I would tar and feather it if I could. Burn it in effigy while dancing in a circle. But I can't stand to touch the little plastic thing. Can't stand to look it in its narrow hard face. Cannot bear for it to touch me with one stiff thin antennae. My son knows this, and he thinks its hilarious.
Dammit. My husband swore he'd take the blasted thing back to work, get it out of my house and out of my life. But he hasn't. He only takes it away from my eldest son now and then, smiles with a "now cut that out" expression, and tucks it away somewhere he thinks is safe. Well, as you can imagine, every few months my son discovers it anew, then begins to laugh oddly for no reason I can see. That is until I come around the corner and he throws it at my feet or I open a drawer and it pops out at me in full grotesque glory. He can set me up several times in a day, and I scream every time, jump back, and tell him to get rid of it, cut it out, don't do it again. But I can never bring myself to touch the thing, to actually show nonchalance or jaded amusement. So it goes on and on until I'm half laughing and crying, and my four-year-old comes to hug me and says, "It's alright, Mama. I'm here."
To understand my irrational fear of something which I know is fake, you must know about the times when I have discovered the real deal in my proximity.
The first memorable confrontation in Arizona took place in our apartment when I was eight months pregnant with my eldest son. It crawled out of the drainage pipe in the sink, its body at least three inches long, as I went to wash my hands. I flung myself back against the wall and wailed with an undulating scream to rival any I produced in natural labor. My husband came skidding into the bathroom.
"What...are you...?" he panted, looking my full trembling body up and down.
"Cock...roach," I breathed and pointed.
"What? You can't scream like that for a cockroach!" he scolded, blithely approaching the sink to beat the hell out of it. "I thought you were in labor." (It was our first pregnancy, you understand. He had no clue what a laboring woman should sound like at feeling that first contraction.)
But the time I remember best, the time that still makes me glance to the ceiling in dread now and then, is the time when my husband had to do full battle with the cockroach of all cockroaches - the General Woundwort, the Napolean, the Sauron, the Genghis Khan of cockroaches. It simply wouldn't die easily.
We were watching The Kennedy Honors on TV, a most respectable and cultured means of entertainment when your children are asleep. Whoever was being honored was someone we found truly fascinating. Nevertheless, my eyes roamed at one point up toward the ceiling, and there it was - the ghastly thing! - black, large...on the stinkin' ceiling. I flattened myself against the couch cushion, drew my legs up - ready to dive, spring or hide - and asked Matthew while pointing with an unsteady finger, "What is...that?"
I feared I knew. He got up, examined it with wide eyes, and said softly, "A cockroach....get me something."
I looked about for something heavy, something to inflict pain on this vile intruder. I didn't want to move from my position, but I ventured centimeters away from the couch, stretched my arm out to hand My Man a rolled-up magazine. He took aim, swung, missed, and the thing took off running. It didn't scurry or crawl. The thing darted like an insect cheetah across our ceiling. I give My Man props, because he took off after it instead of huddling pitifully in the corner, whimpering and negotiating - offering it all the junk food in our house if it would just leave us alive (as I would have done).
He finally knocked it off the ceiling, but then we searched, and we couldn't find the carcass. We were determined. We needed proof, something to put on a toothpick in the front yard to intimidate fellow nasty insects. But nothing. Nothing! Until it occurred to us that it might have fallen into the bin of Christmas wrapping paper that was still residing in our house that chill February evening.
My husband carted the plastic bin gingerly outside, and the brave, brave man began to sift through its contents to find the evidence of the giant cockroach's demise as I watched from the safety of our doorway. Nearing the bottom, he tipped the bin over on the driveway, and out the damn thing ran, right at him. Such flailing of arms! Such wild prancing as he chased it, thumping the magazine down the length of the drive in a fight to the death. At length he stood over that Woundwort of Cockroaches, just beating it every few seconds to make sure it wouldn't reanimate itself like some horror movie villian. Then, weary, he took a crumpled bit of festive paper, picked up its mangled remains and dumped it in the outside trash can.
He stumbled to the door and pronounced, "It is done."
No, not really. He came shaking his head and said something like, "Wow," and, "I knew I had to get rid of it or you'd never let me rest."
So true. Now, I am sane. Truly. I do know COUS (Cockroaches of Unusual Size) are everywhere on this planet, eating our food when we're not looking, infecting us with horrible diseases, throwing parties in our cupboards when it's dark and we can't catch them. I also know that the city where I live regularly sprays the sewer heads in this town to control cockroach numbers, and that's why every little bit the revolting creatures have the audacity to come into homes, trying to escape their fate. Because they come into our homes and make us wet our pants, urban legends exist such as, An enormous cockroach ate my lap dog, or I found a cockroach in my kitchen, reclining in the chip bag and drinking my tequila, and An army of gargantuan cockroaches invaded my shower; I had to scale the glass sliding doors and pitch myself over the top to escape.
I don't know if those urban legends are true, but my story about the battle between My Man and General Woundwort Cockroach is sadly so. It's why for months after that incident I couldn't come out into our dark living room, my baby son in arms to nurse, without feeling incredibly uneasy and/or queasy as my eyes scaled the twilight of the ceiling wondering what was looking back at me. It's why to this day I kick, pat, or knock against the furniture on dark nights to discourage any insects from bearing me company in my chair.
I can't get rid of cockroaches. They're part of life, like spiders, crickets or flies (none of which I mind nearly as bad). But I have taken my stance against the plastic impostor kind, and the nine-year-old boy who aides and abets it. If he attempts to scare me again with that hideous thing, he'll be standing in the corner for an hour. And if it ever ends up in my clothes, hair, purse or car seat, I will get my husband's hammer and pummel it gleefully to see if plastic is really as strong as everyone claims it is.