A Day With a Cockroach


It’s funny the things that come into your mind when you incarcerate a cockroach. Many of us, myself included, are hasty to dispose of these little beasts. We smash them or gas them (my personal favorite) with anything we can find the instant we discover them. But today was different. Today I trapped one and didn’t finish it off. In fact, it’s still under that bowl in the bathroom. Hanging out with my thoughts and the toys strewn about on the floor around its new glass domicile.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve allowed it live this long. Part of it is the novelty I suppose. I hear the kids go in there and I inquire about it, “Hey! Is the roach still alive?” I yell. “How’s it doing?” And my eldest responds, “Yup, he’s still there Papa, but he stopped crawling around.” I mean who really keeps a cockroach hanging around for conversation with their kids?

And every time I go in there to pee I look at the little bastard in there and think about ending its life. Smashing it is easiest and cheapest, I think, but I do like the elegance of gassing it with a household cleaner. I prefer 409 cause it works fast. I spray a little under a small crack in the bowl then set it down again and watch the last frantic skittering and futile attempts to escape, all the while yelling, “It’s science! SCIENCE!” in my head. The gas fills the small dome and life slips away from my mortal enemy. Then I wipe up the mess and only the faint smell of clean is left. Sure it’s more expensive and takes a little longer, but there’s something easy, sterile, and sophisticated about it.

This thought leads me to think about our own prison system and the similarities between real people problems and my dance with this household pest. Incarceration and the death penalty don’t stop crime any more than my humane killing of this cockroach. There will be more roaches after this one. And for a moment, even, I think about rehabilitating this cockroach. If only it had the brain to learn. I could put it on a work program to clear my floors of crumbs as long as it stayed out of sight. I could teach it to grow its own food and build its own house so it didn’t have to occupy mine. It would take longer and require more effort but in the end this pest would join our glorious ranks of civilization, teach others of its kind to do the same, keep to itself and those close to it, and leave me and my family the hell alone. Now wouldn’t that be something?

These are all just thoughts though, hollow and strange maybe. And maybe they don’t really matter. The only thing that’s real is that bowl and that insect under it. I lived with it in plain sight for the day and while I have enjoyed this little experiment and the run with my imagination, it’s time to prepare my method and end it so I can sleep.