September 25, 2011

And then I offer up an excerpt of my life . . .

Trailers for sale or rent. Rooms to let fifty cents.

As my mother's music coiled around my 10-year-old eardrums, I laid in the crosshairs of an early morning sun and a late summer breeze, flat on my back with covers pulled just above my chest. I blinked lazily to coax myself awake, when something weird caught my attention: two hair-thin antennae fanning the air near my chin.

My groggy eyes strained downward. What's this? Staring back at me was a cockroach the size of a bulldozer with a waxy brown body that could move faster than a wind-up Hot Wheel. I cringed at the thought of its ugly underbelly on my skin and barely opened my mouth to call for help. What if it scuttled into my throat?

"Mmumm."

My hands were stuck under the covers, the roach rocking atop my chest like a ship in shallow surf. Despite all efforts to be perfectly still, I could not stop breathing.

In my Technicolored imagination, the beast was plotting the nearest breach. Any moment, it would plunge into my nostril, feelers smoothed back along its shiny body armor, while prickly legs skittered frantically toward my brain. Lodged up there for the next decade, it would have nothing to eat but my brain matter.

My eyes cut to my six-year-old sister in the twin bed across from mine, sound asleep and sucking her thumb like a starving piglet—which was actually quite brilliant. Plugging one's mouth and positioning one's fist that close to one's nasal orifice was the ideal blockade for behemoths on the prowl. But my fate augured differently and, finally, I succumbed to tears.

Now it has to be said, roaches had long been the bane of my existence. It didn't help that school friends liked to bastardize my name by calling me Kimmie Cockroach. That only fueled my loathing and instilled in me the feeling that I was the Isaac Newton of roach lore. What else could explain the gravitational pull of the entire cockroach kingdom to our Phoenix home, a modest clapboard dwelling on cinder blocks? Their invasion bordered on the tyrannical and included the spaces between our walls, the pipes under our floorboards, and the empty crannies of our attic. They crept like insurgents under the cloak of night and scattered in all directions when we surprised them with lights. Caught with their putrid bounties, they tore gleefully across our linoleum like frisky dogs with wet butts. I envisioned them frolicking in our cesspool below the caliché, buoyed by their unflappable endurance in the evolutionary hierarchy.

"Eehhhhnnn."

My feeble call to Eryn through clenched teeth sounded guttural, but I feared startling the vermin into doing the unspeakable. If Eryn didn't wake and come to my rescue, time promised to march a thousand years with me in the same fossilized position, roach-rammed into catatonia. The signpost was up ahead. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.

My parents would be grief stricken. "No, it can't be! She was the good daughter." My siblings would stare and poke at me and jump on my bed just to watch me bounce like a two-by-four with no way to retaliate. Our relatives would visit en masse and remark how sad it was that I never blinked anymore. Walter Cronkite would appear dumbstruck on TV news, reporting that doctors the world over were confounded about my mystery ailment. Walter would take off his black-frames, rub the tears from his eyes and choke out, "And . . . that's . . . the way . . . it is."

Eryn might be the single witness, if only she'd wake up! I clamped my lips together and threw my voice, "Eehhnnnn!"

Then the beast lurched to attention, its legs in pounce position. I'd seen cats do that very thing before they attacked!

"MO-O-O-OM!"

"What!" my mom said as she entered my room.

She must have seen my terror. She hurried quickly to my bedside and, with one swoop of her hand, hurled the roach into the air. I feared its escape, but my mother was already committed. In a belligerent frenzy, she stomped the carpet, twirling and lunging and shouting obscenities. The hammers of destruction were her bright red Keds, and she crushed the beast like Rice Krispies under white rubber soles.

Snap, crackle, pop!

"You guys get out of bed now," my mother said, as if nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary had occurred. She then slipped into the bathroom and returned with a wad of toilet paper, entombing the carcass before flushing it down the toilet.

A fitting burial, I thought. Maybe upon seeing their kin washed through the poop chute with its body dismembered, the other roaches that lived down there would be too scared to venture into my room ever again.

Humming King of the Road, Mom departed without the cheers, fanfare, and confetti she so rightly deserved.

Eryn popped her thumb out, yawned and stretched, completely unaware of our close brush with the sinister shadow of sepsis. Just as well. A six-year-old thumb-sucker might not have handled it as well as I had.

From my memoir in progress:  Growing Up Cockrill:  Mostly True Tales of My Childhood.
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22 comments:

Eva Gallant said...

Well done! Very well written! I loved it...well not the idea of a cockroach going up your nose and feasting on your brain....but it was a great story!

Eva Gallant said...

Well done! Very well written! I loved it...well not the idea of a cockroach going up your nose and feasting on your brain....but it was a great story!

Watercolor said...

Love it! Growing up near New Orleans I'm very familiar with the giant beasts. Flying ones at that. *shudder*

Gaelyn said...

I Hate those Beasts! Glad I've never had to live with them full time.

Nick said...

You should see some of the bugs we encountered growing up in Australia. One carried away my sister. Now I'm an only child.

TechnoBabe said...

If you are writing your life story, and if it is all as funny as this, you will have a bestseller.

daisyfae said...

i could feel the terror! nicely written!

and for me? it was a house spider on the pillow next to my face as i woke up one morning. they look quite large at that distance!

Brian Miller said...

ewwww.....we used to seem palmetto bugs all the time in FL...did you see Star Trek when the one crawled out of the crewmans ear....ugh....nicely written and glad you lived to tell it...ha

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I am now itching and ready to run for the Raid. Thank God there aren't any cockroaches in Oregon.

Great writing though.

injaynesworld said...

I should not have read this right before bedtime. Excellent, my talented friend. You really conveyed the child's perspective well.

meleah rebeccah said...

Okay, I cringed the whole time reading this! Very well written indeed!

formerlyonlyamovie said...

Looking forward to this book... xo

mac said...

Once they show up, they're nearly impossible to get rid of.

I'm pretty sure the ones where I lived carried weapons.

Fred Miller said...

Sorry, but I'm going to have keep Tessa from reading this. She has been mostly paralyzed since high school. In college, her dorm room was next to the trash chute. Roaches crawled over her face, and she couldn't reach up to get them off. They totally freak her out, now. Of course, we take great pains to keep them out of our house, too.

JoeinVegas said...

No problem with those guys in Texas? They grow them big there.
Ours in Vegas are rather numerous, but at least they stay outside.

ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ said...

Brilliantly done!

Maria said...

Holy cow. I can't remember the last time that I moseyed in to a blog and was mesmerized from the first paragraph. Thank you.

secret agent woman said...

Very well-written but yigh - I do loathe roaches!

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

I LOVED THAT!! That's my kind of humor--a small thing that gets built up on. Bravo.

Red Shoes said...

I'm always amazed that the pre-squished roaches are always SO much larger than the post squished ones... maybe they inhale a bunch of air to make themselves look larger and loom more menacingly...

Roaches...

~shoes~

Sharon said...

Simply put, I absolutely would not have survived this. Very glad that you did, though!

Magpie said...

Oh great. Now I'm going to be singing Roger Miller all day long?