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“The Roach” by Swetha Amit

I saw him again, looking as creepy as ever. Dark brown silhouette and protruding antennae that towered his large eyes. He crawled with multiple legs, turning up like a bad penny every afternoon. What did he want now? Neighbors told me a spray helped in clearing off pesky old unwanted guests. But no! He was resistant to it. It made me wonder if he had sought the boon of immortality from God. And then I'd smack my head for giving room to such absurd thoughts.

I was baking a cake that afternoon. He peered out of the kitchen sink, which made me drop my spoon in haste and rush out of the room. I screamed loudly enough for the neighbors to call for the fire engines thinking that was probably one in my kitchen. "There she goes again," they would say. "All this hullaballoo for a small roach.”

I don't recall why I was petrified of them. Probably after a horrifying episode of flying roaches I encountered during my childhood. That time when I was home alone. It was raining, and a bunch of them hovered above my head in my living room. Unfazed by my screams. They reminded me of witches flying on broomsticks. Probably waiting to cast a spell that would send me to a hundred years of slumber.

He would turn up again every afternoon when the clock struck three, just at that moment when my cake batter was coming out nicely. And every time, I'd drop my spoon and make a mess of it before the batter could convert into a delicious walnut cake. Why me? I thought in despair. Why couldn't this annoying fellow trouble someone else? Did he want a share of my cake? I looked at the garden outside. Roses danced in the wind while the creepers protectively surrounded them. I wish I had a creeper to protect me from that little monster.

And one fine day, he didn't show up. When the clock struck three, I half expected to see that pair of antennae sticking out. I set the cake in the oven, and the aroma wafted into my nostrils. Even when the clock struck four, he was nowhere to be seen. I poured myself a cup of tea and sat down. The kitchen, for once, was devoid of mess. The marble floor sparkled in the afternoon sun, and the shelves looked as though they had just been polished. I looked at the spotless sink and wondered what happened to my regular visitor.

Relieved and nervous at the same time, I hoped he wouldn't turn up at an unexpectedly, causing me to run helter-skelter. My husband and daughter were expected soon. For once, I was glad they wouldn't have to see a dirty kitchen and a hysterical woman. After all, it's just a pesky roach, my husband would say. When the doorbell rang, my husband and nine-year-old daughter greeted me.

"Ah, so you finally managed to fight your enemy," my husband quipped.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, puzzled.

He pointed to a spot near my doorstep.

I knew that snarky pair of antennae so well. He lay there limp and lifeless. I was relieved and did a little jig of joy only to succumb to a tiny nagging voice that pricked my conscience. Was it fair to dance at someone's death? How did he die? I wondered.

Two weeks have elapsed. I continued my baking sessions. Smooth, peaceful, and serene. I almost began to miss my troublesome visitor. Was it the chaos and excitement he caused in my otherwise dull life? Was he so conspicuous by his absence that I began to miss him? Over cups of tea and slices of cake, I mulled over the mysterious disappearance of the unwanted guest. Just then I noticed a sudden movement. My sharp eyes noted a dark brown silhouette creeping from the front door into my kitchen. I blinked and dropped my bowl of batter. Earth-shattering screams reverberated in my hall and the entire neighborhood. The clock struck three.

Author of ‘A Turbulent Mind-My Journey to Ironman 70.3’, Swetha Amit is currently pursuing her MFA at University of San Francisco. She is one of the contest winners of Beyond words literary magazine, her piece upcoming in November. She published her works in Atticus Review, Oranges Journal, Gastropoda Lit, Amphora magazine, Grande Dame literary journal, Black Moon Magazine, Fauxmoir lit mag, and has upcoming pieces in Poets Choice anthology, Drunk Monkeys, Agapanthus Collective, and Full house literary. Also, alumni of Tin House Winter Workshop 2022 and the Kenyon Review Writers’ workshop 2022.

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