The Hunt for Black Hawk Down

One thing that can really disrupt a long, luxurious shower is when you glance down and see a huge mercury black cockroach slide down the side of your tub into the ankle-deep water.  If you’re like me, you might scream bloody murder and leap out of the bathtub and try not to fall down, fleeing the scene.


And let’s say you might be leaning on the other side of the bathroom door now, naked and dripping wet.  You, a five-foot-eight homo sapien, you who are in control of many powerful technological wonders, are hiding behind a door from that possum-sized insect.  What are you going to do at this point?  You’re laughing, because it’s ridiculous…but you’re also trembling.


You’re thinking, that fucker is so fat and long he could be venomous.  His juiced-up torso is so slick and suave that he’s probably just gleefully sliding back and forth along the wet white porcelain bathtub bottom.  He’s probably making the happy noise that the demon horsemen screech in those “Lord of the Rings” movies.  When he finally slows to a stop, he’ll turn over onto his scratchy feet and skitter around exploring like he’s thinking of redecorating.  Some garbage in a vase over here.  Another spot of wet sludge, just symmetrical, would be nice.  Could we add some rotten vegetables or perhaps a fungus bed? 


Since I’m just wearing a towel at this point, I have to think of suiting up for the confrontation.  There’s a black t-shirt with pentagrams on it in my drawer.  It’s the only Satan-positive thing I own.  Yes, it might intimidate the enemy.  Jeans.  Sneakers—I don’t have combat boots anymore.  New Balance will have to be tough enough.


At this point, maybe a reasonable person would grab a shoe or a newspaper and tromp back in there and squash the roach.  Rather than following that conventional path, I decided it was time for an impotent surveillance mission.


Okay, now, open the door.  Open…open.  Where is he?  Peek around the shower curtain.  There he is!  Scream, slam the door shut.  Safe.  Was that even him?  That scraggly dark spot?  It could have been just a clump of cat hair. 


Now that I’ve taken a good look at him, perhaps I should come up with a strategy.  I don’t know that I can get violent with the guy.  I don’t have the force of a bar bouncer. I’m more of a Rasputin sort of woman.  Poison is the kind of elegant solution I’m looking for.  I mean, I try not to keep things in the house that are dangerous to children and other living things, but there might be something here.  Yes, I could definitely poison him.  It was a favorite maneuver in the Hamlet household.  And almost everybody ended up dead.


Let’s see…latex house paint?  Organic all-surface cleaner?  Palmolive?  Damn my hippie credos.  The only poison we have is vodka, and I’m not sure what will happen if I pour vodka on a roach.  I know I’m not wasting Beaujolais on this.


No, I see: Comet! It has bleach in it!  Bleach is dangerous—that’s why you can go blonde up top but not down below.  Comet, in its proud green can, with his boyish film of powder dulling his shiny flattop.  I’ve done this kind of thing before, Comet seems to whisper.  I turn it around, and Comet’s back pocket screams, “HAZARDOUS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS.”  Unfortunately, Comet does not specifically mention wild predatory animals, like roaches.  “CAUTION, Causes mild eye irritation,” he adds.  At least Comet might stun Mr. Roach.  From my brief surveillance, I would guess he had eyes.


I stand behind the door again, holding Comet’s torso like a nightstick.  Okay… go!  Throw open the door, hold out the canister.  That’s him!  I shake, shake, on him and he is only wiggling a little bit, what is wrong with him? 


His wiggling wiggling feet and his hair-sized antennae and is he experiencing “mild irritation”?  I’m not sure.  It could be anything from annoyance to agony.  Roach is fully sprinkled, looks like he’s covered with powdered toothpaste or mint-flavored cocaine.  Slam the door shut again.  Everything leaning on the ledge above the door falls on my head.


Sigh.  Lean over to pick up a painting and two little doodads that were balanced up above, with my hands shaking dramatically.  Hug myself across the pentagrams on my chest.  Shudder some more.  What am I doing with this Comet anyway?  Comet won’t seal the deal.


I should squish the roach. I should smash him.  No, I can’t possibly smash this bug.  It is too huge.  His thick date-shaped body is the scariest four inches square I’ve ever seen and if I squished him, which I should do, it would not be like neatly flattening a measly ant or a popping a bitty gnat or folding down a spider, it would be a juicy event– like crushing a big grape with your bare feet, it would go everywhere.  Instead of grape juice, it’s cockroach cocktail.


I can’t squish him, but what else can I do?  I could call for reinforcements.  Am I the sort of person who has to call for reinforcements when faced with the orange level?  My God, I am wearing a satanic t-shirt.  And I am one hundred times the size of the problem. 


Yes, I am that sort of person.  I go sit on the couch.  Get book of phone numbers.  Get phone.  Look at numbers of men I know.  Realize this is sexist, but truly none of the women I know will kill for me.  My two men friends who might go for it are already at work.  I don’t think they will be interested. 


My neighbors are gone for the day.  And I’ve never asked them to kill a bug for me.  We’re nodding neighbors, sitting on the porch neighbors, not crisis-intervention neighbors. I could call maintenance.  They usually show up within a day or two.  I could leave the shower running for twenty-four hours.  I don’t pay for that water anyhow.


Clearly, I could call my ex-boyfriend.  Calling him would signal my defeat as a feminist, my reliance on him emotionally despite the fact that that I hate him, and I love him, and I’m completely indifferent to him.  Or maybe it means I’m liberated enough to outsource my problem, and not sit on the couch for another hour letting to the shower run.  I call the ex.  He answers, listens, and agrees to come over.


While I wait for him, I write out a check for $20 so that I won’t have to thank him with sexual favors, and write neatly in the memo area, “nasty bug killing fee.”  I write his full name, all three pieces, which helps fill the time as the shower runs and runs.  I chew on the pen that I used to write the check…. 


He knocks!  I jump up and let him in.


“It’s in there,” I say.  Although my ex is a foot taller than Woody Allen, 25% less funny, and 80% less Jewish, this still is still too “Annie Hall” for me.  I hope he doesn’t have a new lady friend back at his house.  He bravely heads into the bathroom.  I run back to the couch and pull my knees to my chest.


A few long moments later, he emerges.  “It’s so big and scary!” he shrieks in falsetto, huddling against my closet door.


I frown.


“No, I got it.  He’s all gone.  But I had to hit him twice.  What was that crap all over him?”


“Oh.  Comet,” I say.  Maybe if you’re suddenly and deliberately attacked by a cockroach, you’ll just calmly step out of the bathroom and put on your robe.  Maybe you’ll grab a sneaker and whack it without a second thought.  If this is the case, I can only tell you: you may be missing out.


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