Marjorie Collins laid the last dish in the rack and nodded at the dishwater swirling down the drain. It was time for that bath she'd promised herself. She wiped her hands on a towel printed with smiling strawberries then draped it over the dripping rack. In the living room, her husband lit a cigar. She hated it when he smoked in the house.
"I'm going for a bath," she announced in her best and don't you dare bother me voice.
Harold grunted but didn't look up from the television.
She climbed the stairs of their two-bedroom townhouse. Florida's winter breezes drifted through the window, stirring the curtains she had brought from the home they sold up north.
"About as cool as it's bound to get," she muttered, thinking of snow and a house filled with holiday smells. She sighed, taking in the fragrances of jasmine and hibiscus in bloom. It really wasn't so bad, although she'd never tell Harold that.
Stripping off a t-shirt and shorts, she slipped on the lush, velvet robe she'd bought herself last Christmas (luxury always made her feel important) and stepped into the bathroom. The bubble bath was on a shelf inside the vanity beneath the sink, and she knelt, reaching for it.
Something brushed her fingers. She squealed, shaking her hand. A large cockroach skittered across the floor toward the tub.
Screaming, she ran into the hallway. "Harold, there's a bug in the bathroom!"
There was no answer.
Her skin crawled, and she hugged herself, trying to make it stop. On tip-toe, she stole to the bathroom door. The roach sat boldly on the clean, white tile. Its long antennae waved as it watched her. Florida's roaches could jump, she'd been told, could even fly. It could reach her where she stood.
"Marge, for crying out loud, I'm watching the game!"
She smelled his cigar. Hope you choke, she thought. The bug paced off the length of the tub.
She shuddered and groaned. "What am I going to do?"
Her bare feet danced, standing on top of each other. Keeping her eyes on the insect, she reached into the vanity, grabbing the first thing she touched. She aimed the can and pressed the nozzle.
Scrubbing bubbles spewed on the roach. They crackled and melted like acid. The bug jumped in surprise and ran for the corner. Marjorie took a tentative step into the bathroom, reaching as far as she could. Her weapon sputtered, the foam dropping in globs down her hand. She glanced under the sink.
She grabbed the container and shook it vigorously. The roach stood on its hind legs, trying the scale the wall. Its hard, reddish shell was shiny and wet. Marjorie squirmed. Her heart raced.
"Take that!" she cried, spraying the mousse. A tiny foam mountain formed as she emptied the can.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then the mountain moved. The roach burst from the side. Marjorie ran from the room.
"Harold, would you please come up here?"
But she knew he would not answer. Screams twisted in her throat, and she breathed deeply, forcing them down. I have to finish this, she thought, or I'll never be able to use the bathroom again.
Trembling, she removed her luxurious robe and tossed it onto the bed. The Floridian breeze felt cold upon her clammy skin. She lifted her silver hairbrush from the dresser, then put it down and picked up Harold's instead. Arming herself with a full can of deodorant, she entered the bathroom.
The roach was hiding. She stepped carefully, listening for it, hearing only her own uneven gasps. The floor felt wet and sticky beneath her feet. With the brush, she batted a peach-colored hand towel then ruffled the shower curtain framing the tub. Carefully, she lifted the lid on the toilet. The bug lurked just inside the rim.
"Die!" she shouted, her spray can belching a thick cloud of powdery vapor.
The insect turned white. It skittered along the inside of the toilet, trying to escape the worst of the fallout. Marjorie moved the can within inches of the crusty body. The frigid blast blew the bug into the water. It scrambled, trying to climb the basin. Quickly, she flushed the toilet. Blue water swirled and narrowed for the drain. The roach went with it.
Marjorie felt weak. She dropped the spent can and leaned against the sink. Her skin was damp and itching, and she rubbed her arms, assuring herself that nothing was there. She laid Harold's hairbrush on the tank lid. Reaching again into the vanity, she took out a can of Lysol, spraying the toilet, spraying beneath the rim, coating the water with an oily sheen. She coughed, lungs burning with the fouled air. She lowered the lid.
"Aren't you done in here, yet?" Harold stood in the doorway. "Halftime's almost over. Phew. What a stink." He pulled the nub of his cigar from his teeth then raised the toilet seat.
Marjorie pushed past him, leaving the room. She leaned over the bed to retrieve her robe. "Go to hell," she muttered beneath her breath.
Just then, the bathroom flashed bright yellow.