Living with Roaches: The One I Did Not Smash

Why war against roaches? One day, they may inherit the earth.

| July/August 2012

  • TheOneIDidNotSmash
    My upbringing had instilled a fervent dislike of these basic, ancient insects. I had been told they spread disease and bacteria from the rotting food they consumed. But the fact was that I hadn’t caught even one common cold since cohabitating with them.

  • TheOneIDidNotSmash

Some instances must be considered stand-alone moments.

Night settled with a slight chill, and Albuquerque’s adobe buildings still held heat like stone warmed by a doused fire. I sat upright in bed, reading by lamplight an article about a plutonium vault in southern New Mexico that would outlast our society. Scientists, historians, and science fiction writers had assembled to determine a warning for the site, something that would convey meaning through 500 generations of linguistic change, a symbol that could caution robotic slaves or extraterrestrials or intelligent cockroaches.

As I read the wind stilled, and I heard cockroaches swarming my compost pile outside, the rustling of their hard skeletons through my food waste. Between the quiet turning of pages I heard a closer scratching, a sound not unlike the breaking of a bleached and fragile eggshell. The immediate proximity of the sound diverted my gaze. On the opposite side of the room a cockroach had burrowed through the wall, half of his body extruding. His front legs braced and pushed against the whitewash that lined the interior of my adobe home.

“Roach,” I exclaimed and cast a finger to the dark window, “be gone.”

The roach flexed its antennae but did not retreat. He had made such great progress tunneling through the compact sand, clay and straw wall, willed onward by the pheromone trace of others, following new and ancient trails. A spined front leg pressed the wall; he was pleading with me.

“Roach,” I said again, “you are not welcome here.” When the roach did not withdraw, I laid my article down and advanced. These roaches and I had been at war.

Joanne Paciello
8/8/2012 2:15:48 PM

I live in south Florida, and they are one local critter I can't bring myself to like. They creep me out--they're HUGE down here! I recently read that their brains contain an incredibly potent antibiotic that things like e coli and MRSA, etc. don't stand a chance against. I don't think we'll have to worry about them becoming extinct before we get a chance to extract what we need from them, though! They'll probably inherit the earth, and adapt to whatever environment comes their way. But I still don't welcome them in my house.