By Janis Hutchinson
My mother arrived by car from Los Angeles on a balmy evening in June, greeted by crickets that rhythmically announced the ninety-five
I waved my arms enthusiastically. It had been a long trip for her across the barren, Nevada desert—seven hundred miles to be exact—but this determined and astute woman in her
She stepped out of the car. After
I got her settled, and we went to bed.
It was about midnight when I heard her terrified screams.
Yikes, I forgot to warn her!
Throwing my legs over the side of the bed I leaped out, forgetting normal precautions, and headed for the shrieks coming from the bathroom.
There she was, perched atop the commode, her bare feet planted on opposite sides of the toilet seat, her toes curled up—even the hairs on her legs were standing straight out. Both hands clutched her nightgown, which she had yanked to mini-skirt level.
Hoarsely, she gasped, “I turned the light on—there are hundreds of them!”
I felt terrible. “Oh, yeah—I forgot to tell you. They come out at night. You have to . . . uh. . . use a flashlight when you get up.”
I then guided her trembling body back to bed.
I knew from childhood that like most fearless mothers she could confront almost any kind of creepy-crawly thing—spiders, snakes, caterpillars, worms and slugs. But now she had come face to face with a species she had never encountered before . . . the c-o-c-k-r-o-a-c-h!
Now, I’m not talking about the kind that look like miniature grasshoppers, but the ones called water bugs, palmetto bugs, roaches, granddaddies—in other words, the B-I-G, UGLY ONES!
From the Blattidae family, they have large, flattened oval bodies, antennae that function as a nose, and a head with mandibles for chewing and grinding. They lived 300 million years ago and predated the dinosaurs by 150 million years. Out of the 4,500 species that exist today, some are large enough to weigh as much as two sparrows. They have six, long hairy legs with jagged spines on them, five to each leg which enables them to climb walls. And they have eighteen knees that allow them to run twelve feet per second. Now, that’s FAST!
In my opinion, to live with these formidable creatures is the ultimate Jurassic Park experience. I believe the Cockroachasaurus (as I have named it) or,
After co-existing with them in Texas for six years, I moved 3,000 miles to the Utah desert, believing I had left them behind for good. But I soon found out that these smug creatures are common to all warm and humid locales. And it makes no difference if you keep a clean house.
Silently mobilizing across the floors, they head for my
The only thing that will deter them is light (never put one foot out of bed at night without first turning on the light). Then, faster than electrons in a bubble chamber, they scatter in all directions and disappear . . . which brings me back to my mother. I was sure that by morning she would be okay.
I was mistaken.
She didn’t speak to me until noon—then she let me have it.
“Why didn't you warn me!” she screamed. “I could have squished one in my bare feet!”
I tried to explain that they really didn't squish—it was a cross between a crack and a pop. I read up on them,” I began, “and they’re actually quite fascinating. The reason they crack and pop instead of squish is that unlike humans their muscles are inside their skeletons, so when you step on one what happens is . . .” I could see she wasn’t interested.
“They’re really quite harmless,” I pushed on, as I nonchalantly opened a kitchen cupboard. A black body slid down the inside of the cabinet door and landed with a thud on the kitchen floor.
“Oh,” I hysterically laughed, “it's only a little one . . . sorta.”
Horrified, she watched as I grabbed the broom and hammered it to death until there was no recognizable body left. With twenty-five paper towels, I wiped the huge smear up, waiting proudly for her comment on how I had bravely diminished the enemy’s forces by one.
For a long time,
It was then I had a long talk with God.
First, I did what was proper. I genuflected and crossed myself, got down on my knees and then bowed my head and positioned my hands in the usual palm-to-palm manner. Having
I first expressed my appreciation for
“They contaminate my food,” I explained, making a helpless gesture toward the ceiling. “They voraciously ingest the bindings of my favorite books; frolic in my clothes hamper,
After two days with no answer from above, I’d had it. I insightfully concluded that God’s sole purpose for the cockroach was to test the human race. Well, I would meet the challenge!
Armed with ten Save the Earth bags, I burst through the door of the local supermarket and charged down the main aisle.
Locating the pesticide section,
Suffice it to say, nothing worked.
