip off my shoes and sit on the edge of the bed. I see movement out of the corner of my eye. There. In a small beam of light on the mink colored carpet. Something stands, and I feel its eyes staring at me. Sizing me up as a worthy adversary. As I stand up, the creature begins to sway, as though to music inaudible to me. I slowly reach for the bedside light and switch it on.
An intense chattering, followed by hissing, breaks the silence. An incredibly big cockroach stands defiantly with his reddish brown wings slightly spread and quivering. A yellow band decorates his shoulders. Without warning, he drops to all sixes and scurries under the dresser. I hear the hard shell of his wings graze the bottom of the drawer as he seeks sanctuary.
I look under the dresser, and see only darkness. From deep within, the cockroach hisses, sending shivers down my back.
The hotel provides a flashlight, stowed in the top left drawer in the kitchen. I run barefoot through the dark living room, praying I will not feel anything crunchy underfoot. Returning to the bedroom, I kneel and shine the light into his lair.
His eyes glow red in the beam, his feelers reach out to me. For a moment, I believe we have a connection. Perhaps it is possible that my Uncle Felix has returned from the dead, and is enjoying reincarnation in perpetual bliss in Australia.
Then he runs. Dodging my hand that holds the flashlight, his legs race toward my face. Dread floods over me as I imagine the creature running into my mouth and down my throat. The bed stops me with a crack on the back of my head, and I fall onto my side.
Felix, for by now I have named him, lays dazed beside me. I must have hit him with the flashlight as I was flailing around. How can this be? Word was that cockroaches are notoriously hard to kill.
I am a killer. And I have done it by my finely honed instincts alone. I kneel over the still form and assess the damages. One wing is dented, exposing a delicate gossamer wing. His eyes remain open. I look around for a tissue with which to collect and wrap his broken corpse.
When I look back, he is no longer there. I see the tip of his shell retreat under the bed.
I cannot sleep knowing he is there. I climb on the bed and jump up and down, trying to generate enough noise to scare him back out into the open. The mattress strains under my weight, loudly protesting against my use of it as a trampoline. My next line of defense is the broom tucked in the closet. Slowly I coax him out from under the bed, and once again we stand staring at each other on the carpet.
He slowly rises up on his hind legs, shakes his wings and threatens me with his chattering and hissing. The occasional rush at me is most effective.
Keeping my eye on him, I reach for my shoe, and deliver three hard slaps to the floor. With each hit, Felix The Cockroach leaps first to one side, then to the other. The third time, he dives under the bedside table. When I shine the flashlight under the table, I cannot see him, although I continue to search until the light dims and fades to nothing.
But I know he is there. And I know I have to sleep next to him for three more nights.
When Becky comes back into the room, she asks what I have been up to, but does not seem overly impressed at my description of the battle.
We sleep with my light on; I hold the dead flashlight tightly in my hand waiting. But he doesn’t return.