If You Can’t Beat Him, Feed Him by Dee Caples

If You Can’t Beat Him, Feed Him
Dee Caples

Her skin had been supple and smooth but had now bowed to the inexorable march of time. As invisible cracks formed they felt like the legs of creeping insects and she despised insects even more than getting old. A bottle of lotion sat to her right and as she squirted a generous amount into her hand it brought the tip of her nose, and the edges of her focus, over the half-open drawer of her desk where the wireless keyboard rested. That’s when she saw the little Satan scuttle under a pile of junk mail.

With a disgusted yell, Kitty pounded the papers with the bottle of lotion, not caring what might be beneath them as long as she managed to kill that bloody cockroach. “Die!” She yanked the drawer opened wider and saw the bug shoot from beneath the offer to lower her auto insurance and make the break for a card of buttons. Taking aim, she only managed to bust one of the buttons. The sleek brown carapace of the insect shone in the light as he dashed for the corner of the drawer and disappeared over the far side of it.

Missed me! Haha!” it exulted in its tiny voice. This wasn’t the first time she’d heard it speak. Her hearing was still much, much sharper than her vision but that didn’t mean she had any desire to listen to a roach talk.

Grabbing her flashlight, her lips stretched wide in a grimace, she crept beneath the desk. It wasn’t on the underside of the drawer nor the back of it. The awkwardness of being in the knee well

compressed her thick middle and made breathing more difficult. Filament-thin antennae appeared at the bottom of the side of the drawer and wiggled tauntingly. “Here I am!”

She twisted around awkwardly and caught him in the beam of light. Minuscule, beady eyes regarded her. Flabbergasted, she realized he’d actually been waiting for her to find him before resuming the chase. That enraged Kitty to no end and she banged her head as she fumbled her way from under the desk. “You little–!” she growled. Squatting back down, she caught sight of him performing an acrobatic leap to the drawer left of center. Giggling, he shot down into it out of sight.

Kitty armed herself with her body spray and jerked the drawer clean out. The roach flew from it to the front of the desk and climbed under the bottom drawer, avoiding the mist of body spray. Cursing roundly now, she ripped each drawer out, body spray hissing. Her enemy was finally flushed to the top and she caught him right in his ugly bug face. “Take that!” She coughed in the cloud of Sexy Minx and blinked away the fumes.

Readjusting her glasses, she stared in disbelief at the offending creature standing on hind legs, front ones wiping body spray from his face and antennae. A teeny sneeze escaped him. But he was being still! With superhuman speed she brought the bottle of body spray down on him and crowed in exultation. Finally! She’d been trying to kill this same sneaky devil for a week now.

When she lifted the bottle there was no squashed body in the throes of death to gloat over. Instead the bug laughed with glee and ran off the edge where he paused and gave her an infuriating wave. “See ya!” She glared at the concave bottom of the bottle.

In the time it took her to retrieve the bug spray and scoot the desk he’d removed himself to a secure location. Kitty didn’t let that stop her. By the time she’d finished her bedroom the air wasn’t fit to breath. Black Flag and Sexy Minx didn’t mix well. She went for a walk to let the fumes settle and hoped they murdered her evasive intruder.

She walked the horseshoe and went inside her cozy one bedroom nest to raise the windows and let fresh air in. At noon she made a sandwich and ate it outside under the porch awning. She put the desk back together, satisfied when she saw no sign of the cockroach. For good measure, she cleaned out the drawers and got the boric acid out. None came out the end and she shook it furiously, peering into the opening of the tip. For some fool reason she squeezed the plastic bottle and was rewarded with a face full of powder.

Groping her way to the bathroom sink, she washed carefully. Disgusted with her own stupidity, she became absolutely livid to find the bug in the last drawer she was dosing the corners of. “Hi, there!” he said blithely as he hopped around to greet her. Kitty screamed and depressed the soft bottle but, of course, no boric acid came from it. This time she had the presence of mind to put her thumb over the tip but by the time she’d shaken the lump down and managed to spill out a generous puff the roach had escaped.

Replacing the drawers—again—she went a step further and dusted the top of the desk with Pledge and the sides and front. Her flat screen tv and desktop computer rested here and she added a dollop of boric acid under them. A couple of days ago she’d Googled how to rid herself of this pest and been told that the chemical worked physically on cockroaches so they couldn’t develop an immunity to it they way they did pesticides. “Get a load of that, buster,” she muttered as she set her desk to rights.

