Monday, March 14, 2011

Seattle: May 8, 2020

     “Is it dead?”
     “What does it take to kill one? You sure smacked the crap out of it!”
     “They always goo like that when you hit them. Is - it - dead?”
     “I don’t know. Why don’t you poke it and find out?”
     “You poke it. Oh crap! It moved!”
      “It did not.”
      “That - that thing there on the left just twitched.”
      “You’re crazy.”
     “If it didn’t move then it must be dead, and you can go ahead and poke it to be sure.”
It was like an avocado with long hairy legs. Jason hadn’t caught any more details before Barb had hit it with her purse and knocked a lot of orange stuff out of it. It lay on the countertop in a pool of ooze, legs splayed, carapace apparently cracked. But was it dead?
      “Hit it again, why don’t you?” he suggested.
      “This is a vintage Coach bag,” she retorted. “That gunk will stain it. You hit it.”
     “With what?”
     “I don’t know. Use your shoe?”
     “I can’t do any damage with these little canvas things. Use your shoe.”
     “You big wuss!” Teetering precariously on one foot, Barb slipped off an electric blue snakeskin pump and handed it to him. “Now don’t -- ”
He grasped the toe of the shoe and swung. The heel nailed the creature through the center, and suddenly all the legs began to spasm and twitch. Jason jerked his hand away, and, impaled by the shoe heel, the thing began to drag itself away.
     “My shoe!” Barb shrieked. “My Edorian Grey! Get it”
     Jason looked wildly around the empty kitchen, pulled open the oven, and found a rack still in place. Jerking it out, he began to flail wildly at the injured horror, while Barb screamed, “Don’t scuff it! Don’t scuff it!”
      At last the thing was thoroughly broken and splattered. Jason gingerly picked up the shoe by two fingers and held it out to Barb. She stared for a moment at the battered, goo-covered object, then turned and hobbled toward the door.
      “Wait,” Jason called. “There are other apartments in this building. Wouldn’t you like to look at them? We could waive the cleaning deposit.”
     It hadn’t been the worst day of Barb’s life. That had been the day the power plants blew up. That was pretty much the worst day in everyone’s life. But life does go on, and the survivors tried to get back to normal. The cockroaches were still mutating, though.
     “Maybe I should have taken that apartment,” she muttered to herself, rubbing her sore calf muscle. “At least you can see the big ones coming.”
     She looked around her motel room. The bare floor shone softly in the LED light. All the furniture stood with each leg in a dish of kerosene. A sign on the wall said, “The management will not be responsible for anything left touching the floor or a wall.” As she sat on the bed with her feet tucked under her, she watched a blush of the tiny red ones swarm across the wall behind the TV. They were too small to focus on individually, but the little cockroaches swarmed in the millions. Barb shuddered.
     Things had been better in Billings. The cold winters killed most of the bugs. Here in sub-tropical Seattle, the whole city crawled. But here was where the work was, and here was where she was going to have to stay for a while. It was just too damn bad that a diagnostician couldn’t do her work on line. But telecommuting won’t tell you the feel of the patient’s skin, or the smell of their breath or the exact timbre of their cough. Diagnosis was still a hands-on profession. And as long as her mom was going strong, Billings Montana didn’t need another diagnostician.
     “Why didn’t I go for surgery?” Barb grumbled, carefully tucking all the sheets and blankets under the mattress to avoid leaving a bridge from floor to bed. “I could phone that in from anywhere in the world. Nooo, I had to watch every episode of “House” and get inspired to diagnose. Idiot. Lights out!”
      Obedient to her command, the lights went off.

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