The Exterminator's Song
On the night they arrived, I was watching television. It must have been a Thursday night because that’s the night I catch up on my shows. I make popcorn and keep my eye out for subtle gestures. I pay attention to anything I may want to steal.
For instance, I’m big on moments of silent desperation. If a character has fallen on hard times, I perk up. I pay attention to their lower jaw, to what it is they choose to put in the trash, or to the way they go about turning off a light. If it’s something good, a slight tremor of the bottom lip, a dead rat, their entire body sliding down the wall as they flick a switch, I take notice. I like to keep tabs on my peers and incorporate it into my own work.
This particular show was set in a hospital. On it, a boy was about to die. His father stood beside his bed, crying. All in all: nothing special. Then the scene and location changed. It got interesting. The exterior shot was of a grammar school where the dying boy’s mother taught fifth grade. She was in the janitor’s closet, kissing the gym teacher.
“I need you,” she said. “I need you now more than ever.”
The tall man fumbled with the buttons of her shirt.
“Put out the light,” he said.
But she didn’t. The light continued to glow beside a blue bottle of toilet cleaner. She was good.
After that, I should have gone to bed. I’m in rehearsals for a play in which I have the role of an alcoholic exterminator. Every day I have to work myself up into a toxic rage, as my director, Hal, calls it, a fury rooted in suffering and self-pity where the only joy I know comes from the sound of cockroach exoskeleton cracked underfoot. It’s exhausting to haul the (really and truly full) insecticide tank across the stage all day long, and drink water re-filled bottle after water re-filled bottle of what once contained Jack Daniels. Every half hour I have to use the bathroom, and sometimes I stay on the toilet just to get a few minutes’ rest. Hal, who is Dutch and a sadist, often comes to knock on the door himself and scream at me. “You are no exterminator, my friend,” he shouts. “You are no drunk. You have no idea about sacrifice.” After rehearsals, at the bar, he likes to say that this berating of me is actually a form of encouragement. “Here,” he says, “you are my friend. On stage, you are my slave.”
Instead of sleeping, I went into the kitchen and took my own bottle of Jack out of the cabinet and did some character work. I drank a few swigs down and then put my head against the linoleum surface of the refrigerator. I tried to cry. I thought about the last thing Elise said to me. She was standing in our driveway, holding a three-headed art-deco lamp that splayed back and forth with the movement of her body like some type of miniature Hydra. She was pretending to leave me again. “If you never want children,” she said, “then why bother with sex? It’s like shooting a dead horse. What do you expect to get from it?"
“Dead horse parts?” I said.
She looked at me with disgust. Her top lip snarled like an Elvis impersonator.
“You are the most deranged person I have ever met,” she said. “I hope you die.” Then she got in her car and drove away and never came back.
I opened the refrigerator door. There was an unwrapped pile of Swiss cheese and honey-smoked ham that I’d left to fester in the crisper drawer. I pulled the drawer out and wore it on my head as if it were a helmet. The ham and cheese went down with the aide of Jack.
When I woke up two hours later to a knock at my door I was covered in my own vomit, sweat and tears—apparently having dreamt about silverfish. They were the first image that popped into my brain when I stood up (all their quick-squirming get away techniques; gray blood like mucus when you squash them) and when I fell down, hitting my head against the marble countertop, dozens of their kind scuttled across my eyes instead of stars.
I was surprised that I wasn’t bleeding. Despite how many times I tapped my fingers to my forehead they came back clean. The crisper drawer had saved me. The knocking continued at my door. Whoever it was started saying my name, “Larry, Larry, Larry,” over and over again. I took off my shirt and wiped the vomit from off my face and neck. I was still sweating but decided I could blame that on the temperature in my apartment. When I first moved into this place the air conditioner was broken. It’s been long since fixed, but no one needs to know that. The A.C. unit, plus the traffic in Los Angeles, means I always have a ready excuse if I’m ever late or look disheveled. It’s either: “Oh, the traffic” or “Oh, the heat” endlessly coming out of my mouth. As for the tears: they were gone, or else hidden in my beard.
Shirtless, my massive beer gut out in front of me like a hairy-faced mermaid on the prow of a ship, I opened the front door. My neighbor Jeb was standing there. Next to him was a lifeguard. The kid was in street clothes, but still swinging his whistle around. “I’m a lifeguard,” he said, and flashed me an I.D. that meant as much.