She turned the computer on and opened her email. Noticing that there were a few important messages from friends and family, she decided on a supper of scrambled eggs and toast. She’d have a leisurely meal while she answered them. It wasn’t such a hot idea to eat in the location the lucky insect seemed to reside in but she’d just have to keep an eye out for him and not drop any food.

The slippage of her glasses kept forcing her to finger them back up on the bridge of her nose and the slightly magnified orbs of her hazel eyes kept darting about, expecting to see the roach mounting the lip of her plate. Scanning the terrain like a general watching for the approach of a marauding force, Kitty divided her attention between food and screen.

Dear Maisie,” she typed. “I’m so pleased to hear about your new great-grandson. Yes, I got the picture and saved it to my pc. He’s just adorable—”

Out of the corner of her eye she spotted movement. Cutting her line of sight to the right, she was stunned to see her tormentor standing there with a thin splinter of wood raised over his head. Now that he knew he was being watched, the infuriating creep went on the attack. “Da-da-da-da-dut-duh! Charge!” he hollered. Executing a perfect somersault, he speared a scrap of egg and bore it away, cackling.

Kitty was tempted to beat her forehead on the edge of her desk and cry. Instead, she got up with weary calm and dumped her food into the garbage disposal and poured herself a stiff one.

Glum, she sat back down before her monitor and stared at the unfinished email without seeing it. She sipped, ruminating on what it was going to take to get shed of him for good. “Hey, psst! Kitty!” she heard a high pitched, familiar voice say.

A little bleary from the knock of Scotch, she rested her head on her hand and finally located him sitting on a pencil eraser. “How do you know my name?”

He shrugged his weensy shoulders and answered, “It’s on your mail.”

She sighed. If a damned roach was capable of speech it should be no surprise that he could read, too. She sighed, “All right. What do you want now?”

Parlay.”

What are you, a pirate?” She lifted her weary head from her hand and regarded him through the slight beige tint of her lenses. Eyebrows that needed arching went toward her perm job.

No. I’m concerned that I might be the cause of a rise in your blood pressure, though.” He T-barred one arm over the end of the other. “Time out, okay?”

Huh?”

Yeah, let’s talk without you thinking of whacking me for a minute.”

She raised her glass and kicked back the remaining liquor. “I’m listening.”

He pointed at the glass she set back down, indicating the drop suspended on the lip. “Mind if I get in on this?”

Overwhelmed by the absurdity, fortified by whiskey, she waved airly. “Be my guest.”

A moue of disgust wrinkled her lips as she watched the roach climb her glass and put his face down in the drop of scotch.

Finished, he wiped his lips. “Ahhh!” he exclaimed then sat down and crossed his knees. “I have a proposal for you. The landlord sprayed for us last week and I’m afraid it was devastating for the community.”

Kitty squinted and leaned closer. “You don’t say?”

He gave a little shake of his head and pulled an antennae. “It was terrible. All my friends and every last cousin were wiped out. Now here you go spraying that stuff and laying out powder, which, by the way, I have to actually crawl through for it to work.”

Crap.” Kitty rubbed her eyes blearily. “Figures.”

The roach slapped his knee and nodded wisely. “I gather I’ve passed the latest round of pesticides and come out clean on the other side. Unfortunately, I’m all alone now. You are, too. Perhaps you can commiserate.”

Yeah, sure. Salient point.” Scrubbing her face, she peered back at him over her shell-pink fingernails. If he was capable of uttering multi-syllabic words, she just might be out of her depth here. “You want a cease fire, correct?”

Absolutely.” He nodded his little head vigorously and she could swear he hiccuped. Holding up a leg, he extended a finger toward her. “I promise to share the apartment with you and do my bodily functions within the walls. In exchange, you put a few crumbs on the window sill daily and give me your solemn word you won’t try to step on me ever again. Deal?”

And if I don’t?”

I’ll go make some new friends and invite them over.” He put hands on the edge of his shell and studied her through narrowed eyes.

Kitty thought about it a moment then admitted to herself it wasn’t too bad of an agreement. “You swear?”

He swept a leg over his chest. “Cross my heart!”

All right. Deal,” she agreed.

Let’s drink on it,” he said brightly.

Kitty put a drop on the desk and, eschewing the glass, swigged straight out of the bottle.

If You Can’t Beat Him, Feed Him by Dee Caples 1

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