I wrote this story back in 1993 in college. I was taking an English writing class and the assignment was to compare and contrast three adjectives: frenetic, benevolent, and malicious. However, I chose to be a bit more creative than most. Here is the story I turned in. I got an A.





How do people act when confronted by roaches? That depends on the kind of people these insects decide to assault. Have you ever been amused watching your best friend rant and rave because a roach crawled across the floor? They are frenetic; they freak out at the mere sight of bugs. Have you ever been amazed to see that your friend can actually be kind to roaches? They are benevolent; they treat the critters with kindness and respect. Have you ever been spooked by your friend who hunts down a roach until it is dead? They are malicious; they slay all insects that cross their path. The following story is an example of these three classes. Who do these people remind you of? Do you fall into one of these categories? Keep these questions in mind as the story unfolds. Enter Janette.

Janette Carlson found out the hard way that she was frenetic. She was in her kitchen the day it happened, so innocent and unsuspecting as she reached into the cupboard for a glass. In an instant, a small, dark figure leaped at her, knocking the glass from her hand, sending it hurtling to the floor. The sound of shattering glass resonated with her screams. Sobs of fear echoed throughout the kitchen as she jiggled her arm frantically trying to shake off the monster that had attached itself to her limb. Then the monster, big and brown, with large antennae and big, ferocious looking eyes began to crawl up her arm toward her shoulder. Janette would have sworn it was gnashing its teeth as it moved. She began slapping her arm viciously trying to make the bug go away, but it continued to climb. Her life flashed before her eyes. She remembered all the times she had laughed at the exterminator. The times she had left food on the table despite her mother's warnings. And oh, God, all those cookies she had eaten in bed. Now she was paying the price. Janette was at the mercy of a cockroach. As she ran around in circles screaming and shaking she managed, somehow, to hit it and knock it from her arm. Janette jumped back with a yelp and watched through teary eyes as it disappeared into a small crack in the floor. When at last her mother came down to see what all the screaming was about, she found Janette cowering on the couch shivering all over, sweat trickling down her face and unable to speak. In a scare, her mother called the hospital, and then called Janette's boyfriend, Jake, hoping he would come over and calm her down.

Jake Garrison, Janette's boyfriend, came over that night to cheer her up. When he arrived, however, Janette's mother told him she was not up to having visitors. "But you're welcome to come in for a minute or two." she said to Jake. Jake was always welcome; he was accepted as part of the family. So, when she went upstairs to check on Janette, Jake helped himself to a glass of Koolaid in the kitchen. But, as he reached for a glass in the cabinet a small, dark creature attacked his hand and proceeded with a violent march up his arm, gnashing its teeth and bursting with anticipation of the human's frenzied response. The suddenly it stopped. There were no screams, no cries for help, no blind hysteria. Just silence. It was being watched. Jake and the creature stared at each other for quite some time. Then at last, before the roach could say anything at all in its defense, Jake spoke. "Now you shouldn't be doing that, little guy," he said. "You could get hurt, or worse." The roach raised its eyebrow and gave Jake a puzzled look as if to say, what are you going to do with me? Jake knew that look and he said to the bug, "Don't worry, I won't hurt you." And with that, Jake placed the startled bug on the floor. "Now you run along and don't let this happen again." Jake called to the bug as it disappeared into the floor. Then, Jake proceeded to get his glass of Koolaid and the went upstairs to see Janette, passing her mother on her way to the kitchen. Jake stood at the bedroom door and watched Janette lying there, staring at the ceiling and he wondered what had happened. Then, as a scream echoed from the kitchen, the answer came to him. When he heard Mrs. Carlson screaming for the exterminator, it was all too clear. Jake knew what had happened. My little friend , he thought, what have you done ?

Jellicoe was his name. He had been an exterminator for twelve years and had enjoyed every day of it. He liked nothing more than to stomp out the existence of cockroaches. Upon entering the Carlson's infested house, he began to sniff them out. He knew their scent well; bitter-sweet with a trace of rancid garbage. The distinct scent of his favorite prey. He stepped into the living room and headed straight for the kitchen. Both Janette and Jake were there to watch this expert in action. To Janette, he was a savior, a knight. To Jake, he was an executioner. But, for good or for bad they watched, in silent awe, the man who would rid this house of those pests forever. Jellicoe stopped in the center of the kitchen, scanning as if he were The Terminator. He focused on the cupboard. Slowly he opened the cabinet door. Light filled the interior as he peered into that dusty place. And one beast also peered out. Their eyes locked. All was silent. Suddenly a scream! Jannette had seen the ugly monster. Jake began to cry out to the helpless beast, "Run! Run while you still can ya bastahd!" Then, like a wild animal, the roach jumped from it's dwelling place, traversed the great open air and fluttered to the floor. Jellicoe stepped back, drew his poisonous spray gun and fired three sharp lasts. He missed. The insect ran for cover with it's deadly nemesis at its heals. Jellicoe fired another blast but the roach anticipated and dodged to the left just in time. Closer to the crack they came. But before it could jump to safety, Jellicoe's foot came down and cut off its only means of escape. It backed up slowly, inching away as Jellicoe stepped forward. He raised his gun to fire the finishing blow. Just then the roach stood up on its hind legs as if to fight. Jellicoe was stunned. Never before had an insect so blatantly tried to defend itself. Slowly, he lowered his spray gun and, but for his utility belt, removed all of his exterminating gear. He looked down at the roach and said, "It's just gonna be you and me." Jellicoe slammed his foot down on the beast but it jumped aside. His foot came down again, and again he missed. On and on around the room they fought in this manner until they came full circle to the crack and the roach dove into the floor.

Jellicoe roared with rage. He pulled out a small hatchet he kept on his utility belt and began chopping away at the floor boards. In less than a minute, though, he realized his action was futile. He ran through the house, out the front door and around the side of the house until he found the bulkhead to the basement. With one, mighty swing of his hatchet, he broke the lock. He pulled open the heavy, steel doors and jumped down the small flight of stairs. The basement was murky and black except for a dim light at the far end. Jellicoe approached the light and found it was coming from the hole he had chopped in the kitchen floor above. Jellicoe lit a lighter to aid his search for that evil roach. But what he saw sent a wave of horror and excitement through his body. Encircling him was an army of roaches. Thousands of them moving slowly toward him. Ironically, he smiled. He reached around his back and withdrew a can of WD-40 from his belt. He raised the can behind his lighter and ignited the spray. The house burned down and Jellicoe was never seen alive again.

Not everyone is so afraid of roaches that they have a nervous breakdown if they encounter one. Likewise, no one is so kind and friendly that they would actually help roaches along their merry way. And hopefully, no one is so psychotic that they would burn down a house in order to kill roaches. But most people do have just a little bit of Janette, Jake and Jellicoe in them. Which of these three are most like you ?

***

Copyright © 1993 James Barrett


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