Web Site: The Roach
An arrogant car salesman faces an immortal enemy in a fight to the death.
By: Paul J. Hamm
Rick Johnson pulled in his driveway, glanced at the clock on the dash, and sighed. It was 2a.m, and promising himself to be home by mid-night was getting to be a joke - the same seven words were always to blame. “Come on Rick, one for the road!”
But Rick didn’t mind. At thirty-two years old, and in the prime of his life, Rick wouldn’t have it any other way. He worked for one of the largest car dealerships in the Tampa Bay area, and was #1 in sales month after month. He was the top dog - the man - the big kahuna. Hell, Rick even had new salespeople calling him sir. Man, did he love that!
Standing six-two and weighing over two hundred pounds, Rick used intimidation and confusion to make his sales. With his deep green eyes, dark slicked back hair, and perfect olive complexion, Rick was the epitome of a car sales man. He was the reason most people would rather have a triple bypass than shop for a car.
“Just show me where to sign so I can get the hell outta here”, Rick heard on a daily basis as he handed over a pen, smiling and spending the commission in his head.
God forbid the customer was elderly. Rick hated old people - hated the way they bitched and moaned about everything - and especially hated how slow they were.
Once, an ancient old man with a cane had tapped Rick on the head, insisting he pay more attention. Infuriated, Rick grabbed the cane, snapped it over his knee, and screamed, “There, now hobble home you cancerous old bastard!”
Lunchtime bought with it the planning of evening activities. It usually started with, “Hey Ricky, wanna stop for a couple beers after work?”
If that didn’t suit his tastes, all Rick had to do was wait for Glenn Harmon. Glenn was the general manager of the dealership, and would do anything to keep his top producers happy.
“Hey R.J., how bout some tits tonight,” Glenn would say poking his head into Rick’s office. Glenn was short, fat, and hairy - not Rick’s first choice of drinking buddies - but he bought round after round and never bitched. In addition, the scenery at the strip clubs wasn’t too bad either.
This was Rick’s everyday routine as a car sales man. With no wife, no kids, and at the top of his game, life was good for Rick Johnson - until tonight.
Rick killed the motor of his Ford Mustang GT, opened the door, stepped out, and unzipped his fly. One of the many things he liked about living on five acres of land - the world was your toilet. After relieving himself, Rick staggered the twenty feet to the front door, reached in his pocket, and fished for his keys. The key ring snagged on a thread, causing Rick to lose his grip, and sent the keys jingling to the ground.
“Shit,” Rick mumbled while bending down to retrieve his keys. As he planted his hand on the ground for balance, a large cockroach scurried across his splayed fingers. “Son of a bitch,” Rick hissed, pulling his hand back in fast retreat and hitting himself in the face by accident. “Dammit!”
While rubbing his sore lip, Rick looked down and saw the roach still standing by his keys. He shot out a booted foot and tried to crush the creature causing him grief. He only succeeded in losing his balance and fell to the ground with a painful thump.
The roach vanished into the night.
Groaning in defeat, Rick retrieved his keys and slowly got to his feet. He staggered to the door, inserted the key, and went inside. After regaining his composure, Rick headed for the kitchen and opened the fridge. A depleted twelve pack of beer - two slices of cheese - half a bottle of root beer, and yesterday’s pizza stared back.
“Pizza it is,” Rick said with slurred glee as he grabbed a plate and punched two-minutes into the microwave. While waiting for his dinner Rick listened to his messages - the display window flashing two.
“Hi Rick. This is Sandy. We had a date tonight and I was just wondering if…” Rick pushed the delete button and the next message played. “Mr. Johnson, this is Mark Peterson. It’s been three months since the closing and we still have not received the two thousand dollars owed to my mother. You should be ashamed of yourself for…”
Rick hit the off button.
Retrieving his plate of reanimated pizza, Rick poured himself a glass of root beer and headed for the den. He set his early morning feast on the arm of the couch, fumbled with a TV tray, and grabbed the remote. He turned back for his plate, and froze. On a round of pepperoni, as if posed on the runway of a fashion show, stood another roach.
“Oh, you nasty mother fucker,” Rick whined as he slowly reached for the plate, thumbing it by the edges. He walked to the kitchen, studying the roach; one long antenna probed the air while the other, severed in half, jerked from side to side in quick, spasmodic movements.
