Why Fighting Cockroaches is Like The Coronavirus

Submitted into Contest #47 in response to: "Just say it," you silently reminded yourself. You knew you'd regret it if you didn't. ... view prompt

25 comments

Creative Nonfiction Funny

Why Fighting Cockroaches is Like the Coronavirus

Sometimes in life, the greatest challenges are the little ones. Sometimes challenges look like moving overseas to a new country, starting public school, starting public high school after having been homeschooled for five years, or having your whole life- and everyone else's- take a strange and unforeseen twist called the coronavirus. But sometimes the greatest challenges are smaller things wrapped up in the bigger ones. Instead of the challenge being moving overseas, the challenge is learning where you belong in the middle of those two countries. Instead of starting public school or even public high school, the challenge is finding a place to sit that isn't by the trash cans, or finding people you like enough to want to see them outside of school. Sometimes the fight that defines the battle is hidden in lots of smaller confrontations. And sometimes, instead of the entire coronavirus causing you strife, it can be a smaller thing, like a battle with a cockroach in the dead of the night, that makes you rethink how you’ll continue your fight. 

The night before Easter, the year 2020, you could find me in bed sleeping and dreaming of something to do with the book I had stayed up way too late reading. (First book of the Chaos Walking series: I highly recommend it.) I was curled comfortably around my pillows and sleeping so peacefully you could hear a pin drop. (Or maybe a cheeseburger from MacDonald's. Or maybe I just miss fast food... ) Either way, I was sleeping and everything- for once- was calm. And then, like people sometimes do, I had to wake up and ruin all the lovely, peaceful calm because I needed to use the restroom. Neat. 

I stood and did my best not to trip on the pile of trash I had thrown across the floor (another story, don't worry about it) and eventually made it across the hall to the bathroom without falling on my face. But that is when the true horror began, because I never made it past the shower. In that shower-- wretched thing-- was the largest and most disgusting cockroach I had ever seen in my life. (Pretty much. Though I have seen quite a few frightfully sized bugs.) Remembering that the rest of my family was still sleeping, I restrained myself from screaming (what would the point in that be anyway?) and told myself positive affirmations that weren't quite relevant to cockroach finding but worked okay for the time being. (If I was able to believe in the Easter bunny for eight years, why not believe in myself for five minutes?) 

The cockroach was on its back, presumably dead. I veered past the toilet paper (why waste a precious material?) and snatched a paper towel off the bathroom counter. Swallowing all remaining fears, I reached into the shower to pick up the offending creature and send it swirling down the toilet. Just as I did, though, the cockroach jumped off the shower shelf very much alive and started skittering out of the shower. Well, by Jove, we did not need another one of those things crawling around the world so I decided I was going to have to kill it, even though I didn’t much care for killing things, bugs included. But with what? I had to think quickly because those bugs are faster than the church youth group on potluck days, am I telling you. 

I wasn't wearing shoes and the last thing I wanted was dead cockroach pieces on the bottom of my socks. I could hear an imaginary clock ticking thunderously above my head and a song in my head drumming, “Rhondie vs the cockroach, Rhondie vs the cockroach!” So I hopped back out into the hallway and grabbed the nearest shoe I saw before scrambling back into the bathroom (faster than the church youth group on potluck day at the dessert table) and relocating the criminal. I found it and killed it and I don't think I need to refresh memories on how hard it is to kill a cockroach. So maybe it took me a minute to finish but when I did, when I did, it was pretty neat. Also loud. Also crunchy. Also it made me want to get back in bed and never leave anywhere without shoes again. I was sure it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. School was already online for the rest of the year. Social distancing was very much a thing, and even if it wasn’t I had enough library books to last me until the rest of the month. With books and the  lighting in my room, I should be okay. Realizing it was still pretty late and that I wasn’t thinking clearly, I put off my plans to hide forever aside. 

I put my weapon down and slunk back down the hallway to my room, where I lay very disoriented and also glad everything was finally over for a long time, until I could finally get comfortable enough to go back to sleep. 

Maybe you can see where I'm headed with this story. Maybe you can't. Either way, you're about to find out because this is the part where I tell you. The challenge of this story was battling a cockroach. It was person vs. nature, a classic battle in literature and life and lore. But in this case, the nature I was battling wasn't really a cockroach. I mean, it was, but at the end of the day, I found it represented more than that. Because what are we all- all of the world- going through right now, this year? 

We are repeating history and we should do it better. We've seen prior civilizations go through the very same thing we're going through but we aren't going to be able to turn and run away from it because it won’t end well for us. If I had let that cockroach go, that night in the bathroom before Easter, it would have gone on to haunt me for as long as I breathe on this earth. It would have stretched it’s nasty and scritchy legs up my bare feet every night until I breathed my last dying sigh. I would never have lived down the shame of letting that cockroach go. But I didn't do that. No, instead I smashed the living daylights right out of that bug until it was nothing but ex-nightmare fuel on the shower's tiled floor. And I think that if we see this bigger challenge, COVID-19, as a cockroach that we all have to lift up shoes for and bring down together, then we will overcome it. 

We will have to find strength in each other and even though we feel like everyone else is sleeping because we can't see them in person, that doesn't mean they aren't fighting too, just as hard and long and brave as we are. Did our peaceful slumber get brutally broken by bad bacteria? (not scientifically correct but it works for alliteration.) Yes, we did get woken up by this virus and now we're awake and we feel like it's going to take a really long time, after we finish off the cockroach COVID-19, to get comfortable again and sleep how we were. 