Jeb was dressed in his usual attire. He always wears a Vietnam Vet P.O.W. hat, a wife-beater, tan slacks rolled up to his knees, and sandals. He’s in his early sixties, but stoops around the beach all day long with a metal detector like he’s a hundred and nine. It’s not as if he ever expects to find anything, just that “it beats sitting around the house all day, waiting for the skeletal hand of death.” Jeb has a son that never visits him who he likes to compare me to. Also, he thinks that because his wife died of a rare blood disease we have something in common.
I stepped out from behind my screen door and asked the lifeguard what he wanted.
“We lost a kid on the beach today,” he said. “We’re looking for volunteers to join the search party.”
“What’dya say, Lar,” Jeb said. “You busy?”
If I hadn’t been drunk in an I-don’t-feel-like-myself-I-feel-like-someone-else-who-goes-out-into-the-world-type-of-way I would have slammed the door in their faces. Instead, I told the both of them to wait while I took a quick shower and washed the rest of the vomit out of my hair. Five minutes later, I came back wearing my Hawaiian-style board shorts with the orange and red flowers on it and a black Screen Actor’s Guild t-shirt. A drama mask laughed over my heart. It mocked tragedy, the one crying on my other boob.
The lifeguard stared at me.
“Barefoot?” he said.
“Yeah, kid,” I said. “This is how dangerous I am.”
What they wanted to do was drive my car down to the beach. That wasn’t going to happen. They’d walked the seven blocks up to my place. They could walk the seven blocks back. I figured I was dealing with the fringe portion of the search effort, anyway, the rejects (the young guy and the old codger join forces in the hopes they become heroes) sent on an aimless errand by the head honcho to keep them out of the way. I wasn’t going to drive while wasted and neither of the incompetents was getting behind the wheel of my car. Once you’ve seen a headless body on the side of the road you are never the same. I close my eyes: I see my wife—or bugs.
We walked. It was a perfect night, actually. The air felt as if it were blowing out of a dryer while mist from the ocean scattered like blue fireflies inside the headlights of passing cars. Every now and then, the lifeguard blew his whistle in order to break up the monotony of our steps, the shrill sound of it echoing against the houses in the neighborhood.
For some reason, Jeb was carrying his metal detector with him. “The mother was a wreck,” he said. “You should have seen this woman. Ranting and raving. Cursing out God. She was pulling her hair out. Said she was gonna kill herself. Somebody should give her a tranquilizer.” The event, the missing boy, seemed to have taken twenty years off his life. He kept alternating the hand he held the detector in: right then left, left then right, back and forth as if he were juggling it. “We’re not even sure he was ever in the ocean. He could be wandering around one of the neighborhoods off of Abbot Kinney. And—you hate to say it—but maybe somebody snatched him. Ab-duck-Ted. Get the Amber Alert going.” He mishandled the detector and almost dropped it and then smiled at me. “Hopefully though,” he said, “we’ll find him.”
A block from the ocean, out in front of a Mexican cantina that I haven’t been to since Elise died, the lifeguard stopped and said hello to a young woman. She looked familiar to me, with short blonde hair that fell across her eyes. She wore jeans and one of those hemp hooded-sweatshirts that used to be called a drug-rug. The lifeguard, his own blonde hair standing on end from sea salt and wind, chatted with her. They stood just out of earshot.
“I think I know that girl,” I said. “She looks like somebody I should remember.”
“Maybe… you know,” Jeb said. He punched the air with his fist and stuck out his tongue. His left canine was missing. “Did you hit that?”
“You’re sweet,” I said. “I can’t get it up.”
“Give it time,” Jeb said.
“You’re an idiot,” I said.
“Give it time.”
The girl stopped looking at the lifeguard, who continued to speak, trying to follow her gaze to where it landed on me. Except for whenever the kid blew his whistle, I hadn’t paid him much attention. He was, in fact, a child, perhaps no older than seventeen. What do you say to someone like that? I thought. How do you make conversation with a person so recently brought to life?
Jeb pretended to fiddle with his metal detector while the girl walked over.
“Bug man?” she said. “Bug man, I thought that was you. How are you?”