“Just not your lucky day, buddy,” Rick mused as he turned on the water, flipped the disposal switch, and dumped the roach, and his appetite, down the drain.
“Sorry pilgrim. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” Rick said in a bad John Wayne impression as he watched the blades do their work.
His lust for food gone, Rick returned to the couch and stretched out. “Damn cockroaches,” he mumbled while turning on the tube and flicking to the Weather Channel.
“A cold front pushing its way down from Canada will collide with warm, humid air pumping up from the Gulf of Mexico, causing…” the weather forecaster rambled as Rick’s mind turned to work.
Man, that customer was an asshole today, should’ve slapped the shit out of him. I hope service got that woman’s appointment right. Gotta find out about that new guy and see if…
Rick’s thoughts began to fad as the blackness of sleep took over.
In his dream, Rick was driving his car along the causeway, heading for the beach. Sitting next to him was Amy, who Rick had dated for three months. Amy was tall, blonde, and well endowed - right up Rick’s alley. They had broken it off around the time Rick had closed the deal on his house.
“Rick, she’s eighty-two years old, you could’ve had a little more compassion during the closing,” Amy had said as she eyed Rick with contempt. Rick had told her business was business and to keep her nose out of his. After exchanging several more volleys over the issue, Rick had dropped Amy off in front of her apartment, giving her the finger as he sped away. They never spoke again.
Rick’s dream insisted Amy was now a brunet instead of a blonde. She was wearing a white turtleneck sweater with rainbow stripes racing over her shoulders.
“Hope you got your suit on under that,” Rick said, eyeing her smugly. Amy gazed at him, wearing a thin smile, but didn’t respond. “Why the hell would you were a sweater anyway? It’s gotta be ninety degrees out?”
Amy still didn’t respond. Rick snorted a laugh and let his eyes lust down the frame of her body, and then noticed her hands. Amy’s fingers dawned long nails painted a deep purple.
“You gonna use those claws on me later?” Rick said, the seduction in his voice clear as he saluted her with an eyebrow. The coy, little smile remained on Amy’s face as she continued to refuse conversation. Rick was getting irritated with the game. “You gonna say something, or just sit there like a goon all day.”
Without a word, Amy reached across the seat and tickled the top of Rick’s hand with one of her long, painted nail.
“What the hell is that suppose to mean,” Rick asked in a puzzled voice.
Again, without responding, Amy tickled his hand.
Rick’s anger was mounting. “If this is some sort of game, I don’t get it.”
When her finger teased him again, Rick grabbed Amy by the wrist and twisted. “Would you knock that shit off, you’re starting to piss me off and I don’t want…”
Rick trailed off as confusion replaced anger on his face. Though he held Amy’s wrist, the tickling sensation continued. “That’s impossible,” Rick said. “How in the hell are you doing…”
Bolting upright on the couch, with the thick webs of sleep pulling at his mind, Rick stared at his outstretched hand. Standing below the knuckles was another roach.
“Shit,” Rick barked while flicking his wrist and catapulting the insect to the floor. He scrambled for his empty glass, dived to the floor, and imprisoned the intruder before it could scurry away.
“My, you’re a big boy, not to bright though,” he said, peering through the glass - his face inches away. “Your brother visited earlier and I think…”
Rick trailed off as look of bewilderment settled on his face. The roach staring back was missing half of an antenna. “Man, that’s weird. Did you and your buddies have a fight,” Rick asked his prisoner as he picked up a magazine from the end table and rolled it up. The roach probed the glass and seemed to study Rick with its one and a half antennas. Before Rick lifted the glass, a disturbing thought went through his head. Could this be the same roach?
Rick eyed the caged creature. “Maybe you ran down the pipe at the last second or maybe I’m just being stupid. Either way…” Rick lifted the glass and brought the magazine down.
The impact sent tendrils of roach guts shooting in all directions. Rick lifted his weapon and examined his kill, seeing a mashed mess of legs, guts, and body armor.
“Yuck,” Rick said as he walked into the kitchen and reeled the remaining paper towels from their holder. He returned to the scene and stared at the mess, cocking his head quizzically when he saw one of the legs still twitching.
