Roach Motel

My community-mindedness wanes in the face of cockroaches. In fact, my mental faculties pretty much shut down. I am visited by childhood memories of a black floor scattering to reveal shrapnelled-linoleum in the glare of a kitchen light bulb flicked on quickly. The quicker the flick, the quicker the scatter. I remember a bright spot when we learned of some researchers who were looking for the largest cockroach and we thought we might have a chance of producing one. Having not yet traveled we were oblivious to those of tropical proportions. Ours weren’t really big, just fruitful.

When I think back, I don’t know how we were able to sleep, or to function. We were kids I suppose. I remember having to shake everything before you put it on. I remember gym-bag trauma. I remember being doubly invaded when the house next door caught fire – “No Fair!” I remember a story that my mother wrote, about small boys whose country home becomes infested. In the misguided belief that it was their mother’s worst fear, they bury the family treasures in the yard and proceed to burn the house down. Rather than rebuild, the family moves away and when, one day, the boys hop on their bikes and ride back to the property to unearth the old photos and other mementos, they are both killed in a road accident involving a large truck. I think the moral of the story was that it could be worse, but I’m not sure.

I think about how we are trying to engage people of all stripes in our community-building effort and I wonder if it is misguided? If the result is the spread of roaches rather than the spread of inclusion? I am looking for the boundary that says ‘you can play too, but not in my living room’. A boundary that wont make me starchy or cranky, or make me move to the suburbs. Maybe that’s what the churches and community centres are for, to keep the mess contained, keep it on neutral ground. Is this just cold feet? Getting out when the going gets tough?

Is there a way to be inclusive without including the roaches?


3 thoughts on “Roach Motel

  1. i just got back from doing a guided tour of some shelters in the downtown Hamilton area. apparently, bed bugs are big this year. and by big, I mean plentiful. their strategy is sheer diligence — to recognize the presence of bed bugs and to know the means of ensuring their whole shelter does not become infested. it’s a huge problem, and one that definitely can come with inclusion.

    i love the imagery of “a black floor scattering.” nice work. although i’m sure roaches were in the houses where I grew up in Toronto, I was more aware of flea infestations and having to bathe two uncooperative kittens. thankfully, “state-of-the-art” flea medication seems to have put some restraints on the flea population.

    would love to read some of your mom’s moral allegories.

  2. We all live with different types of bugs…

    I remember landing at the Blantyre airport in Malawi one evening just as the flying ants came out from their burrows.. the terminal was in chaos with touring Brits running about screaming as the ants landed in their hair and on their clothing, creeping down necks and up sleeves. The locals were ecstatic catching the ants, pulling off the wings and popping them into their mouths as fast as possible… they taste a little like peanut butter… I won’t tell you about mopani worms….

    Shrews love roaches, perhaps a shrew breeding program…

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