The Cockroach

cockroach close up Wikimedia Commons image

The cockroach. What an intriguing creature; hardy, strong, fast survivalists. Wikipedia has this to say about them.

I’m researching them as I’m inspired to write a horror movie script with cockroaches as the big scare (is someone going to tell me that it’s already been done?).

We may not have embarked on any road trips during this visit to Morocco but, hey, who needs a road trip when all manner of fauna will visit you in your own accommodation? It’s a veritable biology lesson here.

At least we’re in the city where this seems limited to cockroaches and mice – I suppose I could be up in the mountains writing about scorpions and snakes and wild boars. I find both scorpions and snakes extremely fascinating, but don’t much fancy being visited by a wild one as I sleep  – the latter recently paid FreeToBeB a visit at his mountain workplace as he tried to rest, which he caught and promptly posed with:

Snake, Atlas Mountains

I’m losing count of the number of cockroaches I’ve spotted during our first five days in Marrakech. The number I’ve personally delivered a death blow to now requires nearly all my fingers to count upon.

My first ‘victim’ escaped. I’d decided to use the all-round answer to everything that is neat tea tree oil – great for controlling fleas and lice, getting rid of mould and warts, cleaning wounds, drying out spots, general domestic cleaning needs and various other things that require nasties to be killed.

As I allowed the tea tree oil to rain down upon the cockroach, it did indeed have some sort of reaction. It flexed its body in a strange manner and I envisioned it keeling over onto its back. I momentarily glanced away and when my gaze returned, it was nowhere to be seen. It had fled to safety.

I then recalled hearing that, if any creature could survive a nuclear war, it would probably be a cockroach. Suddenly, my tea tree oil didn’t seem quite as toxic as I’d hoped and my expectation of its efficacy seemed naïve. Judging by its effect on skin tags, I feel sure if somebody poured a vat of tea tree oil onto me I’d shrivel up and die. But then I’m merely a human, not a cockroach.

Having caught sight of another one in the living room from the corner of my eye, FreeToBeZ is in on the action, promptly announcing that she will fetch her shoe as a weapon. She learns quickly this girl! Although when she announced the same thing upon spotting a mouse, I realised I’d have to make some distinctions.

I really don’t like killing things, but as long as these creatures have no qualms in wriggling their creepy-crawly bodies over me while I lie in bed at night, then they’re going to be treated harshly.

I swiftly and firmly smacked the offending bug with my daughter’s sandal twice. It lay on its back, first twitching a leg, then twitching an antennae, then lying still, playing dead.

dead cockroach public domain image

Oh, I’m onto them by now and it didn’t fool me that easily. Within a matter of seconds, it had somehow managed to flip itself over and tried to scuttle off on its merry way, thus enticing me to give it another sharp whack with the innocent-looking, toddler-sized, bright pink plastic sandal. This time its insides ruptured and it half lay in its own goo and yet, honestly, almost immediately its legs were thrashing wildly again in a bid to get away and continue living (yes, I suppose it could just be death throes, but who knows with these things!).

Oh my god. Please just die! Just die, damn you!

Being aware of myself – animal lover and pacifist – administering a prolonged, violent death to this creature, combined with its seeming immortality, was drawing pathetic little whines of despair from me.

I had a vision of numerous ‘dead’ cockroaches being left on their backs on the tiled floor having been spotted and beaten. Whilst casually sat reading a book or watching TV, the creepy horror film music begins as, suddenly and simultaneously, the cretins rise from the dead in a bid to begin their freakish cockroach zombie apocalypse. Ugh. Just the thought makes me involuntarily shake. The thing is, it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination.

When it finally seemed to accept the presence of the Grim Reaper, I decided it was time for bed. I thanked the universe that I hadn’t been woken at night during this trip to the sensation of them scuttling over my naked body, as had happened last year after a particularly testing week that had me crying “Oh my god, I hate this country!” The cockroaches had been the straw that had broken the camel’s back last summer.

No sooner had I offered my appreciation for this small mercy did I notice a suspicious movement on the side of the mattress. Grabbing a glass and saucer to catch it against the soft surface, the cockroach tried to hide first under the bedsheet and then between the mattress and the wall. Losing the ability to capture it easily, I moved the mattress slightly to keep check on where it went and spotted more big brown bugs moving in the gap, within inches of our pillows.

I gave up hope. I gave up my bid to begin bedtime and decided to pathetically wait for FreeToBeB to return from seeing a friend and get him to deal with the little monsters. We’d been walking past the posh hotels in Gueliz earlier in the evening, where FreeToBeB had joked about how much it would cost to be cockroach-free and instead blessed with a swimming pool. Suddenly, £100 per night for a room didn’t seem like such a terrible option.

My saviour returned within the half hour and promptly began cleaning out the bedroom. He assured me that nothing kills cockroaches. Except maybe bleach.

“Wow!” FreeToBeB exclaimed as he tried to kill one but it refused to submit to death, “If I hit a person like that they’d die! But not this thing!”

As we discussed the survival capabilities of such an apparently humble creature, I continued to spot them. Behind the bedroom door. In the living room. Scuttling down the hallway. On the rug of our host’s room. Even FreeToBeB, wide-eyed, couldn’t believe the frequency with which I was reporting on their appearances. “Perhaps all the cockroaches in Marrakech are in this apartment.” he said. Yeah. Thanks for that.

Up flashed a memory of the scene in Arachnophobia where the spiders burst out and flow from the walls and crevices of their host house – except my mind’s eye replaced the spiders with cockroaches.

FreeToBeB then had a jump-out-of-one’s-skin moment when FreeToBeZ pointed out the critter just about to crawl over his arm as he sat watching TV. Then FreeToBeZ had a scare as FreeToBeB discovered yet another one in the hallway; as it attempted to escape capture it sped straight for FreeToBeZ. She let out a distressed squeal as she scrabbled to get up from the floor and run away, and then dissolved into traumatised tears.

So, this is the thing our family memories are made of.

Thankfully, the night passed without further incidence. Yet in the morning, as FreeToBeZ cuddled up to me and fed in her sleep, she suddenly let out a piercing scream and cried in the manner of one with night terrors.

“What’s the matter, baby?!”

“’Son me! ‘Son me!”

I desperately looked round for the creepy-crawly perpetrator I expected to find: nothing.

“What do you think is on you?”

“Gerri’off! Gerri’off! ‘Nail! ‘Nail!”

“There’s a snail on you?”

“Yeah!”

“No, darling, there’s no snail on you. You’ve had a bad dream.”

Yes, definitely horror movie material if they cause that sort of dream.

But don’t worry, little one. Just a few more days and we’ll be back in our damp Dorset flat, where the only uninvited night time guests are the slightly less scary slugs and woodlice that come out from their hidey-holes by cover of darkness to explore our basement bedroom.

Yes, just slugs and woodlice in our bedroom back home. No problem. It’s amazing what a bit of travelling can do to change your perspective.

cockroach clipart, public domain image

3 thoughts on “The Cockroach

  1. my dad used to set a trap for cockroaches by putting a bowl of beer in the middle of a room and setting strips of cardboard as ramps going up the side, the cockroaches are attracted to the beer,but they fall in and get drunk and drown.

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    1. Thanks for the tip Sam! Beer’s not the easiest thing to get hold of in some parts of Morocco but it’s certainly possible in the cities. So, what works for snails works for cockroaches – there was a message in FreeToBeZ’s dream 😉

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