“Your truckin days are over, my friend,” Rick said as he wiped the carcass from the tiled floor. He deposited the remains in the trash and headed for the bedroom, flicked on the lights and looked at the clock - 3:15.
The master bedroom was oversized and appeared larger because of the mirrors covering the entire north wall. Rick had installed the mirrors for obvious reasons and most of his dates didn’t object. Framed posters of big chested women that were advertising various types of great tasting beer gave Rick a seductive smile as he flopped down on the king sized bed. Rick groaned with satisfaction and closed his eyes, the roach no longer an issue in the shadows of his tired mind.
As Rick drifted toward sleep, a pain cramped his stomach and drew him back to the world.
“Aw, come on, not now,” he groaned, clenching his belly, and headed for the bathroom. After he kicked off his jeans and found the thrown, another cramp inevitable bore down on Rick’s bowels - and then the inside of the house shook with thunderous relief.
Finishing his business, Rick reached for the spool and froze - an expression of shell shock twisting his face. The spool of paper swayed as a roach crawled from behind the dispenser and stopped at the top to defend its position. Rick retrieved his trembling hand, not comprehending what he was seeing.
It was the roach with half an antenna declaring war.
The creature leaped from the spool, clinging to Rick’s bare leg, and scrambled towards his groin.
“Son of a bitch,” Rick roared as he exploded to his feet and swatted frantically at the invader as it ran up his bare thigh, inadvertently racking himself in the process. Rick clutched his groin, moaned in agony, and collapsed to the floor.
From his fetal position Rick jerked his head from side to side attempting to locate his adversary, and the faint sound of tiny legs treading water explained the roach’s predicament. Rick pushed himself up, using the wall for support, and peered into the bowl. The roach circled the toilet like a wind up toy, not able to catch its footing on the smooth ceramic surface.
“Ha!” Rick barked hammering the flush lever, and watched as the rushing water demoralized the roach. For one horrible moment, Rick thought the roach might win the battle with the sucking water and stay afloat, but then his fear abated when it finally vanished into the abyss.
Leaning against the wall, Rick pulled his pants up and sighed. “My God, could that have been the same fucking roach?” he asked the filling toilet.
Then panic pulled at Rick’s face. He ran from the bathroom, barreled through the house, and came to an abrupt halt by the kitchen trashcan. Rick reached in and extracted the paper towel containing the roach’s smashed remains and pulled it open. Fear bit into Rick’s soul as a stain free surface stared back.
“No, can’t be. That’s impossible,” he said, flipping the paper towel over repeatedly in his hands. Rick backed away from the trashcan, releasing the paper towel as if it had a deadly disease, and then scrambled to the cutlery set at the other end of the counter. Hands shaking he extracted the largest knife in the set, raised the eight-inch stainless steel blade up to his face, and grinned like a savage. “You want a war buddy? I’ll give you a fucking war,” Rick bounded down the hallway, hesitating by the bedroom door, and peered in scanning the walls and floor for his nemesis.
Creeping across the carpeted floor Rick dared a glance in the bathroom and listened for the sound of tickled water.
He took a deep breath and began to relax. “Alright, let’s think about the situation, Rick” he said, tapping the tip of the knife blade against his lower lip. “There has to be a rational explanation. Dead insects don’t come back to...”
A faint sound came from the bathroom that caused the hair on the back of Rick’s neck to stand up. Scratch – Scratch – Scratch - Scratch.
Then a horrible picture invaded Rick’s mind - a large, pissed off cockroach swimming around the toilet bowl trying to calculate its plan of attack.
Scratch – Scratch - Scratch. Rick re-treated a step, and the scratching stopped. He cocked his head as if taking the last part of a difficult hearing test, and listened. Beads of sweat began to trek down his face as the seconds ticked by in silence. Rick opened his eyes and let his shoulders relax as the adrenaline pumping through his system dissipated.
“This is insane,” Rick said in a quivering voice, and relaxed his grip on the knife.
Then, one long antenna began to rise above the toilet seat like a periscope. Rick watched in horror as the roach crawled from the bowl and its second decapitated antenna came into view. The roach perched on the seat, seeming to challenge him. Rick’s eyes bulged from their sockets as he raised the knife, and the roach’s one long antenna jerked up as if following the weapon.
