After my husband died I gained a friend, Kafka is his name. One would suppose that having a cockroach is somewhat akin to having lice or genital crabs, a tabooed parasite that will ultimately tarnish a lady’s reputation and habits if discovered, but Kafka is a special kind of companion. His favourite place is atop the kitchen radio where he habitually gyrates to Jazz FM in the early hours of the morning, watching me drink cheap Chardonnay and speaking to me reassuringly in the sweet-butter voice of Jeremy Irons. Before I was enlightened to his more practical uses, I admittedly went through a spell of being rather ruthless; I wanted to kill him, but in the most decent, kindest way for everyone involved. So, naturally, I concluded the obvious. Flushing. Yes, flushing him down the toilet in a vortex, much like a flume at Water World except with feces and used tampons at the end, a cockroach’s paradise. So I tried. I dutifully dropped him in the toilet and flushed, watching rather sadly as he spun. But the little chap just coughed, spluttered softly, and crawled back up. I discovered after that they can live for up to a week without their head, a month without food, and can hold their breath for forty minutes at a time; a species that would undoubtedly survive an apocalypse. They are resilient, gregarious creatures. So of course, in time, Kafka soon had a friend, a wife perhaps, and spawned a tribe of lovers and cousins and acquaintances and one-night-stands. I began to realise Kafka’s army were quite efficient at cleaning up my often neglected messes. Far more so than my old Henry Hoover friend, with his can-do eyes and pleasing suction trunk, that now just sits looking forlorn, gathering dust. Cockroaches eat crumbs, dust, hair, sewage, decaying matter, and even each other; they are the perfect companions to a less than perfect housewife. Someone like me needs a helping hand once in a while. Try as I might I can never keep on top of the housework for long, being too easily lured by afternoon wine and my artistic pursuits. George, my late husband, used to (rather too sternly, if I do say so) remind me to ‘CLEAN YOUR F*#&ING ACT UP’, but there’s no one here anymore to keep me in check.
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