Rachel: I think that’s the name. She’s my daughter’s understudy in The Exterminator’s Song. She spends most rehearsals seated in the back row of the theater, following along with the dialogue using a flashlight pen. In fact, I’ve acted with her only once. The girl that plays my daughter was ill and Hal demanded that we continue despite her absence. “Because that is what we do. We march on. We crack the whip on our own back like we are the ox and farmer all at once.” The scene we did takes place in the morning, the night after I’ve torn the kitchen apart with a crowbar in search of termites. My daughter has to cry throughout most of it. Rachel was fine. She knew the dialogue. She understood how to hold onto my wrist as I dragged her stage left across the floor by her hair.
“We missed you today,” she said. “Hal had a complete meltdown. He threw a chair and it hit a stagehand in the leg. He got really drunk at the bar and cried. I think he’s homesick for Holland. Where were you?”
“I had an air conditioning repairman to deal with,” I said. “Then I got stuck in traffic.”
“How’s the last act coming along?” she said.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I just have to sell the suicide. Then that’s it.”
Rachel looked down the street to where an old Cadillac was pulling out of a lot. The engine backfired. Its muffler sounded like a boat engine.
“I’m a little afraid of you,” she said. “Not a lot, but I am. You’re sort of on my conscience.”
I told her thanks.
The lifeguard walked up to us. He put his whistle into the pocket of his jeans. “You still living at home?” he said.
“No,” Rachel said. “My parents are getting a divorce. I bartend here.” She pointed toward cantina. “It’s the worst job I’ve ever had.”
“Sucks,” the lifeguard said.
She brushed the hair out of her eyes and then reached across the space between us to put her hand on my wrist. “You’ll be there tomorrow?” she said. “You’re coming?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll be the fat guy. You be the girl with the light-up pen.”
Rachel smiled at Jeb, who stopped pretending to fix the metal detector long enough to say goodbye. She gave the lifeguard a quick kiss on the cheek, and then walked back into the cantina.
“Beautiful,” Jeb said. “Like an angel.”
“I want to fuck her so bad,” the lifeguard said. He put the whistle into the right hand corner of his mouth. “Like cut-my-arm-off-if-I-that-meant-I-could-fuck-her so bad.”
I grabbed the whistle from out between his lips.
“Listen, you shit,” I said. “She’s practically my daughter. You touch her: I kill you.”
I realized that I’d expected a circus of sorts: helicopters, volunteers in orange vests, a command center buzzing with walkie-talkie lingo. There was none of that. The ocean was black and the sand was cold. Wrapped in blankets and strewn across the beach, homeless persons pulsed like cocooned and slumbering moths. We plodded in the water’s direction toward two flashlights shining on the tide line.
“The cop in charge is an asshole,” the lifeguard said. “I hate him.”
“I was a cop,” Jeb said. His detector metered out the steady rhythm of nothing in the sand. “Twenty-seven years, Detroit P.D.”
The lifeguard mumbled an apology and walked ahead of us. His figure disappeared into the flashlights.
“Is that true?” I said.
“Yeah,” Jeb said. “I shot seven people.”
“How many died?”
“All of ‘em.” He clicked off the detector. “I wish I had that metal back now,” he said. “I’ll tell you what.”
We caught up with the lifeguard. The search party consisted of two other people: the cop—white and uniformed—his badge and indecipherably scratched nametag shining the moonlight up to what appeared to be a Fumanchu, and the missing boy’s mother.
Clearly, the woman had taken something. In what was essentially darkness (her flashlight seemed to negate the natural glow of the moon) it was hard to get a good look at her face. Her pharmaceutical eyes alone stood out from within the hood of a green sweatshirt. To me, she looked like a frightened and plastic praying mantis.
Around the cop, our lifeguard seemed to develop a nervous condition where he spoke while staring at the ocean. He introduced Jeb and I this way, as if he were waiting for someone to walk in with the tide. Perhaps he saw his own image running up the beach, dripping wet, dying to say hello to himself.
“Okay,” the cop said. He flashed his light into each of our faces. “It’s good to have you on board. Here’s the situation: Missing child. Male. Six years old. Hair: blonde. Eyes: blue. Last seen six hours ago. The mother tells us he was building a sand castle. Kid’s a talker. His name is Andrew.”
“Andrew Bonaventure,” the mother said. “Andrew Bonaventure McMullins.”
“Right,” the cop said. “Andrew Bonaventure McMullins.” He put the flashlight to just below his chin as if he were telling a ghost story. “We’re dealing with a smart kid here. He’s into music—“
“He plays the piano,” the mother said.
