“I’ve watched you these past weeks and appreciate the harmony you’ve introduced in the office,” he said, steepling his fingers.
“Thank you, sir.”
He leaned back in his chair “I’d like you to give a talk at our staff meeting next week on what you’ve learned about Buddhist compassion and cooperation, answer any questions the staff might have. Would you be willing to do that?”
“Oh, yes, sir. I’d be honored.”
The meeting was tomorrow. I lay in bed lolling in the pleasure of my boss’s words for as long as I dared then threw back the covers. A scuttling erupted from behind me when I switched on the bathroom light, and a giant cockroach scrabbled at the glacial sides of the claw foot bathtub. Up it scrambled, down it slid, up, down, up then twisted, flipped and landed on its back. I grabbed for the flyswatter on the back of the toilet but stopped myself.
“Bad day?” I said and sat on the toilet seat. “Lucky I didn’t squish you before reminding myself of your divine nature.” I leaned on the tub and studied the creature. “Don’t know why humans hate you guys so much. You don’t bite or sting or poison or suck blood or torment pets. It’s probably your disgusting bathroom habits that make you so loathsome.”
The roach flailed at the air with its six legs, antennae searching for leverage, its body bucking.
“Like me to flip you over?”
An antenna quivered.
“Sorry, can’t do that. A true Buddhist must never pity or aid other living beings and thus disrupt their sacred destinies.”
All day as I worked to hone my presentation, my mind kept drifting to the debate over the proper Buddhist path vis-à-vis the roach in my bathtub. I searched the Internet for information on roach history and behavior and later shared with my tub guest.
“Wanna’ hear something interesting about your species?”
One antenna flicked.
“Scientists discovered molecules in your brain that prevent illness. Evidently you don’t get sick, you just wear out. They say one day people will double or triple their lifespans by drinking Fountain of Youth elixirs made from ground-up cockroach parts. Wouldn’t that be something? I can see it now: parades, fanfare, gigantic cockroach statues erected in all the world’s major cities.”
Enjoying my little joke, I rose to leave. “How you doing, by the way? Much as I hate to rush your journey, tomorrow’s a big day for me, and I don’t intend to share my shower with you or anybody else.” I flipped the light on and off for emphasis.
The next morning the tub stood empty. “Sayonara,” I muttered and grabbed my red silk dress from the closet, nearly swooning as the luxurious fabric glided through my fingers like water meandering over river stones. It’d cost a queen’s ransom but was worth every peanut butter sandwich I’d choked down to make the payments. I held the dress up and pirouetted in front of the full-length mirror. I’d look like a million dollars and knock ‘em dead.
When I turned on the bright overhead light, I noticed an imperfection on the bodice. Looking closer I saw the spot was a cockroach egg, and surrounding it were dozens of jagged holes eaten by hatching larvae.
“Bitch!” I shrieked and whirled to the tub. The pounding of surf thrummed against my eardrums as the creature slowly emerged out of the drain, its antennae waving. A primal scream of battle rage tore from my throat as I snatched up the flyswatter and struck over and over and over again, the flyswatter my sword, my hammer, my bludgeon, my ax. When my arm screamed at me to stop, I collapsed onto the toilet seat and stared at the scattered smithereens of the enemy.
“Look what you made me do,” I said. I turned the shower spray on full blast and watched until the last smidgen sucked down the drain. Taking in deep breaths as I’d been taught, I stepped back from the tub, straightened my shoulders and pressed my hands together in Anjali Mudra. Breathing in and exhaling slowly, I bowed my head, focused inward, and murmured “Namaste.