The Day My Beloved Cockroach Crossed the Rainbow Bridge
My pet cockroach was no ordinary roach. He is a Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) and he was no shrinking violet. Randolph — -a silly name for a roach, but I named him in honor of an uncle on my mom’s side — -was loquacious; his sibilance took four distinct forms emitted from spiracles on his tummy: A combat hiss; two courting and mating hisses; and a loud alarm hiss (unfortunately, lots of things alarm him). As is common for his kind, he was detritivore, which means he eats just about anything and is great for getting rid of leftovers. You’d know he was around being three inches long and an inch wide and jabbering constantly.
He was active at night and slept during the day in an old pyx I got from a defrocked Catholic priest.
I think Randolph was a Buddhist because he liked sitting upright, crossing his rear legs (he had six) and hissing rhythmically. Randolph admitted to having generated lots of bad karma in his former life, claiming to be a reincarnated politician…likely a Republican. He also liked incense, often eating a cone before I got a chance to light it.
He had two large bumps or horns behind his head known as tubercles, which he loved to have scratched. He’d skitter up my leg into my lap and hypnotically wave his antennae until I scratched him into a stuporous ecstasy.
With the right female, Randolph produced 15–40 baby roaches at a time. Given his tubercles and the fact mating is year-round, it’s safe to say Randolph was a horny bastard.
I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York and every few years I go back to see the old ‘hood. Randolph loved to sit on my shoulder when we traveled, swaying his antennae, taking in the sights.
Once we took the long way between Michigan and Niagara Falls, along the southern Lake Erie shore, through northern Ohio and Pennsylvania where we drove past miles of grape vineyards. I stopped at a general store for bottled water and left Randolph at the base of a grapevine to munch on fermented grapefall while I was shopping. I got the water plus a bag of chips for myself and Randolph’s favorite orange popsicle. The clerk took my money.
“By the way,” I asked, “I noticed you offer no wines from Ohio, and with so many vineyards I’ve seen no wine tasting rooms like we have in Michigan.”
The clerk smiled through yellow gravestone shaped teeth grouted with something black and said, “That’s because we grow production grapes in these parts, and sell the juice mainly to Michigan wine producers who ferment them, and slap their ‘made in Michigan’ label on the bottles.”
“No shit!” I said, and left to retrieve Randolph. I found him where I left him, outstretched like a busted puppet, stoned out of his mind. He slept in the backseat the rest of the trip. I ate the popsicle.
Most trips I take the shorter route via 401 freeway through Canada to Niagara. You’d be surprised to see the reactions Randolph gets at any Canadian freeway rest stop food court. And I thought Canadians were supposed be polite.
Anyway, to get to Niagara Falls, New York, from Niagara Falls, Ontario, you must cross the Rainbow Bridge. Canadian Customs just waived us through, but our tragedy unfolds when we had to stop for U.S. Customs. Naturally, I had to lower my vehicle window to speak with the customs official. That was a terrible mistake.
I’m not sure why Randolph decided to jump from my shoulder to the official’s sleeve, but jump he did. Maybe he saw something to eat, or maybe he spotted a lady roach, but before I could grab the bugger, the official hollered, swept Randolph from his sleeve, and stomped him into the Rainbow bridge.
A grey mist of grief descended. I remember grabbing my windshield scraper and scooping Randolph’s smashed remains from the Rainbow’s deck: his flattened carapace framed by gooseshit green slime, and putting him in his sleeping pyx. I don’t remember leaving the bridge and parking on a downtown Niagara side street lined with honkytonk stores vending cheap tourist baubles, and derelict bars in front of which painted whores hawked their attributes. I woke in my car with an empty wallet and a screaming headache. But I still had the pyx.
Gone were the morning gambles with Randolph on powdersand beaches illuminated by a promising sun, stopping now and then for Randolph to snack on a dead fish or stinking clam. God he loved clams.
No more evening readings by a soothing fire while Randolph shed his too tight armor. He loved it when I would toss his discarded exoskeleton for him to retrieve and spit out at my feet.
I learned the five stages of grief from a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: It would be a hard slug, but I was determined to make it.
Often on social media I read the grief laments of people whose beloved pets have “crossed the rainbow bridge.” So, with my sad experience in mind, and the fact many pets die on that star-crossed span, I implore those who love their pets, for god’s sake don’t go near the Rainbow Bridge!
Your pet will thank you.