The Birthday Deal


Rusty McCormick


"Happy Birthday Melissa." whispered a scratchy voice in my ear.

I opened my eyes with a start, was that a dream? My thoughts were abruptly interrupted when in looking around I found a huge cockroach on my pillow. The bedclothes exploded as I put as much distance as I could between that disgusting bug and myself. I shuddered at the foot of the bed as the thing fluttered back down upon my pillow.

"Sheesh!" the scratchy voice exclaimed. "I try to be nice and boom! Iím nearly pulverized by a panicky 30 year old!"

Now I was really losing it - something told me that the cockroach was talking to me. I blinked at it, hard, hoping it would go away.

"Yeah, were not supposed to talk to humans but I felt the situation warranted it. We need to talk."

Dumbstruck I just sat there staring at it.

"Donít just sit there with your mouth hanging open."

I closed it.

"Good, now maybe you should do something routine; go brush your teeth."

I found myself following the creatures directions, something now had my full attention; I wanted to see where this was going. I rinsed the toothbrush and called out while putting the toothpaste on the brush.

"You said we needed to talk - what about?"

I shuddered as it flew into the bathroom, it landed on top of the medicine cabinet mirror. This was going to take some getting used to. I backed off a bit out of habit.

"What is it with you people? Your hundreds of times larger than we are, all youíd have to do is squash me and Iíd be gone; but you canít bring yourself to touch me, let alone be near me."

I continued to brush as I watched it wipe its face with one of its nasty looking legs.

"Is it the way we look? Have you taken a good look in the mirror some mornings? I wouldnít judge if I were you. Iíd say that out of all the bugs you people call roaches out there we are the most distinguished looking. Certainly a hell of a lot better than those German roaches your boyfriend brought over in the grocery bags last year. Now they were some ugly bugs, we ran them out of here because they nested in all the choice spots."

I spit the toothpaste out and rinsed; it continued, almost proudly."

"I guess it doesnít matter that we have been with you for generations, in fact I have a Great Grandfather that was killed by your Mother in your nursery. I guess weíre never going to shake that "disgusting" stigma you humans seem to all share. I know my ancestors crawled around in dumpsters with rotting garbage and ate feces, but we are not those creatures. I donít think there is a roach in this apartment that has even seen feces, except maybe for Uncle Louie that time you flushed him down the toilet - boy did he have stories when he got back." He glanced down at the toilet and back at me.

"Donít even think about it."

I innocently shook my head giving my best "not me" look.

"What about the germs you carry?" I asked trying to break the uncomfortable silence.

"What? Do you think we make these germs? We can only carry what we are exposed to and we have already established that we donít get out much. The fact is you carry more germs than we do and every time you come in that door you bring more germs for us to run across. We have been with you all of your life, we like you. Any germ you have we get; But donít worry, you have a clean place here so you have clean bugs - and we thank you."

Suddenly the bathroom was echoing with little scratchy voices all saying "Thank you." I was overwhelmed; I staggered into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed. The cockroach flew in after me and settled on the lampshade next to my bed.

"How many?" I cautiously asked.

"Donít really know, probably hundreds in this apartment." he answered.

"Weíre pretty prolific." he added proudly.

"Donít get hung up on the germ thing, we pretty much keep to our places under the sink and toilet, or in the walls. Every once in a while we make excursions into your pantry for food or your silverware drawer looking for tiny treats the dishwasher didnít get. Speaking of treats; the bits of toothpaste you leave on the bristles, theyíre the best!"

My head was spinning. "Why are you telling me this!" I said covering my face and falling back onto the bed. I heard it flutter again and felt it land on my chest. I slowly moved my hands away from my face and saw it perched on my left breast.

"Because of the present from your mother." it answered. "Come on."

It lifted off and lighted on the doorknob for a second and continued into the living room. I followed, slowly. Momís present was on the coffee table and the roach was sitting on top of the bow.

"I donít understand..." I started.

"Bug bomb." it stated. "Hate to spoil the surprise but your mother gave you a bug bomb."

"Good!" I exclaimed grabbing the gift and tearing into it - the bug fell to the table and then flew over to the television. "Iíll use this and be done with the lot of you!"

"Are you sure you want to go there? Iíve been trying to tell you we are not as bad as you think."

"You eat off of my toothbrush!"

"That bothers you?" it asked in disbelief.

"Yes it bothers me!"

It fluttered down onto the table. "Iím sorry. Please believe me. I donít want this to end like this. I have a deal for you that may make you happy and save hundreds of lives. Will you listen?"

I sat back onto the sofa. "Ok, what?"

"First - you will never see us again, just remember to give a warning before opening a cabinet or turning on a light. Just tap on the door or snap your fingers twice and we will be out of sight in an instant.

Second - we will stay out of your food - any forays we make will be for the crumbs and scraps that occasionally occur."

"And my toothbrush - stay away from the toothbrush."

He actually looked sad. "Granted. Will you lose the bug bomb? Thatís all we ask. I know that the bomb seems like a good idea, but itís really a gamble. Read the label; all of those chemicals will be all over everything you own, even on your clothes. It will most assuredly kill all of us but it wonít solve your problem. Nature abhors a vacuum, so when the chemicals wear off roache will return, and the bugs that do come back may move here from the dumpster or worse. The choice is yours..."

© Frank Tona writing as Rusty McCormick, December 2004


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