Except we should look at how we were before and think, "Hey, maybe my back posture wasn't so good. Maybe I was snoring a little loud. Maybe I need a new mattress. Maybe I need to clean up the trash on my floor. Maybe there's a way I can get a better night's sleep after all. Maybe I should get my stuffed animals out of my closet so I’m not so lonely." And this, of course, isn't supposed to be literal. It's supposed to be symbolic of issues that we had and continue to have in our world that we've had our eyes closed to for too long. It’s supposed to be a metaphor for all the trash and the hurt of the centuries that we’ve tried our best not to fix, but to sweep it under the rug. And we are masters of sweeping the bad stuff under the rug. 

So maybe we should look at COVID-19 as the universe’s way of throwing all the things we crammed away in our everything-is-awesome boxes right back at us.  We weren’t doing much good on our own, so the universe said, “Okay! Now you’ll have to work together but there’s a catch! You don’t actually get to be together. You have to see each other in slivers and pieces and once you get out of your homes the world will never, ever be the same. You’ll never be the same. But you guys have to choose. Will it be never the same for the better or the worse?” So this is a chance to wake up and smell the acid rain, to stop it before all that's left of our world, is the cockroaches that refuse to die. 

(Author's Note: I would regret not saying this to everyone; that's the only reason it fits the prompt at all. Stay safe YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU. Don't YOU love second person? I think it's pretty fun. Tell me what you think of this personal essay in comments!)

June 21, 2020 03:51

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25 comments

Tolu Odel
23:47 Jul 05, 2020

*Insert clapping emoji*

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Rhondalise Mitza
23:49 Jul 05, 2020

Thank you!

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M.R. Zeener
11:42 Jun 24, 2020

Loved the connection you established between the Roach and COVID. I had serious doubts as I read the title. but as the story progressed, I got more and more engrossed in the tale.

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Kathleen March
19:47 Jun 23, 2020

I kind of like stopping the story right after the cockroach is squashed. Do note it's vs. its. This is very, very funny. If you turn it into an essay, some of the humor dissipates. And yes, cockroaches are awful. Never waste toilet paper on them.

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Rhondalise Mitza
20:23 Jun 23, 2020

Thanks for reading! It was originally a school essay. :)

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Kathleen March
21:09 Jun 23, 2020

It is quite hard, in my opinion, to combine essay with short fiction, but that shouldn't stop us from trying.

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14:49 Jun 23, 2020

I personally agreed 100% with the title before even reading it. Cockroaches and the coronavirus...have soo much in common! Gak and I admire your courage killing it. ;) Blehhhh.... By the way, where did you move from (and to)? Your backstory sounds an awful lot like mine. :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
14:55 Jun 23, 2020

I moved from Bolivia to Arkansas! :)

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15:25 Jun 23, 2020

Wow! That is quite a move! I was born in Austria, moved to Wyoming, and then moved to Wisconsin. And actually I'm still homeschooled. XD It's not exactly "cool" but I think it's awesome. ;)

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Rhondalise Mitza
16:59 Jun 23, 2020

I loved being homeschooled. If it's not creepy to ask, what grade are you in? I'm in ninth going into tenth.

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18:04 Jun 23, 2020

I'm going into eleventh next year. :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
20:25 Jun 23, 2020

Fun, fun. I hope it’s a better school year than this one.

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ℤ ℍ☮️
02:55 Jun 22, 2020

Wow! Based on the title, I didn't think it was my type of story! But as soon as I started reading, I loved it. If you can, please check out "You Jump"? It's one of my most recent submissions. Take care!

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Rhondalise Mitza
03:00 Jun 22, 2020

Aw, thank you so much for giving it a chance! I've heard a few similar opinions on the title and the jury is settled; no one likes cockroaches. And yes, I would love to check out your story!

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Arya Preston
15:41 Jun 21, 2020

The title definitely caught my attention and I was curious as to how you'd navigate the story - it was great! I love the connection between the cockroach and COVID because I would have never thought of something so perfectly peculiar! The narration was the cherry-on-top - wonderful story, Rhondalise!

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Rhondalise Mitza
16:49 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Laiba M
15:01 Jun 21, 2020

Wow, Rhondalise, this was SUCH a nice personal essay to read! When I read the title, I immediately doubted it; I couldn't imagine comparing a mere cockroach to a worldwide pandemic killing so many people! After reading your essay though, I understood the comparison. It was really creative! And I liked your take on the prompt; instead of writing a story with an unsure character wondering if they should say something, you actually said something important :) This was great, I'm definitely recommending this to others!!

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Rhondalise Mitza
16:48 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you! And please do recommend.

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Laiba M
16:52 Jun 21, 2020

No problem, I'll even recommend it to people who don't use Reedsy (it's that good!) :D

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Rhondalise Mitza
18:28 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you! I tried to send it to several newspapers but they didn’t like it that much. 😂

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Laiba M
18:36 Jun 21, 2020

That's too bad, if I was a newspaper company I'd accept it in a heartbeat :) At least a lot of people can see it on here!

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Batool Hussain
11:22 Jun 21, 2020

Great story! Mind checking my recent story out? Thanks.

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Rhondalise Mitza
00:16 Jun 22, 2020

Of course!

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Blane Britt
09:45 Jun 21, 2020

Two of the worse creature on earth are cockroaches and liars. Loved your short story. Thanks.

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Rhondalise Mitza
14:04 Jun 21, 2020

I agree five thousand percent.

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