Cockroaches (shiver) On My Wall by Jody Casella

This morning as I was blearily making my coffee, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, SOMETHING skittering across my counter.

As I write this post, WHATEVER THAT SOMETHING IS is still there and I am waiting patiently for my husband to wake up and smash that something dead.

In the meantime, I am ready. With a plastic bucket. And some tape...

I could tell you about my fears. The usual. Scary movies. Storms. The big one: death. Or worse, the deaths of people I love.

But instead I would like to tell you about the summer I lived in a dumpy apartment in Memphis that was infested with cockroaches. 

When I moved into that apartment the summer between my junior and senior year, I was feeling very grown up. I had lived in Connecticut, which for the record, is 1250 miles away from Memphis. That summer I took two jobs. A very cool internship downtown at Memphis Magazine. And a super gross nighttime job waiting tables at Perkins Restaurant (I still have nightmares about this job. Most of these nightmares consist of a demented hostess seating table after table in my section and grinning maniacally while I race around like a lunatic trying to give everyone water. This was a directive at Perkins. You must greet customers by giving them water within 45 seconds.)

But back to my story.

I was feeling proud and independent and also, defiant with a dash of guilt. My roommate was a guy. Gasp. We were just friends but once upon a time I was a Catholic school girl, so it was a bit of a scandal (For more on THAT story, see here)

The night I moved into the apartment, I was with my friend Patti. We had finished setting up my belongings--not much--a suitcase, a futon, a plastic shelf with a few books--and had collapsed onto the couch, when we SAW it. A winged three-inch-long cockroach skittering up the kitchen wall.

At this point I had already had a few frightening run-ins with cockroaches. Let me say here that you will not find cockroaches in Connecticut. At least, I had never seen any. And certainly, you will not find winged three-inch-long cockroaches. So it was a bit of a shock the first time one of these lovely creatures FLEW at my face.

The one on my kitchen wall paused at face level.

Patti and I were both afraid to smush it. The fear, of course, is that it would fly at us and get caught in our hair. For a tense few minutes we--Patti, me and the cockroach--looked at each other and twitched nervously. Patti noticed a plastic cleaning bucket on the floor near the sink and she suggested that I pick up the bucket and run at the wall where the cockroach was.

"Trap it," she said. "And slide it down to the floor. Then you can step on it."

"Why me?" I asked.

"Because this is your apartment," said Patti, grinning maniacally.

I picked up the bucket. I ran toward the cockroach. I smacked the bucket on the wall around the hideous twitchy body. It occurred to me at this point that if I did try to slide the bucket down to the floor, the cockroach would likely fly at my feet and skitter up my leg.

Patti's next brilliant idea was to tape the bucket to the wall and leave it until my roommate, the guy, moved in and he could deal with it.

She scrounged around looking for tape. This was a sublet, furnished apartment so everything in it belonged to someone else. By the time Patti found the tape, my arms were hurting from holding up the bucket.

We taped the bucket securely and left it there. When the guy moved in a few days later and wondered why there was a bucket taped to the kitchen wall, I explained the situation and added that it was my hope that he would take care of the problem.

He didn't really like this idea, and the bucket remained where it was for the rest of the summer. Some nights when I returned home from Perkins and collapsed on the couch in my smelly greasy polyester uniform, I'd look at the bucket on the wall and shiver. But mostly, I forgot about it and went on with my life.

I wish I could say something philosophical and deeply meaningful here. Something about accepting our fears. About independence. About stereotypical gender roles and the killing of insects. About cruelty to all of God's creatures.

But I've got nothing.

At the end of the summer my roommate grew a pair and carefully removed the bucket from the wall. The cockroach was still alive and twitching. I screamed. My roommate expressed surprised.

He opened the door, and the cockroach flew off into the night.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You're such a good storyteller! Thanks for laughs and cringes!

  3. Ha! Great story, Jody! I love that the bucket was on the wall all summer. That's a detail that needs to work itself into one of your novels.

    (I tried to edit my comment when I spotted a typo and realized you can't really edit once they're posted. So I just retyped it.)

  4. It was still alive???!?!?!?! Totally crazy.

  5. Funny that you left the bucket taped to the wall! What a great visual. And a great approach to dealing with a large bug.

  6. Thanks, all! Yes, Holly, that roach was still alive. This ALMOST makes me feel bad.

  7. Wow. I can't believe the roach was still alive! Those things are resilient!


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