“He plays the piano,” the cop said. “Likes to read—“
“His favorite movie is One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” the mother said. “He’s an excellent painter.”
“Right. Okay,” the cop said. “So we’re looking for a bright kid, is what I’m trying to say. He might have run off—“
“—Or maybe he’s in a bookstore and lost track of time. Maybe he was watching the sun set. Got trapped in his own noggin. That sort of thing. These kinds of kids, and I’ve seen it time and again, these type of kids—“
“He’s my Andrew.”
“Right. Okay,” the cop said. “And we’re gonna find him.”
He looked around the semi-circle and decided I was the best candidate for the remaining flashlight, handing it to me as if entrusting my hands with the Grail. “This is yours,” the cop said. “Treat it like your dick.” I inspected the luminescence by flicking the beam on and off against the mother’s stomach. She blinked then, seemed to push out of herself—or try to—straining to keep alert. The lifeguard asked her how she was.
“Do you know what this is like?” I asked him. The mother wrapped her arms around herself.
“What’s it like?” he said.
“It’s like the time you were an idiot,” I said. “Shut up.”
After explaining that he was a retired officer, Jeb and the cop all but performed a secret handshake. “Detroit?” the cop said. “Shit.”
“Yup,” Jeb said. “A different time.”
“A different place.”
“Or close to it.”
We were assigned to the mother.
“Head that way,” the cop said. He pointed north. “Go up the tide line and come back along the footpath by the storefronts. We take south.” He clapped the lifeguard by the back of the neck. “We’ll find him,” he said. “Won’t we, Scooter?”
Out of perhaps consideration, Jeb left his metal detector off. The ocean ran at our feet like a swarm of hissing locusts. I wanted to reach out and put my hand on the mother, pull her away from the tidewater. She seemed unwilling to lift her eyes from off the sand. I gave the shape of her a look and put her at thirty-five—around what would have been Elise’s age—but thinner than my wife, boyish in the hips, which is something I’ve never found attractive. Is it wrong to say I miss the girth of my wife’s ass? I sometimes have the sick and passing thought that I would now gladly wear it as a hat. Perhaps she was right to say I was the most deranged person she had ever met. But then: “I hope you die”? But then: speeding off with that atrocious lamp, knowing I would follow her? But then: swerving along Mulholland, cutting in and out of traffic?
She was always too much before she was nothing.
Jeb asked if the mother or I would mind if he stashed his metal detector on the deck of a lifeguard station. I told him fine. The mother stared at the ocean. Jeb hauled the machine up the beach, and we stood in wait for his return.
“Do you have any children?” she said. I’d switched the flashlight off to see her by the moon.
“No,” I said. “Almost, but then no.”
As we spoke, the ocean crawled closer to our feet, sliding over itself, one level of surf layered on top of another, pushing forward and back simultaneously as if it were capable of whispering a secret while demanding it’s own silence.
“It’s strange,” the mother said. “It’s good.”
I thought about the play. My character likes to keep the radio set to static because it reminds him of the ocean. He bemoans that it’s the closest thing he has to the Pacific, that—having never even seen the ocean—he still feels torn from her. “I was stolen from my proper place,” he says. “And put down here. Here, where I can’t be myself. Here, where I can’t be a man.”
“I became someone I never wanted to be,” the mother said. “A worrier. A nag. A hypochondriac. But I don’t mind.” I noticed she was plain looking, perhaps even ugly, with a broad and crooked nose.
“Here,” he says, “where everything I want to forget is stabbed into my mind like a rusted blade.”
“I bet you’d make a good father,” she said.
He ties up the rope. “Where every memory pains like the one before.”
“You’ve got that look.”
Jeb came back down the beach. He had the metal detector with him still. “Got skittish,” he said. “What if someone steals it?”
“Then what would you do?” I said.
“Exactly.” He hoisted the machine up onto his shoulder like it was a rifle, as I imagined he’d done a thousand times before. “I don’t know.”
We walked north, the tide as it ran out fizzing between my toes. The mother shouted, “Andrew. Andrew Bonaventure. Andrew Bonaventure McMulllins, do you hear me?” as I tried to cast my light in the direction of her voice.
