She was long and sleek, but her legs were thin, almost spindly, and her eyes were too small to notice. Her body was her best trait, in all its shiny brownness.
When I first saw her, I thought she was dead. But upon closer inspection, I realized she was simply taking a rest outside my door. Too bad for her that the poison my horrible landlord had sprayed around my door is quite lethal. It’s the kind of poison that doesn’t do a Palmetto bug’s body any good. Her rest would soon be a final one, I presumed.
But still, over two days, she kept creeping closer to my door, flapping a thin bronze wing each time I approached. I became terrified that she had slurped an antidote to the poison and would thus arise with a vigor that could never be suppressed. I imagined how she would flatten herself and push her perfect body underneath my front door–poison be damned–as she screamed, “I drink it for breakfast!”
I really did not want her making a home in my home. And so, it was war.
When she inched forward as I opened the door to take my dog outside for her morning walk, I returned with a powerful spray of “Hot Shot Roach and Ant Killer, Unscented, Kills up to 12 Weeks.” Yeah, sucka, take that! She did, quite nicely, waving the other wing at me.
She flipped from front to back and back to front twice in 24 hours, as if to confuse me: “I may LOOK dead, but…bwahaha.”
I won’t lie. She kinda scared me. Because she wouldn’t DIE!
When the boy came over, and we went outside so he could smoke, she was there, watching. “Nice touch, the bug,” the boy laughed when he first noticed her. “Welcome to South Florida!”
“Oh sure, you don’t have them at your place?” I asked, so smug seemed he about the bugs.
“Are you kidding? I have so many chemicals in my front yard and under my house, nothing can live there!” he laughed.
Ha Ha Ha. Well, cute boy, welcome to my not-so-cute world!
Which was when I named her. Coletta. You know, Coletta the Cockroach? Right, I could have chosen Patsy the Palmetto Bug, but who is kidding who? She was just a giant cockroach. A giant cockroach who wouldn’t give it up and go to the light, or go wherever cockroaches go when they die.
A little friend of Coletta’s also came calling, but she was so much smaller and so easy to obliterate with quick spray of Hot Shot, it was almost laughable. Yeah, take that and that. And still Coletta twitched.
“Someone is leaving cigarette butts in the planter. Great, huh?” pointed out my neighbor as he arrived home from work the second afternoon that Coletta still camped outside my door, and I was struggling with my dog’s new harness.
“Oh, sorry!” I said, embarrassed. “The someone is a friend of mine, and I forgot to toss them out. Sorry,” I told him, semi-horrified that I was the cause of another disgusting accent on this imploding place in which we all rent.
“Oh, so they were yours? Really?” my neighbor laughed in surprise. Because my neighbor has seen me in the depths of anger and panic when our mutual landlord misbehaves. He has heard me rail against the lack of upkeep outside. This same neighbor would also fix anything, absolutely anything, in my apartment, if I but asked, just so I wouldn’t have to contact my landlord. I may be unlucky in landlords, but I am lucky in neighbors.
“Yeah, sorry,” I repeated.
“So, do you like my pet bug?” I asked my neighbor, nodding to Coletta’s still form on the pavement in front of my door. “She won’t die, so I have named her Coletta.”
“Oh, I think she is pretty dead, name or not,” said my neighbor.
As I regarded Coletta, I realized she hadn’t moved much, if at all, today. Which, in my mind, did not make her dead. It made her a great actress.
“Um, I am not so sure…”
“Oh, no. She is dead. Dead and gone. So dead,” he laughed.
Hmm. Okay. Good.
“I am gone for the weekend,” he said. “Going up north to see my mom. If I don’t see you before Sunday, happy Mother’s Day, okay? If I recall, you have a couple of grown kids, right?”
I regarded this nice neighbor. What a neighborly, nice thing to say.
“Thank you,” I told him. “I have to work, but, oh well,” I smiled.
“Then a good day at work to you,” he said, and we parted ways, he into his apartment and me to walk the dog.
When I returned home a half hour later, Coletta was gone. In the spot where she had lain for multiple days was a taped-down cross cut out of notebook paper. “Rest in Peace,” was scrawled across the top.
I laughed. And laughed and laughed. And then I snapped a photo of the headstone.
Off you go to cockroach hell, Coletta. Thank you, neighbor, whom I now know has a pretty good sense of humor.