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Cockroaches: A Tragic Short Story

By Ashleigh Knight All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Other

Chapter 1

Jane looked at her six year-old daughter playing on the floor, a sad smile offsetting the unshed tears in her eyes. Little Mary was so oblivious to the terror gripping her mother’s heart. Having just lost her job that day, Jane felt fear gripping her heart like a vice of steel.

How the hell am I going to pay those bills? We’re going to be evicted in less than a week if I don’t get the manager the rent. How will I take care of my baby then?

Similar thoughts kept racing through Jane’s troubled mind for hours until Mary fell asleep on the torn, ratty carpet – if you could call it a carpet, that is. Like the rest of the apartment, it was in tatters. The apartment – God, the apartment! Tears, unmentionable stains from long before they moved in, holes in the walls, no doubt from domestic fights long go. But it was the blood spatter underneath the kitchen sink that really disturbed her. Was it from one of those domestic fights, or something more heinous?

Mary was forbidden from setting foot in the kitchen because if she asked Jane what it was, she would have to lie – and Jane hated lying. She’d been lied to all her life, first by her parents, then by that good-for-nothing, Mary’s father.

Jane truly hated that man. We’ll always be together, he said. I’ll always love you, he said. Filthy scumbag liar, is what I say, Jane thought bitterly as she tucked Mary into the small mattress they shared on the floor. He didn’t even marry me.

A tear fell from Jane’s eye lashes onto Mary’s, stirring her from her peaceful slumber. The child turned over, taking most of the pathetic, holed blanket with her. As Jane watched her precious daughter, she wondered if she wouldn’t be better off without her. A real home, a real family; that’s what my baby needs.

And how Jane longed to give it to her. How she longed for a white picket fence, a dog, a front yard, a daddy for her little girl, and a husband for herself.

Jane stood, dashing tears from her eyes. She would never be able to give her daughter those things - ever. And she knew it. She knew it to the very depths of her heart. So she’d do what she could for her. She’d do what she had to do for her.

Jane walked to the wreck of a bathroom. There was a very large, dead cockroach lying on the peeling laminate flooring. A few cockroaches dashed back and forth, darting in and out of the many holes in the walls. They didn’t even seem to notice that one of them was no longer alive. They did not grieve, they did not miss the loss of the dead. They simply carried on, scrambling for survival, paying no heed to the fallen. Humans are kind of like cockroaches, Jane mused as she watched them from the doorway. We scurry around, doing what we’ve got to, just to survive, not even paying attention when one of us get’s our number called. But we still take care of the orphans. Just like the cockroaches.

Jane turned and took one last look at her baby girl. Mary’s pale blonde hair hung limply over her face, and she was sucking her thumb again. Now what did I tell you about that, baby girl? Don’t you now that’s bad for you? Jane smiled sadly.

“Good-bye, baby girl. You know your mamma loves you. Your mamma will always love you.”

Tears were streaming freely down her face as she turned and went into the bathroom. She stepped over the dead cockroach, careful not to disturb it. She knew what it was like to be stepped on. She wouldn’t wish that feeling on any creature, even a dead cockroach.

Jane’s hands shook as she opened the mirrored cabinet, knocking a few pill bottles down. She didn’t bother picking them up. The one she wanted still stood proudly on the shelf. Jane’s hands stopped shaking when she spotted the bottle. They were some sort of antidepressant that the state was paying for. Just about the only thing the state does for us. Besides taxing us to death, that is, Jane thought bitterly.

Taking the glass she kept in the bathroom for mouthwash in her hand, she filled it with brown water from the sink. Quickly grabbing the bottle of pills from the shelf, she opened it and dumped the remaining contents into her mouth, not giving herself a chance to change her mind. Jane chased the pills down with water. She stood there for a few moments, waiting for the pills to kick in. A sort of relief flooded her body. It’s done, she thought, her body feeling very heavy suddenly. They’ll take care of her. They always take care of the orphans.

When she opened her eyes they fell once more on the dead cockroach, which still lay unmoved. In a troubled haze, she took the one tube of red lipstick she had and began to write in bold letters on the face of the mirror.

Years later, long after Mary had been placed with a well-to-do family, long after she became a renowned author of children’s books and had children of her own, long after Mary and her husband bought a house with a white picket fence and a yard, and a dog for their children to play with, the police still didn’t understand why Jane wrote what she did; what the words could have meant to her.

It was one of the most memorable suicide notes anyone had ever seen; everyone agreed on that. Not many people would write a suicide note on a bathroom mirror with a tube of red lipstick that said, “Just like the cockroaches.”


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Ashley Stryker: So I'm writing this review, keeping in mind that this is a work in progress and it's part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so my "deeper" critiques will be saved until it's all finished up.+ Chapter One: A stewardess would not talk to anyone quite like that, particularly a clear minor...

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