“Come on, you son of a bitch! Come on,” Rick roared, feeling lunacy wrap itself around his cerebral cortex. “Come on!”
The roach sprung from the seat, hit the floor, and scurried towards him. “AHHHHH,” Rick screamed, and brought the knife down in a long, vengeful decent. The tip of the blade pierced the roach’s armor and embe dded in the floor.
“Gotcha,” Rick yelled in triumph, and raised the impaled prisoner up to his face as its one long antenna beckoned to touch his skin. Cruel features gripped Rick’s face as he pulled his head back from the probing strand.
“I have a cure for your problem, buddy,” Rick whispered, gripped the antenna, twisted, and snapped it off. The response from the roach was immediate as it thrashed its legs violently and made a loud chirping noise.
“Didn’t like that much, huh,” Rick said, and produced a lighter from his pocket. “I have a feeling you’re going to like this even less.”
With a fiendish grin, Rick moved the lighter under the roach, and thumbed the wheel. The flame danced to life and the roach began running a marathon with its legs, snapping its body like a lobster trying to escape capture. Rick ran the flame from one end to the other, humming merrily as he went. Then there was an audible pop as the roach’s armor split, its congealed, white liquids oozing down the knife blade.
Rick’s grin widened at the spectacle.
Black, acrid smoke began rising from the burning carcass as the roach began to still, it’s twitching legs blazing like birthday candles awaiting a wish. Rick flipped the lighter shut and obliged by blowing out the flames.
“Let’s go for a little walk, shall we,” he said to the smoking remains and headed for the front door.
He strolled through the yard with pride and picked a scrub oak as a grave marker. Scooping up a handful of loose top soil, creating a shallow grave, Rick deposited the remains stuck to the knife. Then he cut the roach into blackened pieces, filled the grave, and wiped the knife on the side of his pants.
“Dead is dead, my friend. And you, sir, are dead,” Rick said as a eulogy, using his foot to pack down the soil. Then a final touch urged, causing him to chuckle as he unzipped his fly, and he urinated on the swollen patch of earth.
Staggering back to the house in exhaustion, Rick opened the door and looked back.
“It wasn’t the same roach,” he said into the darkness, went inside, and closed the door.
Returning to the bathroom, Rick glanced at the toilet and shuttered. He walked to the sink and looked in the mirror, large, dark circles encasing his eyes.
“Man, you look like shit buddy,” he told his reflection. “And you know that was not the same roach you swatted earlier. You know that’s not possible.”
Rick ran a hand through his hair, turned on the tap, and continued to study himself as the water warmed.
“It’s also not uncommon for a roach to stay in the toilet after being flushed. Tough little bastards have even been known to survive a nuclear blast.”
He cupped his hands under the warm water, washed his face and arms, and dried himself off as he walked to the bedroom. He laid down with a tired groan, staring at the ceiling as his mind began to rationalize the evening’s events.
Down the disposal… into the pipe…came back out…hustled to the bathroom…waited for me…Yea, right. Better yet, Rick... How bout’ two different roaches…Florida’s full of roaches…they practically stand in the street hailing cabs…gotta call the bug man tomorrow…come out and spray the whole...
Then sleep overtook his exhausted body, and the dream of Amy returned.
This time Amy was a redhead, wearing only a thong.
“I wore this for you,” she said, grinning through red painted lips.
Rick liked this dream much better. “Oh man, you look tasty,” he said, glancing down at her breasts.
Amy’s seductive smile turned to puzzlement. “Sweetie, what’s on your nose?"
Rick wiped the back of his hand across his nose. “Did I get it?”
Amy smiled again and shook her head. “No baby, you didn’t. Here, I’ll get it for you.”
She reached across, her long nails now polished red instead of purple, and scratched the tip of his nose.
“All gone,” Rick asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Not yet,” Amy said, and scratched harder.
“Now,” Rick inquired, and winced as Amy scratched even harder.
“Oooo, take it easy babe, don’t wanna damage the merchandise,” Rick said, pulling his head back.
Amy’s smile widened as her nail tore at his nose.
