Dead and Dying Cockroaches

A fine white dust covers almost every surface of this slowly disintegrating sixties-era three bedroom house sitting in the backwoods of Georgia (Rockmart, to be precise). Everything we own is blanketed in diatomaceous earth. I’m waging a war against an invading force of cockroaches, and I believe I have the upper hand.

I’ve been packing everything from the kitchen into plastic 70 quart Steralite Ultra storage boxes, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, and moving nearly every heavy object I can before filling this odd accordion like cylinder with diatomaceous earth. The contraption is more difficult to weild than it appears, as too much or too little of the dreaded substance and the procedure won’t work.

Now at the top on the side is a tube that projects out maybe three inches and is about a half inch wide (I thought it was the bottom at first, but squeezing it that way shot out a thick stream of powder like a snow machine gone mad; easy for the cockroaches to see and walk around). What you do is aim this tube like a gun barrel and press the top and bottom together, sending out delicate puffs of razor sharp particles (for anything with an exoskeleton, that is) that will first cut their shells all over, and then dehydrate them from the inside out. Beautiful.

It sounds simple, but it takes two hands to squeeze the thing, and your aching wrists will hate you for it half way through the first room. The dust that fills the air is choking and smells like chalk. There is no escaping it. By the end you’ll be powdered up like an old-time judge.

The treatment is working though, and after a few days of this I see fewer living roaches. Those I see are usually belly up, their little legs frantically scraping at the air like Gregor Samsa. They’re all dead or dying around me, and I feel a creeping, smug sense of macabre satisfaction. I wonder if that’s how leaders see the defeated, see us when they decide we must be eradicated. Like dead and dying cockroaches.

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