The Property Manager Only Rings Once, Assuming He Even Knows Your Apartment Number (a.k.a. The Cockroach Diaries, Part 1)

Boheme-poster1Cockroach heaven in my kitchen.  David hell.

My strategy:  Render the cupboards air-tight, then coat the entire space with a whisper-thin layer of lethal poison.

I’m on it!

We’re talking, please note, about creatures who will spend the first thousand years after the nuclear holocaust cheerfully nibbling on crumbs of plutonium and sipping heavy water, the Champagne and foie gras of high-living Blattellidae since the dawn of creation.

I spend a small fortune on silicone sealer, buckets of pink spackle, spray styrofoam that expands to fill holes and adheres to your skin so indelibly that its wear-off half-life is measured in decades, and aerosol insecticides so potent they can kill anything that walks, flies or crawls except Donald Trump, whose infestation of the planet thus continues unabated—and my roach problem, so I convince myself, is finally solved.

Added bonus, I am guaranteed a seat on the TTC now that my toxic aura, wafting from my clothing and bodily secretions like cold-war nerve gas, paralyzes entire streetcars full of the peasant classes with just a lift of my arm.

(Why do poor old ladies even take public transit, anyway? The world has bifurcated into five rich people in a stretch Mercedes and everyone else: Therefore take thee up thy bulrushes and goat and WALK, my black-babushka’d komradins! And have a bath in ’17 before you need a vegetable peeler to undress!)

My building management, come by to inspect, is touched by my efforts.  Then Nick the Super points to a tiny glass of dead zinnias that’s sitting on the kitchen counter.

“Dried flowers,” he says, stroking his beard like Dr. Finkelstein the B-movie scientist who’s about to send Tuesday Weld into space in a cardboard rocket held aloft with visible strings.

“Dried flowers will attract roaches like crazy.”

I nod, thinking: He’s stupid, he’s Russian, he’s six-foot-two and talks like Marlon Brando on opiates, and I haven’t been laid in at least 48 hours, so no way am I going to be contrary.

“My bad!” I gush.

And I feel like such a manwhore.  But you know what?  Being chary with your sexual favours at sixty is like dieting on the Titanic.  Have the fucking cheesecake, bro!

Do I have time to shave my legs before he finds the door?  I totally think I do!



Nighttime in unit 805.

I’ve been in the kitchen enjoying my roach-free universe and the attendant foreshadowing, and I turn to leave, holding my cup of No-Name Earl Grey tea.

(Geddit?  No-Name Earl Grey?  Not with me?  OK, look – the joke is, if it was really no-name, it wouldn’t –  

Oh why do I bother.)

And as I turn to leave – a sleek young cockroach, name of Chuck if I recognize him from his days as a nymph on the lam, swings around one of the metal supports of the kitchen shelves with the alacrity of an Olympic gymnast turned European-style lap dancer and fixes me with a hard gaze.  And a hard exoskeleton. His antennae flick at the air.

“So, Daaaavey,” he says with that rattling, elongated “a” common to all Southern Ontario roaches.  “I expect you’re pretty daaaamn proud of yourself, eh?”

(Oh, he’s Canadian, no doot aboot it. Yeah, Americans, all of us Canucks talk like that, doon’t we?  Just like you all sound like JFK, you should be so lucky.)

“I doon’t knoow what you’re talking about.  And let go of my arm!”

I make an attempt to leave with some of my dignity intact.  Which is difficult when you’re wearing nothing but a black net tank top and crocheted slippers from Oxfam that double as hand-puppets.

“Just a little picnic, we was gonna have.  Me and Muriel and the boys.”cockroach

Holy manipulation, these roaches are clever!  Somewhere, deep in my lapsed-Buddhist soul, I feel a twinge.  He’s got me right by the short and curly Siddhartha-pubes, the Buddha-balls, the Gautama-gonads.

“A nice sunny daaaay in the kitchen,” he continues.  “A couplea coffee grounds, some cheese flecks, maybe a fingernail paring, a nice sip at the taaaaap.  Then a fun game or two of ‘Beat the Toaster Element’ or ‘Cluster Behind the Stove Clock Glass’.  Wallow in somea that peanut butter on the floor, then a group scurry.  Simple pleasures, dude!

“But oh, no.  You. You had to have your firestorm, your little cockroach Dresden, didn’t you?   They say we caaaaan survive a nuclear bomb, but that’s a lie I tell you – a rotten dirty lie!”  Hoo boy, he can turn on the waterworks, too.   “Roach torturer!” he gasps. “Aaaaarthropodist!”

And then—he pushes it just that much too far.  A sniff, a little cough <kek kek> and—he starts singing.

Singing Puccini.  “Che gelida manina“,  from La Bohème, if you must know. Oh, yes.  This one’s obviously willing to scrape to the very bottom of the roach-desperation barrel.

His little cockroach voice scratches and warbles, his mandibles throb as he clasps his delicate cockroach front legs in an impossibly affected attitude. He even staggers about and clutches the box of sea salt, just like a real operatic tenor.  Luciano Cockaroachi!

“All right, buster,”  I think.  “You’ve overplayed your hand”.

I spot the can of insecticide on the shelf just beneath him.  He sees that I see it.  I see that he sees that I see.

Some time passes while we notice the other one noticing and notice that we notice the other one noticing and think about making a first move before the other one decides that he’s probably noticed enough noticing to actually do something.

I grab the Raid, aim it squarely between his compound eyes.

“Any last words, Charles?”  I can’t help but leer in that self-satisfied, I’m-gonna-blast-your-little-carapace-to-Kingdom-Come way that we do.

But Chuck knows the game is up and says nothing.  He gives me a wry, fatalistic smile, flips me the bird, turns and scuttles away.

I press down on the white button, releasing the patented, chrysanthemum-derived insecticide in a volley of sweet-pungent spray.  Tears stream down my face.

“Chuck!  Chuck!!” I sob.  “I’m sorry, Chuck, it’s just – oh, Chuck, tell me you understand!” But I keep spraying.  And spraying. And –

And when I finish – well, Chuck’s just a quivering pile of melted chitin.

Show me a cockroach that can write La Bohème.  Just show me.




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