“Ooow! What the hell are you doing you crazy bitch! I don’t need my skin ripped…”
The picture froze as terror flicked on the alarm switch in Rick’s head. His eyes flung open, and he stared, cross-eyed, at the real reason responsible for the sensation. Staring back, and scrapping a charred leg against the tip of Rick’s nose, was the roach - its burnt head rotating side to side as if to tell him good morning.
“No!” Rick screamed, and batted at the insect with both hands - but to no avail. The roach scampered over his nose and burrowed up his left nostril.
Rick exploded from the bed, hitting his nose with balled fists and breaking the bridge with an audible snap. Blood began exiting his nostrils in a steady stream as Rick spun on his heals and bolted for the door, and in a fit of shock, pain, and horror, and by misjudging the doorway, he collided with the door frame and knocked himself unconscious.
Sunlight cascaded through the bedroom window as Rick groaned and raised a hand to shield his blood covered face from the light.
“Oh God, I’m dying,” he said through swollen passageways. Pain radiated from his head and nose in nauseating waves. Rick rolled slowly onto his side and pushed himself up as fresh pain exploded in his head and the world threatened to go dark
“Oh man, what happened.” he said in a hung over voice, and the dream of Amy flashed through his head. Rick smiled as he remembered the thong she wore, remembered her red painted lips, and remembered the long matching nails that scratched at the tip of his...
Rick's mind froze up like a seized engine, and then rebuilt itself using terror for replacement parts as the memory of the roach slammed back into his head. Scrambling onto the bed and wrapping his arms around his knees, Rick began to rock in fear as his eyes journeyed back and forth. “Where is it,” Rick hissed, “where’s the roach!”
Then his eyes widened in shock, his mind opening like a safe. “My nose, it went up my fucking nose!”
Forgetting about the self-inflicted injury, Rick grabbed at the swollen mess on his face. “YEEOOWW,” he screamed, cursing his own stupidity as fresh blood trickled over his lips.
After wiping the blood away with his sleeve, Rick took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. “Alright, take it easy Rick,” he said, collecting his thoughts.
Then Rick lowered his head and grunted a laugh. Man, I did have a lot to drink last night, he thought, reviewing in his mind the events from the night before. I came to bed after the incident with the roach on the couch, and had a nightmare - a really far-out nightmare. I must have fallen off the bed during the night and hit the floor with my face. I gotta stay away from the tequila from now on. Man, the guys at work are going to have a field day with this one.
Rick touched the bridge of his nose and flinched at the pain. “I wonder how customers are going to respond to a sales man that looks like he’s been worked over by a pissed off loan shark,” Rick said aloud, and put a hand to the swollen cut on his forehead.
What his fingers encountered caused him tremble with black horror.
“No,” Rick whimpered as he scrambled from the bed, ran to the mirrored wall, and stared at his reflection in revulsion.
What he saw was not pretty.
Two grotesque antennas - one long and probing the glass, the other shorter by half and twitching = protruded from Rick’s forehead. And as he backed away from the mirrors, Rick shrieked in defiance. “NO! OH GOD, NOOOOOO!”
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|Reviewed by Jessica Lark
|Another brilliant story. I actually sat here holding my nostrils together at one point;-)
I'm in no way a roach fan, but I'm glad he won!
|Reviewed by P-M Terry Lamar
|Another winner. At first I thought your characterization was a little shallow, but then I remembered you were writing about a car salesman. ;o)
|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|This is cool as hell, good to see another bug horror story on here and coming from one of the praticioners of this style. You did a hell of a story here. The creature itself is one of those I can't stand personally "f--king cockroaches." But hell I had to review this one because you touched into a bug everyone hates if they live in an apartment. Dude -- you got let me use this for TABLOID PURPOSES III!|
|Reviewed by Terry Vinson
|Nothing like a good, gory bug story. Tense, suspenseful...great build-up to a O.Henry-like ending. Everything I enjoy in a kick-ass horror yarn. Besides, I've known a few car salesman in my time I'd just love to see this happen to...lawyers as well.
|Reviewed by Phyllis Du'Gas
|This is really good. Keep writing!|
|Reviewed by April Smith
|This is my kind of story. >:-) The "bad guy" gets his in the end! LOL You built up the suspense and I especially liked the line, "Rick mind froze up like a seized engine and then rebuilt itself using terror for replacement parts as the memory of the roach slammed back into his head." Thanks so much for sharing! April|