To our east lay Venice, and more east still L.A., the lights gloaming purple in the air, hovering above the city. Ahead rose the Verdugo mountain range, and beyond that Malibu, and even further north Santa Barbara. In between those towns lay forgotten villages where families lived beside the ocean, the roofs of their homes peppered with salt water all day long from sea breeze, and at night the wind screaming through the sage. The Pacific pulled on us from the west. It tugged and dipped, fell down to its bottom and lifted, tearing apart in the air.
For half of an hour we walked and called out the boy’s name. The mother coughed and said something about not being able to go on and so Jeb told a story from when his son was a child. He came home from work one day to find his five year-old had plugged up the kitchen sink with socks. A waterfall ran over the lower cabinets, rushing out into the living room, absorbed into the carpet there. Jeb’s boy sat Indian-style under the kitchen table, repeatedly dumping a pot of water over his head.
“That’s funny,” the mother said.
“Yes,” Jeb said. “It was.” He threw a rock into the ocean. “I spanked the shit out of him for that.”
Without asking them, I steered us inland toward the footpath. “These pills are wearing off,” the mother said.
I told her my feet were cold.
“You should be wearing shoes,” she said. “You should be taking better care of yourself.”
I mumbled a response.
“What was that?” she said.
The further from the water: the warmer the sand. Strangers appeared. It was as if they had been waiting for midnight so as to burrow from out the underground. Couples traipsed by arm in arm, kissing. A schizophrenic, or an actor in a yellow cowboy hat, said, “I know my selves. You try that. Now you. Now you,” into the flame of a lighter cupped inside his hand.
“I have to find my son,” the mother said.
We stood on the footpath. The people came past in flows, laughing or quiet, staring at their shoes, looking out toward the ocean, smelling the air like wolves, others cursing themselves under their breath—and one man saying he could not believe it, he just could not believe it, and how could this be possible? And who in their right mind?
Jeb looked at me. He said that I didn’t seem right. He said that I looked torn up.
“My door,” I said. “Who asked you to knock on it?”
He grabbed the mother by the hand. “We’ll go this way,” he said. “We’ll walk down here and when we find Andrew I’ll buy him an ice cream and that will be that. Larry, you go that way.”
Watching them leave, a thought occurred to me. Whether the boy was lost or found, whether he was alive or dead, whether he was tied up in a shack or sipping juice in the waiting room of a local precinct: I didn’t care. I could barely remember why I’d left the house in the first place. Giving a shit would require energy—or something else—that I simply didn’t have.
Down the footpath, however, I noticed the miasmic lights of a patrol car whirling, and the part of myself that keeps the rest of me alive, the part that feeds me and wipes my ass, dragged my body in that direction.
On the ground, their hands cuffed and their backs against the car, sat a man and a woman, homeless or destitute, each of their white faces smeared with dirt. The man had thrown up all over his brown work shirt. The woman was blonde, and crying, and wearing overalls. The cop had placed her crack pipe on the ground just beyond her feet. One second she was whispering, “It’s all right, baby,” and the next she was screaming, “You are a lousy good for nothing piece of shit.”
“But I’m in love with you,” the man said. “There’s love there.”
“You hate me,” the woman said.
“No. No. No,” the man said. “You need more confidence.”
And then the woman let out a scream as if fire ants were biting at her ass.
From around the front end of the car, where the patrol lights threw their color against the gated and locked storefronts along the footpath, a black cop whipped past athletic and erect—just as I remembered him being from a year before, on the evening of the accident. He’d added muscle to his frame, so that when he turned the corner by the fender and grabbed the man by his shirt color (“Tell your bitch to shut up”) it was as if he were slamming, pushing, and driving his torso through a thicker air than my own.
That night, on Mulholland, he ran at my car as I skidded across the dirt shoulder to a dead stop, the engine stalling out in fourth, his gun waving in the air with all his nerve focused into it, scared for his life. “Don’t move,” he said. “Don’t look”—and I, with no thought walking past him, my eyes on Elise, or the two parts of her: the body slumped behind the collapsed window frame like the victim of a guillotine (legs sprawled out the open passenger door with blood running down her thighs), and her head, blonde locks of hair rising in the wind even as it lay there separate on the ground, nose torn off and forehead smashed from when the car flipped over twice and landed on it’s top, the once and always tricky seat belt having let her go.
“She’s just upset,” the homeless man said. He spit some excess vomit out of his mouth. “There ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”
The cop stood up from his haunches and turned around to stare at the beach. Without recognition, he looked me in the eye. He turned back and leaned into the open passenger side window of the patrol car, switched off the lights, and then swiveled to face me again. “What the fuck are you looking at?” he said. “You’re not wearing any fucking shoes.”
