Best Practices for Killing Cockroaches

This post was originally written in August 2011, towards the end of my eight-month stay in Honduras. Though that was nearly three years ago now, my visceral hatred of cockroaches still burns equally deep to this day.

penman hallway

Greetings from Ocotepeque, Honduras, where the current temperature is estimated to be around 146 degrees Fahrenheit and people (me) can be found sitting in their living room in their underwear trying to remember what cold means.

The heat is the least of my problems, though. I’d like to take a few minutes to talk to y’all about the pestilence of this earth.

It lives in my bedroom.

Many of you may have not been so lucky to ever have gotten very familiar with these lovely creatures called cockroaches, with whom we are forced to share our only hospitable planet. Please, allow me to let you get acquainted.

Cockroaches come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from “OVAL” to “LONGER OVAL”, and from “GIANT” to “FUCKING HUGE”. They are a dark brown amber color that makes me think of disease and death and rotting things and they scurry around with some absolutely unacceptable number of legs that makes them easier to hear but also fills me with fear and rage and the desire to kill.

My attitude towards cockroaches has, out of necessity, changed fairly drastically since I’ve been here. When I first arrived, I was a newbie. I had never really seen cockroaches before, and I was letting them win. When you’re wearing flip flops in the shower and the bug is bigger than your largest toe, and you’re also very naked and wet and for some reason that makes everything scarier, suddenly it seems fine to just “make it a quick shower” and by “make it a quick shower” I mean “run out of the bathroom dripping wet in a towel with your heart pounding in your ears, trying to play it cool to your host grandma but at least you are out of that vermin-infested inferno.”

…But not for long. I soon started to learn the ways.

The key is to take that visceral, paranoid fear that you feel upon seeing this scuttling invader trying to take over your room [and potentially keep it when you die in a nuclear holocaust but it survives because supposedly cockroaches are the toughest creatures on the planet and will outlive us all forever]—and direct that fear straight down to your flip-flopped foot, AKA the deadliest killing machine known to roach-kind.

Just let your rage do the work!

My baby host sister crying in the next room in the middle of the night has never woken me up. But I have become so hateful of the cockroaches that I have woken up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep to the barely audible scritch scritch of a cockroach scuttling its way through some dark corner of my room, almost certainly trying to eat my toes and/or perform some other form of deranged mutilation.

In seconds I have grabbed my flashlight (conveniently placed next to my pillow for this exact purpose), swung my feet over the side of the bed right into my handily placed flip flops, and am waiting, crouched in the dark and feeling slightly ridiculous but out for roach blood. We play a silent waiting game, the cockroach and I, until I hear him start moving again and blast him with a fat beam of triple-A light and he freezes in his crunchy little tracks.

Now the game is on, and I’m going in for the kill. I make sure I get him with my heel or the ball of my foot, and grind it in a little, because if I only get him with the arch that small, brown scourge of the earth will scamper away only mildly injured and tell all of his slimy friends to avenge him and they’ll all come swarming and eat me alive starting with my toes.

The moment of truth: Muscles tense, I quickly jerk my foot away, ready to bolt should my flip flop reveal that the beast has not yet been slayed.

Confirmation: this bastard insect will scuttle no more.

With a sigh of relief, I release all the air that I didn’t realize I had been holding in for the last five minutes. Now I can sleep. I’ll need rest for tomorrow night’s battle.


Number of breaks needed during the writing of this post to kill a cockroach: ONE. I physically jumped when, just now as I was waxing poetic about their amber brown tones and fucking-huge-ness, I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw one staring at me across the floor, its beady eyes scheming of ways to bring a world of hurt to me and everyone I love.

…They’re watching me.


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