Each summer my parents would load up the big Ford station wagon and take us kids to Brookfield Zoo, just outside of Chicago. Some of my favorite memories were made on those hot summer days. Busy sidewalks, smelly animals, parking lot picnics, and 50 cents would get you a souvenir from the Mold-a-Rama machine. I loved everything about the zoo, but my favorite had to be The Reptile House.
This place was a boy’s dream, a massive stone building where some of the creepiest of creatures were seperated from you by nothing more than a pane of glass. It was an old building, and it was dark inside. Dark and humid. Tucked away in the shadows of a back corner corner stood a display full of giant cockroaches, easy to miss when there wasn’t a crowd of people pushing to get close. Hundreds of these roaches were housed in tall display, with concave glass not easily noticed at first, that allowed you to ‘enter’ farther into the display than any normal person would like. It was a nice place for observing the various reactions of the human animal. It was also a great spot to give your sister a push.
If memory serves, those roaches were from Madagascar. And until recently I couldn’t understand why someone would chose to live in such a place…
It started just like all of our other encounters with the wonderful animals God has placed here in New Guinea… with a scream. We’d been told to expect roaches, and we’d seen them in other houses, but we were beginning to think that perhaps we wouldn’t have to worry about such things. Joan’s scream confirmed that we were wrong about that.
I was at the computer when Joan let me know that a rather large cockroach had greeted her in the hall. I think she was more mad than scared because she offered “to take care of this” herself. Going to the cabinet under the sink, she armed herself with a can of Bug B Gone and marched off to war.
She quickly retreated to share her analysis of the situation.
“Sweetie, its fast. REALLY FAST! I didn’t know they were that fast! Ooohhh, and its big. It’s big and it’s fast! You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to kill it!” she tosses me the bug spray as a shiver goes down her spine. I knew she was serious by the way she was hopping from foot to foot. So with a sigh, I pushed away from the desk to take on my role as Protector of the House.
I found the roach just above the door to the boy’s room, and since it was almost midnight, I thought it best to end this fight before it entered their bedroom. So I casually walked up and sprayed the roach, which was pretty big by the way, she had that much right. But it didn’t seem fast. In fact it just sat there while I blasted it with a cloud of death. Stupid roach.
I’m not sure what happened next, I’ve read that the human mind has the incredible ability to block out overly traumatic events and thus protect itself from years of counseling fees, but I do remember a giant roach emerging from the fog, propelled on wings of pure evil. Just as everything went into a Matrix-like super slow motion I had the presence of mind to remember that the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach can’t fly, which made me sure of two things, 1. This was NOT a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, and 2. Madagascar sounds pretty nice about right now. I lost ground walking backward but continued to fire my can of death into the face of this kamikaze mutant bug while Joan and I both screamed.
The cloud dispersed. I calmed down. Joan came back from the opposite corner of the room to inspect the damage. “I didn’t know they could fly.” She said, putting her arm on my shoulder.
“I didn’t know they could fly so far. Look how far back I walked away from the wall. That thing just kept coming. And he was coming right at me! You know, it’s almost as if he…”
“IT’S ON YOU! IT’S ON YOU! AAAAHHHHH!!!”
Joan retreated back to her corner of the room, and I invented a frantic new dance. Its fun actually, you swirl around yelling “Where is it!?! Where is it?!?” while stripping down to your skivvies. Give it a try. My only suggestion would be closing the drapes, especially if your yelling has wakened the neighbors who out of concern have come to check on your well being.
So long story short, we now know a bit more about the roaches here in PNG. Our neighbors probably think there are some weird things going on over here late at night. I’ve agreed not to bring up the fact that she completely left me on my own, and ran away when there was a roach somewhere on my body. Joan has agreed not to talk about who screamed the loudest.
And we’ve both agreed not to talk about the fact that we never did find that roach.