The Cockroach Games

I believe that once we are all gone, Keith Richards will still be here… with five cockroaches saying ‘you know I smoked your uncle, did you know that?'” – Robin Williams

My last author blog post on Indies Unlimited was about being born and raised in the state of New Jersey.

I truly love living in my adopted state of Florida, and as I read the comments from my readers I decided to write about one of my first Floridian encounters with the king of Darwinian theory, the American Cockroach.

There are thousands of types of cockroaches. The oldest cockroach fossil dates back 350 million years. It is believed that our modern day pests are quite similar to their ancestors.

The first time I ever saw a cockroach was in Newark Airport as an adult. The cold northern winters kill off most of the bigger specimens. I was raised to believe that if you had cockroaches you were a poor housekeeper. In the south this is not necessarily the case. Without a freezing winter to kill them off these hardy insects thrive and grow to spectacular sizes.

When we moved to Florida we lived in a ground floor apartment. I was pregnant and expanding rapidly, so I was thrilled to avoid the steep stairs of the second floor residences. One night, or perhaps early in the morning, I needed to use the bathroom that was close by our bedroom. As I sat, a huge cockroach, at least four inches long, ran across the wall and hid behind the hand towels. I screamed bloody murder and my husband ran in to investigate. He tried to whack the intruder, but he was a speedy devil. (A cockroach can run up to three miles per hour and turn 25 times in one second. The best way to stop them is Windex, but that is another story.) He streaked across the wall and disappeared. My husband looked all over the bathroom for him, and finally gave up.

“He’s gone, Honey. I’m going back to bed, I have to work tomorrow.”

I knew better. An insect doesn’t get that big by being stupid. His impressive size was a testament to his superior survival skills. He was here, oh yes, and I would get him. The adrenaline coursed through my body and I was the hunter. I needed to think like a cockroach, nay, I must become a cockroach. Only by putting myself in his cerci would I defeat my enemy.

I surveyed the bathroom. He was not near the ceiling, nor was he anywhere at eye level. I turned slowly, a full 360 degrees, taking one final look before I slowly rested my Buddha-bellied body on the throw rug. That is when I saw him. The crafty son of a gun had flattened his body upside down under the lip of the countertop by the sink. Nonchalantly I turned my back to him, (cockroaches have a nerve that runs down their back allowing them to sense danger from behind), rolled up a magazine, and launched my attack. I whacked three times under the counter with the fashion magazine, my stylish weapon of choice. His mutilated carcass fell to the floor and I felt the surge of military success. Victory was mine! Finally, I could sleep. The only collateral damage was the ruined Vogue.

As I remember this encounter I will admit how much I like the idea of giving animals, reptiles, and insects human characteristics, personalities, and well-honed survival instincts. On Indies Unlimited a recent flash fiction challenge required the writer to imagine an unassuming turtle that caused radioactive aging. You can read the entries HERE. This was my first foray into a writing challenge of this sort. It is a very helpful exercise in parsing one’s words, much like writing a book synopsis.

Are there books where cockroaches are the main character? I am familiar with Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. With all due respect, I am more interested in reading a humorous or science fiction story. In the movie Men in Black I always thought the bug was a brilliant addition to the plot line. “Put the sugar in the water.”  Hilarious.

I am fascinated with the idea of a story where the main character encounters a bug or an insect that gives him a run for his money. I would love to read a tale where a bug, like the gopher in Caddy Shack, dances to Kenny Loggins. Now that would be funny.

Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “The Cockroach Games”

  1. Great post, Lois. You Floridians don’t mess around when it comes to cockroaches. I hate those things! One of my greatest joys, when I lived in Colorado, was discovering that it was too arid for them there.

    1. No, we don’t mess around. Windex or Glass Plus freezes them in their tracks and then you can whack them. They are unbelievably fast. And, they can fly.
      Thanks for your comments. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Yvonne.
      There are lots of critters in Florida and this one was certainly full of spunk.
      How about a fabulous cockroach character in your WIP? 🙂

  2. “I needed to think like a cockroach, nay, I must become a cockroach.”

    ROTFL Lois… I think I met his cousin in Mexico this past February 🙂 Hilarious post–thanks for the laugh.

    1. DV,
      This insect was one crafty bug.
      I could never have slept knowing he had breached the outer walls and could run freely. He had to die.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Nice post. My first introduction to cockroaches was as a young child at my great-grandmother’s appartment. She had just been moved to a nursing home and we went to help pack her stuff. The apartment was infested, the doorframe was coated with the devils.

    1. The word “infested” makes my skin crawl. It is a continuing battle in Florida to contain the critters. But there is so much beauty as well.
      When I was doing research for this post I was on a site that had non-pesticide solutions to pest control. One of the things they suggested is to buy a gecko. They said, “You won’t see him while he takes care of your roach problem. When he has it under control then he’ll be visible.” Just what I need, gecko poop in the house. But desperate times can call for desperate measures. Thankfully, I haven’t found any lately.
      Thanks for your comments.

  4. To answer your request, I don’t know of a book, but here is one of my favorite jokes: There was a man whose custom was to stop at the local convenience store after work and buy three six-packs, which he then proceeded to drink in front of the TV before bed. One night, just as he slugged back the last can, he heard a knock at the door. Imagine his surprise when he opened it to a 6 foot cockroach. The roach grabbed his shirtfront and beat the pulp out of him before throwing him to the ground and stalking off.
    The man dragged himself off to bed muttering, “I’ve got to cut down on the beer.”
    The next night he only bought two six-packs, but just as he was finishing the last can, there was a knock at the door. It was the same 6 foot roach, and once again it beat him to a pulp. “I’ve really got to cut back,” the man told himself as he dragged his sore body off to bed.
    The following night, he only bought one six-pack, but exactly the same thing happened anyway.
    Feeling that he needed help, he went to the doctor the next day and told his sad tale. “Hmm,” said the doctor, stroking his goatee, “yes. Well, I have heard that there is an extremely nasty bug going around.”

  5. I’m so glad you went on to kill the cockroach in your post, because otherwise I would have imagined it hiding in my bathroom and had to stop everything to bleach the life out of the place.

  6. I love this post! I grew up in the Third World, so cockroaches were part of everyday life. My sisters and I used to joke about how they would come running up the overflow drain in the bathtub and jump in with us so they could show off their backstroke and breaststroke to our screams and squeals. I kept a can of Raid by the bath, but it didn’t do much. I’m sure they built an immunity to the poison. And although I LOVE geckos, and we always had a house full of them, they really didn’t do much to deter the cockroaches.

    Love the nasty bug joke by JK Mikals above too. 😀

    1. In the tub? My skin is crawling.
      My neighbor is a pulmonologist and he says Raid is really bad for humans to breathe. I think the ammonia in Windex burns them so they have to slow down. Then, it’s curtains for them. 🙂
      Thanks for your comments.

  7. Love it. I temp sometimes for a pest control company over the summer, mainly dealing with wasps’ nests that have invaded attics and wall cavities. You have to ‘think like a wasp’ to get them before they know you’re there. 🙂 Rehoming bee swarms too, got to think like the bees. So, becoming the cockroach is a lovely image. Didn’t know about the Windex though, will buy in extra, just in case.

    1. You are a woman of many talents, Carolyn!
      I don’t know which insect I would rather deal with, but I am glad you are in tune with wasp thinking and can outsmart them.
      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

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