The main road near the house was newly paved, smooth, and except for a few
small turns, relatively straight. I usually started my ride right after lunch, and most
nights, came home right around dinnertime. Grandma used to ask me where I rode
to, and I really had no answer for her. I got on the bike and rode for endless miles.
Sometimes, I rode to the beach, and then after a short rest, would ride another 20
or so miles along the Gulf Coast. The roads were flat, and I usually kept my legs
going a good pace to keep my heart rate where it needed to be.

The rides were peaceful but lonely, and I rode with my eyes firmly planted ahead of
me. Most days were hot and the air was often thick and hard to breathe. Once I
mapped out my first ride, I knew where to stop to get water and towel off, and I
have to be honest, I really liked the solitude.

On most days, the rides were between forty and fifty miles in total distance and
they helped tire me out for sleep. I didn’t notice many of the things around me
other than the route I memorized and the last 5-mile road to Grandma’s driveway.
On either side of that road were drainage ditches filled with storm run-off, and for
miles I would see nothing but palm trees and the occasional car that passed by. I
didn’t mind riding in the rain, and it usually poured late in the afternoon. I would
welcome those hard, driving rains as they kept me clean and cooled me off.

Riding a bike like that alone is strangely liberating.

One day in late July, it was so hot I thought for sure a dragon was breathing fire
directly on me. I was riding hard and fast along that deserted stretch of road, and
the one time I wanted a rainstorm there was none in sight. Sweat was running down
into my eyes, stinging them, and I was almost out of water. I took a long swallow
from my bottle, poured the rest over my head, and looked ahead at the endless
road ahead.

As I was riding, I saw what I thought were hummingbirds hovering around the
telephone poles that lined the road. It never really dawned on me that they were
anything else, and I figured that at least I had some company for the journey home.
I was riding rather fast, and as I ripped miles off, I noticed that maybe they weren’t
little birds. I wasn’t exactly sure of what they were until one landed on me and
smiled.

It is amazing to me how the mind plays tricks on you in moments of crisis. I looked
down and saw what was—and to this day still is—the largest roach I ever saw. He
was staring at me, smiling his twisted little smile, and I swear he was wearing clown
makeup. I think I screamed as he started walking up the front of my shirt, and as I
turned to wave it off of me, I swerved to the left and rode down the hill…

…and right into a drainage ditch.

I got of the bike swatting and waving my hands like some wild man from Borneo
screaming at no one to “GET THE HELL OFF OF ME!” I didn’t care how stupid I
looked or what I sounded like, I wanted the bug off of me. I looked down, and either
he flew off, I killed him, or he was lurking somewhere close. When I saw he was
gone, I grabbed the bike, hopped on, and pedaled home as fast I could. The stink
of stagnant water was in my nose the whole way and I couldn’t wait to get my
soaking wet clothes off! I rode faster, figuring that I could outrace the horrible odor
emanating from me. I looked down from time to time to make sure the brown lord of
the bugs wasn’t staring up and me and smiling anymore. I covered the last five or
so miles very quickly and when I got to Grandma’s, I made a beeline straight for the
shower.

Many years later, I was watching a movie with the kids called Men in Black. I
actually like that movie a lot, because for as far-fetched as it is, it really does
entertain me. Toward the end, as Will Smith is facing the largest roach to ever
grace human kind, I thought to myself, that bug that landed on me was probably
the father of the one on screen. When I watch that movie now, I sit with a large
industrial-sized can of RAID. Just in case…

When I came out of the shower about an hour later and satisfied that the stink of
decay was off me for good, I sat down and noted the various bruises on my legs
and arms. Grandma, ever the observant adult, asked me what had happened, and
I told her. “A big roach landed on me.”

Tom said that it was called a Palmetto bug, and without so much as an
afterthought, I blurted out, “Palmetto, mighty bug, roach, or whatever, that thing
tried to kill me.”

Neither of them said a word.

A few days after the attack, I went into the garage to get a bottle of coke out of the
refrigerator and then I noticed something crawling up the far wall. I slowly made my
way across the floor and when I saw that it was King Roach coming back for the
final kill, I looked around for a suitable weapon. There on the workbench was one
of those rubber-headed mallets—I never quite figured out what to do with a rubber
hammer, and I’m almost afraid to ask—and thinking like the noble warrior I was, I
grabbed it and moved in for the kill.

The bug had stopped crawling and was just sitting there staring at me. At sixteen, I
wasn’t going to let some 3-inch long monster get the best of me again. I raised the
Holy Hammer, and with all my might, I brought it down onto the bug hoping to hear
a large SPLAT as its life ended and he went to bug heaven.

Unfortunately, no one told me that these insects have armor plating, and I swear to
this day that I hit the bug square on. However, the mallet didn’t kill the bug. Oh no,
no, no, it bounced off the insect and before I realized what was happening, the
damn thing started flying right at me.

Great. A pissed off mighty roach, with armor plating and big teeth, flying straight at
me. That was just what I needed to ruin a perfectly good day. I ran inside and hid
under the bed for an hour.

I vowed that after being attacked by one of these flying monsters I would never
ever go to Florida again. It’s funny when I think of this now and realize that I moved
there for eight years and not once did I see any of those bugs while I was there.

I think word got around at how adept I was at swinging rubber mallets and they
decided to stay away.

That’s good for me, because I hate hiding under the bed.
Author Mark McGrath returned home with his four children to be
with family and friends, and to continue a career in nursing.
Tears and laughter flourish throughout his many adventures,
trials and unforgettable moments as a nurse and as a father.
Join him as...  

the journey continues.
Life's Little Adventures:
The Journey Continues
Mark McGrath
To get both of Mark's books for one low price:
Life's Little Adventure: The Journey Home
and
Life's Little Adventure: The Journey Continues,
click here.
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Non-Fiction/Short Stories

Available in Print & e-book
February 2015

$11.95 / $3.99

ISBN-13: 978-1-940707-08-2
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