Notes From The Cove – The Night of a Thousand Roaches
I am smiling as I write this because I just know this one is going to creep some of you out bad. I don’t escape death or anything in this one, but I do suffer a fate some would call worse than death. This story takes place, as I infer from the details I remember, sometime in late 1998, or possibly early 1999. But I would bet on 1998. I was a Level 3, and as I have explained in a previous episode, I was sleeping in the dining fale. The dining fale was next to the kitchen. On the side of the kitchen, between it and the dining fale, were several sinks that were used for washing plates off. Behind the fales, in the space between them, was the trash pile. Full trash bags were kept here until being removed several times a week for burning. In between, the bags piled up. There was also a slops bucket, where we had to dump extra food off our plates (In contrast to most WWASP programs, you did not have to finish all your food or a percentage of it every day. All you had to do was eat SOMETHING every day.) When the slops bucket was full, it was taken “up the hill” and given to the local villagers’ pigs. The thing is that in between being taken away, the trash pile and slops bucket were a stinking, fetid mess of nastiness rotting in the hot tropical sun. They attracted flies. Flies like you have never seen before. Flies like a Biblical plague. So I was sleeping within feet of this affront to public sanitation every night. The night in question was like any other. I grabbed my bedroll at 8:00 and headed to the dining fale, where I unfurled it in my customary spot, next to my best friend Jamey. It was for Samoa a cool evening, with high humidity and a brisk breeze. I spent my final half an hour before lights out doing God knows what, but most likely chatting with Jamey or writing a letter to my parents or something. Finally, it was 8:30, and time for Lights Out. Sometime before I fell asleep, rain began to threaten, and an Upper Level came around and let the tarps down. The last thing I remember before falling alseep was the gentle (to someone used to it) sound of the rain on the corrugated tin roof as I gradually drifted off. The first thing I remember upon waking up was that something had woken me up, a tickling around my nose and lips. I opened my eyes, and something was over them. I moved, and it moved. I have absolutely no shame in telling you that I screamed like a little girl, and grabbed for the thing. It was a cockroach, a big old sucker of a cockroach as only the tropics can grow them. I ripped it off my face, and that’s when I realized it wasn’t the thing tickling me. That was another cockroach sitting over and slightly INSIDE my open mouth. I ripped that one off, and THAT was when I realized I was literally (and I mean absolutely literally in the exact sense of the word) covered from head to toe in cockroaches. I did the only thing I could do: I freaked out and started thrashing around. Somewhere in this process, my distress had started to wake up the other boys in the fale. One by one, they too screamed like little girls and freaked out as they began dislodging the roaches. We were all flailing wildly around, ripping them off, crushing them in our hands, and throwing them away from us. We were swatting them with our sandals. We were swatting them with our bare hands. We were stepping on them with our bare feet. We were rolling back and forth, smashing them underneath our bodies and into our beds. After a few minutes, the carnage was over, and someone turned on the lights, completely against the rules. When a father came over to check on why the light was on, he saw all the roaches and left us alone, telling us to clean up and turn off the lights. We grabbed the brooms that were kept in the hut for sweeping it out and started shaking out the roaches from our sheets and blankets. We swept them all into a big pile. And I mean a BIG pile, in my memory at least it was a couple feet across and maybe a foot high. I think maybe a thousand is a bit overblown, but I would swear on my mother that hundreds wasn’t overblown in the slightest. Consider this fairly conservative estimate: 25 boys, each with 25 roaches on him. That’s 625 roaches. That’s a LOT of roaches.
We cleaned up the roaches, turned the lights off, and went back to bed, because that was life at Paradise Cove: crappy, awful things happened, and as soon as they were over you just acted like it never happened. For those interested, the explanation we came up with for what happened was that the trash pile and slops bucket were particularly nasty that night, and when it started to rain, the roaches came into the fale, because it turns out humans aren’t the only things that don’t like to get wet. That was the most plausible thing we could come up with, and to this day, I’ve never heard a better one. That’s the story of The Night of a Thousand Roaches, and this was Notes From Tha Cove.