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Monday, 10 December 2007

Ode To A Cockroach Killed While Trying to Get from Here to There

By Alice (Graham) Pasupathi of Wintersong

We all have our places in life where we fit into the scheme of animal evolution. Even the lowly cockroaches are useful in the outdoors because they help recycle plant and animal waste, and they were here long before humans.

As one who hates to kill anything, even bugs, I started thinking a bit on what it must be like trying to live out your life as a cockroach.

A few years ago, I was in a shopping mall food court in Las Vegas, planning to have a bite of lunch. For some reason the food court was very crowded that day, so I took my tray and sought a table in an overflow section down a side corridor. What I like do when I'm the only person in the whole dining area eating alone is watch people come and go.

So I'm sitting there looking around, trying not to look too conspicuous, when I notice a cockroach on the floor near me. It, or should I say "he", was headed across what was, for him, a great big concrete freeway. I could have notified one of the food providers because I'm sure they wouldn't exactly want people to know there were cockroaches anywhere near a food court, but I didn't.

I felt sorry for him because I knew he probably had only a 50/50 chance of making it across without getting stepped on. Being alone as I was, and when going home alone meant spending the evening alone because Hubby was out of town, I felt some bizarre, kindred spirit with this little creature who could arguably be called one of God's too. I decided to keep quiet. If he made it across in one piece, he deserved to live just as much as anyone else.

It wasn't long before a group of women with store nametags on their sweaters finished their lunches and got up to leave. I kept my eye on the roach, practically holding my breath. When the half-dozen or so feet had all scurried away and dust had settled, he was still there, having scooted under the table. He sat still a moment or two, gathering his wits perhaps, and started off again.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young woman pushing one of those old-timey baby perambulators towards us. I wondered what were the chances of this cockroach outmaneuvering the four, narrow rolling wheels and two shoe bottoms to boot. Wonder of wonders, he managed quite nicely, and was almost all the way across to the other side when a suit-clad gentleman with dress shoes that looked spit-shined sauntered our way from one of the shops nearby.

Before I could say squat, that poor little cockroach was smashed to smithereens and heading out the mall plastered onto the bottom of that man's shoe, I can't even tell you which shoe. Wah la! One minute he's there (the poor little cockroach) and the next he's not. No matter where he was headed, whether home to the missus, or off to the (cockroach) races, to pick up the baby cockroaches from daycare, he would never make it now.

I'd finished my lunch by this time and had begun to gather up my trash for the bins, but this unfortunate outcome caused me to sit back down and do a bit of thinking. In the first place, I know that it's silly to anthropomophise cockroaches, but they are only doing what nature designed them to do after all. Sure they carry disease, but humans do a lot of things bad for people too. And when you really think about it, are we humans that much better?

I wonder how we'd feel if there were even bigger beings than we, who we'd daily have to maneuver through on our own huge concrete freeways - hoping to get from here to there and do what we're here to do - without getting squashed. Strangely enough, in the figurative sense, there are. Everywhere. I think that's why I identify so much with that poor little roach.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I must say, if I were anywhere near a food court and spotted a cockroach, I would not have such benevolent feelings toward the little fellow. In fact, I might have thoughts about calling in the food service inspectors and tossing my lunch in the trash.


Did you ever see the film "Paths of Glory"? It was the greatest anti-war film I have ever seen.

One scene had the prisoners who were to face the firing squad at dawn speaking to each other. They were comparing their lives and asking each other how their lives could end like this.

Then, a cockroach appeared in their cell. One of the prisoners said," This is how little my life means; that roach will live longer than I will." One of the other prisoners took his hand and smashed the cockroach to death and said," Now you have the edge on him."

Your story was so interesting and well written, it reminded me of this picture that I haven't seen in 30 years..........

Alice, thank you. I really enjoyed your story. Even though I do not like cockroaches (having lived in numerous tropical countries, where bugs are an inevitability and not a measure of cleanliness), I can relate to what you were thinking at the time.

Your story brought back memories to me also. I was in a small neighborhood restaurant in a foreign country. Three friends and I were crowded around a tiny table with our food. I was just carrying some food to my mouth when one of my friends screamed cockroach and all three of them jumped up clutching their trays. I noticed that the roach was slowly making its way across the table AWAY FROM ME and calmly went on eating.

I do so like this story, thanks.

What a moving and powerful essay. I was so sure he'd make it. I can't stand to squash the critters, because I don't want to have to clean up the mess, so I trap them with a cup or glass, slide cardboard underneath and relocate them to far, far away. I know how fast they can move!

I love this quirky piece. Thanks for sharing!

I'm afraid I agree with Virginia. He wouldn't have a chance with me around. You have a point, though, and you wrote it very well.

It's only in the darkened corners of our minds that cockroaches are despicable creatures. Might not one cockroach be beheld by another as ravishingly beautiful or irresistibly handsome? And might also the noble cockroach perceive us as enormously overbearing egoists who as latecomers to this planet t know little about life in its primeval expression?

I applaud Alice's reflections on a cockroach. What a sublimely wondrous world we would live in were we all so tuned into life itself.

What a well written essay, Alice.

I have to Join virginia in my total abhorent distaste for cockroaches. One summer we rented a cottage at Sea Island, Georgia on the beach. With the lush vegetation that abounds there the insects have a heavenly place and they do multiply.

When I would occasionalyy enter the kitchen at night and flip on the light the sound of the cock roaches scurrying to their lairs was like spanish castanets.

I hated them then and hate them now.

But you do write extremely well

How about a butterfly story next?

There are bigger things on our freeways around which we have to maneuver lest we be squashed -- Humvees, SUVs, varying sizes of trucks and a herd of semi-trucks to name a few!

Like your story!

In Paths of Glory the prisoner says self-pityingly "Tomorrow He will be alive and I will be dead" Then the other guy crushes it.

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