Mystified, I went to the library. My research uncovered amazing facts about why they’re so indestructible. In fact, I read that the growing consensus among scientists, even theologians, is that it will be the cockroaches that “inherit the earth.” This is because they can outlast a nuclear war. They have a higher tolerance to radiation resistance than vertebrates,
They also have six brains, one in their head and the other five in their legs, and can live without a head for as long as a week to a month. If headless, they will eventually die
After absorbing all these facts, I knew when I was beaten. Therefore, my only alternative was to fall back on the old adage, “If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.” This meant I was left with no choice but to modify my life style so as to successfully co-exist with them.
Late one afternoon, resting in my new indoor hammock,
While musing on this possibility, I happened to look down. I spied a female emerging from beneath a
“Oh,” I exclaimed, “isn’t that cute . . . babies!”
It took only a few seconds for me to realize that something exceptional was taking place . . . because they did something I had never witnessed before.
They brazenly began to march around the entire room, joined by hundreds of other roaches that materialized out of the woodwork. I watched them goose-step in amazing military precision to their stridulating sounds. Twirling their feelers in a kind of baton-like strut they began a foot-stomping march worthy only of John Phillip Souza.
Then, I noticed something that proved even more frightening. They had acquired a zombie-like look on their faces, as if under some hypnotic spell—like some entity had taken over each cockroach’s six brains.
But who? What? I sensed something sinister evolving, but had no answer. Flexing my brain, I could think of nothing . . . unless . . . unless.
I remembered an article I read. It was either in the
Fear etched its way across my face. I pictured giant, primordial roaches resuscitating their dormant genes
Call it revelation or inspiration if you will, but suddenly in my mind I heard these prophetic words: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls . . . it tolls for thee.”
I gulped. “Me?”
My mouth went dry as the full realization of the diabolical evolutionary plan slowly shifted up my jugular. It would only be a matter of time before these prehistoric roaches would rampage the continent—soon, the world.
My impulse was to scream—to scream and keep on screaming—to give release to the fear that ricocheted through every ligament of my body.
I clung to the edge of the hammock, still staring down at them as they marched around and hissed like undaunted conquerors. There was no doubt in my mind this same scenario was taking place all over the world.
If I jumped from my hammock and tried to make it to the door with no shoes, I’d squish—whoops, crack or pop—hundreds of their bodies with my bare feet. The house would sound like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies. Would the neighbors hear and rescue me? But, being in a desert town, my closest one was half a mile away! A cold sweat broke out across my forehead.
I took a deep breath and calmed myself. I wisely decided I would bide my time until they crept back into their sanctuaries. Surely, at some point, they would have to sleep. I would figure out then what to do.
I continued listening to their chirring and hissing, wondering what they were saying to each other, when
I cocked my head and listened as their hiss and clicking sounds raised an octave higher . . . then higher. Suddenly, I began to receive thoughts and images in my head. They were communicating with me by some kind of telepathy!
The hairs on my arms stiffened as I listened to the Jurassic roar of their antediluvian predecessors giving me the final word. Their message was chilling.
“We’re back . . . and this time we’re here to stay!”
It was a breath-stopping moment. I felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. But,
A surge of something like spiritual adrenalin shot up from deep inside me and I heard the dormant genes of my own ancestors rise up in a shouting response. “No—our species will survive! We did it once, and we can do it again!”
Spurred on by this epiphany, I determined not to let the roaches conquer me—I’d show them by warning everyone.
I waited until the roaches retired back into the walls,
Of course, I had to prepare myself
As a last resort, I contacted the televangelists thinking that, like Moses did with the gnats and frogs, they could invoke some kind of miracle and instantly rid the whole planet of them. Not one of them personally responded except to send me an envelope asking for a
Frustration hit hard.
You can't imagine how thrilled I was when one of the most widely-read prestigious newspapers of the times contacted me out of the blue—the National Enquirer! With its huge circulation, the word would surely get out—people could be warned.
Let me know
This may be my last opportunity to
About The Author
Janis Hutchinson is an award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, graduated Summa Cum Laude with B.th and M.A. degrees in Theology, and was awarded “Writer of the Year” (2008) by the American Christian Writers Association. A former (very active), member of the mainline Mormon Church for 35 years and 2 years in Mormon Fundamentalist organizations, she is in demand as a speaker on Christian radio and TV, and lives near Seattle, Washington.