I put my hand in the air and made my fingers into the shape of a gun. “Don’t move,” I said. “Don’t look.” Then I walked into the sand again, and headed back in the direction from which I came.
Fifteen minutes later, I saw them walking toward me beneath the lights along the footpath. The boy was on the lifeguard’s shoulders, his legs dangling down toward the middle of that kid’s chest, one shoe missing. Trotting beside them, Jeb and the cop laughed, and the mother wrapped her hand around her son’s foot as Andrew’s vanilla ice cream cone dripped into the lifeguard’s hair.
With both arms, Jeb raised the metal detector above his head and shouted, “Victory. The world is ours.”
They swerved across the footpath to meet me in the sand. The cop reached out to clap me on the shoulder.
“He fell asleep in a handicapped bathroom,” the mother said. “Isn’t that weird?”
“Yes,” I said. I told the cop not to touch me.
“We got him,” Jeb said. “How about that? Look at him.”
The mother had lied. Her son didn’t look smart to me. Andrew was small for six, and there was something wrong with him, eyes too close together, puffy mouth and cheeks, as if the mother had drank during pregnancy. He was intent upon eating the ice cream cone, oblivious to the concerns that led up to its purchase. Like a little girl, he had wispy blonde hair down to his shoulders. “Hi,” he said. “You’re Larry.”
The lifeguard lifted the boy up over his head and set him down beside the mother. He re-adjusted the whistle around his neck and pointed at me. “Fuck you, man,” the lifeguard said. “You’re a dick.”
For a few minutes, I stood there and watched them touch the boy’s head, watched the mother wipe a napkin across his face, listened to the cop as he spoke to the boy about safety, and strangers, and knowing whom to trust, and whom not to trust, and how important it was that he should always listen to his Mommy. I watched as the boy jumped in and out of light cast down by the lampposts, watched as the mother grabbed Jeb by the face and kissed him on the lips. Then I walked off without their noticing.
On the way home, through the window of the cantina, I saw Rachel polishing wine glasses and laughing with a waiter. The restaurant was empty. All the chairs were on their tables. A Mexican busboy dragged two black garbage bags full of trash across the dining room and then tossed them in front of the entrance door. He went into the kitchen and came back with two more and then opened the front door and set the first pair of bags down alongside the curb and then the other two and then walked back into the restaurant where he drank from a bottle of beer placed atop the host stand. Rachel shouted something at him. The busboy laughed. Then the waiter laughed. Then Rachel laughed too.
Back in my apartment, I took the bottle of Jack into the television room. I checked my voicemail. The only message was from Hal. “You are a disgrace,” he said. “You are a disgrace to the theater and to its history. Where were you today? I walked up and down the audience all rehearsal long as if I could find you. I was shouting, ‘Where has he gone?’ like an imbecile. Your understudy is too weak. He can barely carry the tank. The play is you, you the disgrace, you the disgrace who will be there tomorrow. Act two, scene three. Good day.”
I keep scripts in the freezer because I like the paper to be cold. They feel clean, and the frost that accumulates on their pages shocks me to attention. I took The Exterminator’s Song out, and with a fork scraped the ice away that bound the open side shut. From forgetting to close the freezer door once too often, water had fallen onto the copy. As if it were a stone tablet, the first act cracked off from the rest and I set it out to thaw on the coffee table.
Act two, scene three takes place in the basement. Along the wall, I keep bug specimens within glass jars like the members of a transparent mausoleum. It’s an elaborate set. My wife comes downstairs and shouts out an ultimatum: it’s either the booze or her. It can’t be both. It’s one or the other. Wearing a green housedress, she walks to the top of the stairs and calls out to me. “You’re not yourself,” she says. “You’re another man.” She exits stage left and leaves me among the quarter light of a single lamp glowing on my workbench. I take a few of the jars down from off the wall and lay them before me. There are cockroaches inside and I talk to them. I tell them that they are beautiful, but that I hate them. “I admire your design,” I say, “but you had to be killed.” Then I unscrew the cap off of one jar. I take the cockroach out and I put it in my mouth and I eat it. I do the same to another, and to another, and to another. Then I drink some whiskey. Then I close my eyes. Then I reach out and grab the lamp and throw it against the wall and the stage goes black.