Thursday, August 30, 2012

Scuttle, scuttle, little roach

You know we moved apartments again.  We have the distinct misfortune among our acquaintances here in Saigon to be the only ones evicted by the landlord twice in row.  In each case, the landlord has offered us a smaller, less lovely apartment – and this time we took the offer*. 

There was a decent amount of hand-wringing over it. It was very pleasant having a larger apartment to stretch ourselves out in, and most especially to bring our friends in to without everybody having to sit on everybody else’s laps.

One of the consequences of our sellout has been not entirely unexpected**, but unpleasant none the less. A couple of weeks ago as I was chopping stuff up for tea I noticed a quickly thickening trail of ants on the wall between the sink and the cabinets above. “I’ll put an end to that,” I thought and gave them a quick spritzing with the Raid. About two minutes later I nearly chopped my finger off as a small (2cm) cockroach came charging at me from the crack between the bench and the wall. 

I made that awful noise you make when an awful thing charges at you and took a giant step backwards.
Mr Martin, ever valiant, came racing to the rescue. He squished the offending creature with a kind of disgusting crack under his bare finger, then rinsed the whole corpse down the kitchen sink. He said: “I’ll always come and squash cockroaches for you, my love.” 

Do you feel sick yet?

Well, save it if you do – because there was more.  He rinsed, I chopped a little bit, a disgusting thing charged at me, Mr Martin to the rescue. He rinsed, repeat. Ad, seemingly infinitum, but actually only about 10 times. Which is 10 times too many.

I’ve told this story a few times now, and everybody says – were the roaches coming to eat the ant corpses?  No, I don’t know if roaches are interested in dead ants so much, but they are susceptible to Raid.  Only, while Raid kills ants instantly, it takes about 10 minutes to properly terminate a roach. Which means that if they detect it early enough, they can get an opportunity to run away. Or towards you – which is infinitely worse.  Let’s not think about how many roaches probably ran deeper into the cracks in the wall, on the basis that at least 10 ran out onto my kitchen bench. 

Suffice it say, that night and the next day I spent a decent amount of time and energy on further roach annihilation strategies – spraying, wiping, stuffing cracks with steel wool etc. And then for the rest of the week, I was coming across half dead Gregor Sansas in places like The Middle of The Living Room. 

Sweep sweep.

My favourite part of the poem below? The whisk its/biscuits rhyming couplet in the 4th stanza.
SCUTTLE, scuttle, little roach—
How you run when I approach:
Up above the pantry shelf,
Hastening to secrete yourself.

Most adventurous of vermin,
How I wish I could determine
How you spend your hours of ease,
Perhaps reclining on the cheese.

Cook has gone, and all is dark—
Then the kitchen is your park:
In the garbage heap that she leaves
Do you browse among the tea leaves?

How delightful to suspect
All the places you have trekked:
Does your long antenna whisk its
Gentle tip across the biscuits?

Do you linger, little soul,
Drowsing in our sugar bowl?
Or, abandonment most utter,
Shake a shimmy on the butter?

Do you chant your simple tunes
Swimming in the baby's prunes?
Then, when dawn comes, do you slink
Homeward to the kitchen sink?

Timid roach, why be so shy?
We are brothers, thou and I.
In the midnight, like yourself,
I explore the pantry shelf!
By Christopher Morley (1890-1957)

* She offered us money, you see.
** Vietnam is gross.

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