Summer is cockroach season in Bermuda.
I remember clearly my horror at the roach I saw, days after arriving on island for the first time. The beast skittered across the floor of my children’s room, making its click click noises on its disgusting progress from underneath the bunk beds to the opposite dresser with nary a by-your-leave. The banshee shrieks that came from my own mouth were a surprise. In fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to name it, lest any of the revulsion I felt be imparted to my gentle three-year-old. I called it a beetle, and let the kids sleep in our bed instead.
They don’t look anything like a beetle, of course. For one, they are as long as my middle finger and writhe in a horrible way. They crack when you step on them and spill their vile white goo (I’m absolutely convinced it smells as well). On top of all that, they are known for their ability to fly. Yes, dear reader, FLY. I have had the singular pleasure of one smacking me in the face while zooming around in the early evening one summer while driving the scooter – an experience to beat any.
Where I come from, roaches are a sign of filth, disease, and are exterminated with something approaching Zyklon B, in a determined and unrelenting fashion. Restaurants will be closed down. Signs will be posted. No one will enter. Here, it is a sign of… absolutely nothing. It just is. Here, it is a sign that you should be getting on with your seventeen-prong method of attack, which should include all manner of chemical, mechanical, and biological methods of containment. Eradication is not on the menu.
So, me being a responsible member of the planet, I opt for a layering method of the last two, with a last resort of the first if absolutely necessary. I pray for toads, particularly, my good friend the Cane Toad (Bofus Marinus, I’ll have you know), which is only marginally less horrible to contemplate. We have an occasional visitor to our yard, fondly known as Nigel, but Nigel is terribly unreliable and hasn’t brought a female or added toadlings to the fish pond, so we think he may swing the other way. Then I was advised to get a cat, and so bought a familiar from my local SPCA, but, much as I love the aggressive lizard-munching beast, she’s no help at all. Oh, she goes for the roaches, of course, carefully plucking the legs off them, but then brings them INTO THE HOUSE and deposits them at my unsuspecting toes.
So at this stage of the year, I’m still in the passive-aggressive stage of seeding baited traps under every cupboard and counter in the house. At least ONLY the roaches will die, not every living thing within a hundred yards if you start getting the Borax out for action.
So there I was, this last beautiful Sunday, on my bed, flat on my back with my Kindle and a cool drink at my shoulder, at peace with the world. Happy, unsuspecting, immersed in my rather raunchy novel, the ceiling fan slowly revolving. My first clue that all was not well is when I heard a thud and a bounce from the far side of the room, and then the helicopter-drone of The Actual Launched Beast as it flew ACROSS THE ROOM and clearly OVER MY BODY and then smacks into the wall above the headboard and squats there, clinging.
I am now absolutely silent and frozen in a full-blown panic. Do I move? If I move, will it move? As staying put is clearly not an option, I slide off the bed like I’ve melted and hunch on the floor, looking wildly around for a book, a weapon of any sort. Blast the Kindle, useless! I leopard-crawl out my room to my daughter’s for a suitable weapon. I consider calling in the Husband, but if I’m totally frank, as much as I love him, his reflexes won’t land him in the SAS any time soon. You have to be on full fear factor alert to move as fast as is required for this mission.
So I creep back into the room, only weeping a little, and creep onto the bed so as I can clap the beast with the full force of my grossed-out-ness. I hover over it with my copy of Dork Diaries, but of course, as I bring the book down, it moves, just so that I pin it’s abdomen to the wall with a wet crunch while its body writhes and curls. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Now I didn’t have the foresight to have brought a second book (Who would, your Honour?), so I must grasp my pot of body cream from the nightstand with my prehensile toes, so as I can extinguish the last life force from the curse before me and rest in gibbering peace.
I can tell you with absolute satisfaction that I did kill that horrible roach and I did shudder when I wiped up the carcass with a bit of tissue and flung it down the toilet, flushing twice.
The thing is, I know from long experience, that if you have one, there comes four more in quick succession to mourn their fallen comrade. Indeed so it was. So, no, I didn’t sleep that night.
Now, I’m a big girl and I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of island sissy. I am not scared of anything, really (except that one time when I went paragliding, and it was really not ok). And it’s not so much that I’m scared of the roaches, it’s the fact that they’re just so revolting that I can’t even look at them without shuddering. I don’t know if that’s the definition of a phobia, perhaps it is. I just don’t see the point of them, either.
I went walking with a group of tourists a while back and there were a few roaches just being disgusting in the road, so I tramped on them, like a public service, you understand. This one lady rounded on me and was like, “What did you do that for? Just let the creatures live!” I was astonished, and more than a little affronted. I mean, what? Please tell me we aren’t saving the cockroaches now.