Sep 12, 2010

Three months ago an advance guard of German cockroaches arrived in the kitchen. They took up positions under the oven and frig, and, for a time, in the frig door hinges, as well as in a stereo receiver above the frig and in the microwave on a nearby counter. I can barely stand to use the microwave anymore.

Several even made their way down a short hall into the HP printer in our bedroom. The printer sits on a 20-inch high wooden book case. Wires from the printer run up to a table with an i-mac. Occasionally, you'll be looking at the screen and on top of the computer frame you'll notice something, and then you realize what it is and that you're being observed, by an intelligent life form, no less — by what looks like a little brown man crawling along with a surf board on his back.

I kill it immediately, and wherever there's one there's always another one. I kill them all immediately. And now it's become what you might think of as hand-to-hand combat. I, and now we, use books, magazines, the bottom of bottles, cans, plastic bags, old sponges, the broom, cooking tins, and our shoes. Roaches are prevalent around midnight, according to one sources I found. I verified that and sometimes — although it's hard, I have an increasing aversion — but sometimes I'll show up just then, throw on the switch and sure enough they're scurrying between oven and the frig. I step on them as quickly as I can. I may get 10 or more and make a special effort to get the smallest ones. I hesitate to use the word 'babies'.

Through an exterminator we traced the invasion to a man living in a downstairs apartment. He eats largely fried foods, the smell is horrific. The exterminator told us he'd never seen such a dirty kitchen. By the way, the man smokes himself to death. He must be in the last stages of emphyzema, the sound of his wretching late at night or early in the morning is death-defying. Yet whenever I see him he's striding down the street at a fast clip, with a placid expression, in his blue baseball cap with the name of a U.S. navy destroyer over the bill.

Lately, I've begun to think he may have lost his job because I hear him during the day, which I never did before. I assume he watches the Horse Racing Network because I hear him yelling out, "C'mon run, c'mon you can do it, run you bastard'. And then suddenly, inevitably silence.

I've asked the landlord to say something but he's reticent and doesn't. There is an illegality here that I won't go into. In any case, the exterminator comes every six weeks but he needs to come every day for six weeks. We've begun using Borax powder, spreading it in all the usual places, on ingress and egress routes as we used to say at SAC Hq.

Naturally, we have employed roach motels. But I've found the roaches always find a counter measure. I look in the motels and there are rarely any residents. These roaches are nearly human in their ingenuity and determination. I feel I am now leading a counter insurgency but frankly I don't know if I can win. This is the problem: I have no hearts and minds to convince.

Or do I? This is what I'm getting to.

You understand what I'm facing. The other morning, around 11, I walked into the kitchen unexpectedly and approached the sink. I didn't see the roach but it saw me and jumped off the top of a bread board on to a counter, which is fake, black fleck marble. I couldn't see the damn thing. I slammed the toaster on a shadow, I hammered the plastic dish rack on where I thought it might have gone. I tore everything up and nothing. I don't if it got away or not.

Later, I remembered two interior designers I interviewed years ago. Husband and wife. Quite attractive people but strange. One of them, I can't remember which now, had a withered arm. I think it was the woman. They always wore black. Black suit, black shit; black pants, black blouse. Their design breakthrough they told me was that they always did kitchens in black marble. This was their signature. It seemed like magic to them because they claimed that with black counters you couldn't see a mess. You could leave the dishes after a dinner party and it looked like an interesting photograph or painting. With black any deformity became artistic.

But you see now I don't know whether I killed that roach or not. I assume it's still there, out in that black marble no-man's land, but I don't want to look too earnestly. The other day I threw up just thinking about going in the kitchen...

If I had my way the kitchen would be virgin white. I would design miniature search lights and barbed wire. I would employ gheckos. Which I did years ago. This was in the mid 1970s. I lived in an apartment at 94th and Riverside Dr. in Manhattan. Nat King Cole's daughter lived on the same floor. Terrible infestation of roaches. So I bought a gecko and set it loose in this little pullman kitchen. You'd come home at night and that thing would be upside down on the ceiling. Sometimes it would run very fast from one end of the room to another. It made a lot of noise.

I don't know if it made any difference. I went away once on a trip out of the country and a colleague stayed in the apartment. He claimed he got the gecko stoned on dope. I don't remember what happened after that.

(end of part 1)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha! When you get a bit humorous is when you're at your best. Keep it up. Looking forward to part 2, and I'm quite sure you and your family are too. No fun living in a roach motel!