As Melinda and I take turns with illnesses this month and we finish the Alaskan, I dipped into my writing file of unpublished favorites from my younger years. My first solo vacation to Hawaii. I was 24.
By Gretchen Wehmhoff
Penny and I had met on the beach a day ago. Total strangers with one thing in common — the dollar amount in our wallets. We were both in our early 20s, traveling alone and on budgets, but neither of us wanted to stay in any of the “roach” hotels within our budgets. Sharing a room wasn’t my idea of an ideal vacation, but I’d been in one of those other hotels for about twenty minutes when I decided I’d sleep on the beach before sleeping with a cockroach.
A tropical breeze drifted through the lanai door of our hotel room as I flipped through the Honolulu yellow pages. I craved one of those stylish restaurants where drinks came in pineapples decorated with paper umbrellas. Penny stood in the bathroom fixing her make-up when a sudden shriek brought me to reality.
“It’s a monster!”
I looked up to see Penny backing slowly out of the bathroom holding her mascara wand like a switchblade. Her eyes fixed on the counter.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, wondering if she had overdone the mascara.
“Look!” she motioned with her weapon.
I walked to the door. Sitting on the counter staring back at me was the largest cockroach I had ever seen. Actually, it was the only cockroach I had ever seen, having lived in Alaska all of my life. Monster? Yes. It stood at least four inches long with two dangerous looking antennae vacillating in front of his head. He commandeered the counter and appeared to be considering his next conquest. With a quick look, I knew how to handle this.
“Run!” I yelled. We bolted into the main hallway. Leaning against the wall outside our door, we caught our breath.
“What’ll we do?” whispered Penny.
“Go for help!” I said. We started towards the elevators. Halfway there, we stopped and looked at each other.
“They’ll think we’re crazy,” she said.
“Your right. It’s just a bug.” We turned around and headed back to defend our space.
I had visions of the cockroach sitting on my bed watching television and eating macadamia nuts. We were relieved to find that it had chosen to spend more time in the bathroom.
“Should we smash him?’’ said Penny.
“Go ahead.” I didn’t need to be a hero. I’d buy her dinner if she was willing to go head-on with the beast. That thing looked ferocious.
“I can’t” she breathed. She began to look pale.
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
I’ve faced thousands of Alaskan mosquitoes without fear. I’ve stared down angry dogs and avoided temperamental hornets, but nothing compared to the battle of wills I was about to have with this cockroach.
Grabbing a tourist magazine from the dresser, I silently approached the insect and positioned my arm above it. With all the force I had in me, I slammed it down on the bug. I felt immediate guilt for using such force on a creature smaller than myself.
The guilt was short-lived when I raised the magazine. The roach was gone. I looked in the sink and on the floor. The cockroach had vanished
“Look-out! He’s on you!” Penny screamed.
I looked in the mirror. The sly devil had attached himself to the back page and was crawling towards my hand. I dropped the magazine as we retreated to the hallway.
“What’ll we do?” Obviously, this was her first cockroach encounter as well.
“Did you see that? He must be made of steel! Any other bug would be mush!” I found myself in a new battlefield. Mosquitoes respond well to sudden blows with magazines. They die. This insect was a miniature tank.
I had an idea. “Do you have any insect repellent?” Penny looked at me quizzically. She obviously had not thought to pack any lotion other than suntan lotion. She started digging through her suitcase.
“Here!” She proudly handed me a can of super hold hair spray.
“Great!” Even if it didn’t kill him, it would keep him from going anywhere. I wanted to super hold this bug to the floor so tight it would take a chisel to remove him.
Back in the bathroom the cockroach still owned the magazine. I took a step towards him and started to spray. He jumped from his perch and headed for a closet. I followed him with a steady stream of hair spray until I had him cornered. The small area quickly became congested with fumes and I retreated, gasping for air. I fled to the balcony coughing spastically from the toxic overdose. Penny followed me, worried that I might die from hair spray asphyxiation.
“I’m okay,” I gasped. “Give me a few minutes.”
Five minutes later we ventured back to the bathroom to throw the dead insect in the trash.
“Oh my God!” Penny froze. Crawling out of the closet unscathed, the cockroach marched straight for us.
“Quick! Get me some cardboard!” I shouted. I would scoop the beast up and drop him off the lanai. Penny ran to me holding two 3×5 index cards.
“Will this do?”
I looked at her in disbelief. Did she expect me to scoop an angry four-inch cockroach with two tiny index cards? “Do you have anything bigger,” I asked, mildly sarcastic?
“No.” She shook her head hopelessly.
Taking the cards and a deep breath, I entered the bathroom. The air was thick with hair spray. Whoever said cockroaches would be the only creatures to survive a nuclear holocaust was right. They are indestructible.
Trying not to make any sudden moves, I slipped one card in front of the creature and the other behind him. He took the bait and gingerly stepped onto the card as if he were stepping into a taxi. I had him. Only had twenty feet to the lanai and we’d be free of this invader.
Sliding the second card under the body, I started toward the bathroom door. That’s when he made his move. He was crawling towards my hand. I panicked. Looking frantically about the room I saw my only choice. Taking two steps, I opened the cards and the cockroach dropped into the toilet bowl. Cockroaches make impressive belly flops.
“Wow, smart thinking.” said Penny, full of admiration.
“Do you think he’ll clog the toilet? I was starting to doubt anything could overcome this beast.
I flushed. The cockroach started to swirl in the whirlpool. His legs were in motion, and for a moment, he almost grabbed the edge. Then “guloop.” He was gone. I closed the lid. I was a warrior. I had won this battle, but I hadn’t won the war. I now know that cockroaches may indeed inherit the earth.
They already have Hawaii.