Science Lab in the Hood

A small and young family lived in an eighteen hundred square foot shoe box of a house on Hyde Park Boulevard. This was between Crenshaw Boulevard and Tenth Avenue – apart of Rollin’ Sixties hood on the west side of Greater Los Angeles. Drive-by shootings were not uncommon and the black and whites patrolled the area religiously. They once taped off Hyde Park – no one could enter or leave. They even walked canines through some parts of the neighborhood. There was once a drive-by shooting in broad daylight just as the elementary school across the street released the kids. And on this fine evening, another police car was cruising by when Richard, owner of the shoebox, ran to meet them.

“Officer!” He yelled, stepping into the street with wildly waving arms. “Officer!”

The driver maneuvered the car to the side of the road and the passenger seat occupant stepped out. “What seems to be the problem?”

“Hey Chief, I don’t want you to arrest me for animal cruelty,” Richard began to explain. “So you gotta come get this rat, man.”

“A rat?” The officer asked glancing at Jessica, Richard’s wife. “I’ve never been on a rat call before.”

“It’s BIG, man.” Richard stretched his eyes beginning to lead the way to their “front yard”. In about three seconds from the curb, stepping onto a three by twenty patch of grass parallel to the sidewalk, Richard pointed to a foot long rat. “It’s still alive, man. I didn’t want to touch it ’cause I don’t need y’all picking me up for animal cruelty, you know what I’m sayin’?”

The three of them laughed.

“It looks like it got a hold of some poison.” Jessica said.

“Yeah that’s what I was going to say since it’s just lying there.” The officer said.

“So what am I supposed to do, man? That thing is still alive!”

Just then, the officer took the shovel that leaned against the house, turned it so that the blade stuck out away from him and jabbed it into the rodent’s neck. Richard and Jessica cringed.

The officer grinned at them both. “There you go…you gotta trash can?”

“Yeah!” Richard answered with excitement and led the way while the officer scooped the rat into the shovel.

“Thank you,” Jessica said when he dumped the rat into the can.  The officer replaced the shovel and left the property chuckling.

Richard grabbed the handle of the side, iron door and held it open for her as she ascended the three steps swiping wavy hair from her face. He followed her into the house, locking the door behind him.

“Mommy, look!” Three year old Adam ran into the kitchen, pointing behind the stove. Jessica peered behind it. “We caught a mouse, mommy! We caught a mouse!”

“Yeah baby, we did! The mouse squeaked and struggled in fright to free itself from the tray of thick glue. “Did you want to look at it some more?”

“No!” Adam answered quickly, shaking his head with wide eyes.

Jessica laughed. “Okay, where’s your sister?”

“In the room – she’s – she’s getting ready for bed.”

“Good, you go and get ready too.”

“Okay!” He darted down the hall.

“Richard, would you mind taking this mouse out to its mother?”

“Yeah!”

“Please!”

“I got it.” He sighed. “Hey, why is this ‘Men in Black’ roach here?” He pointed to a jar on the counter on his way out of the door.

“Oh, I thought the kids would like to inspect it, you know…” She made swirling gestures with her hands. “…To keep them from being afraid when they see them – I just forgot to throw it out.”

“It looks dead.” Richard squinted at the jar.

“Yeah, apparently it wouldn’t eat the sugar I put in there – I recently learned that they feed on filth.” Jessica quickly morphed into a kid excited about getting a piece of candy. “Did you know that their bodies are filled with two or three different kinds of bacteria to break down the filth that they eat?”

Richard appeared to be stunned by the words that had seized him. “No,” He answered dryly.

“That’s their job on earth,” Jessica continued. “…They clean it!”

“Get rid of it. Damn ‘Men in Black’ roaches with wings are four inches long.”

Two hours later, the children had been tucked into bed with a bedtime story after enjoying their favorite dinner, (homemade) hamburgers and french fries.

“Ugh!” Richard growled from the bedroom.

“What’s the matter now?” Jessica yelled.

“Would you bring me the salt? I found a slug in our bedroom.

“Yuk!” Jessica arrived immediately with the box of salt in hand. “I can’t stand slimy things.”

Richard took it, opened the spout and sprinkled it around the perimeter of their bed. “Would you get some tissue?”

“Yeah,” Jessica ran out and again, returned quickly. Richard took the tissue to sop the once salty slug and walked out of the room to discard the soiled tissue. Jessica proceeded to get comfortable – she could not help peering down at her feet every few minutes.

Suddenly, the dulled sound of rushing water caught her attention. “Babe, are you taking a bath right now?”

“No!” Richard yelled back. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, I hear running water…”

“Jessie, I’m not running any water.” He arrived at the bedroom door slowly entering.

“Then what’s that…noise?”

Now standing alongside Jessica, Richard frowned, listening. He moved to the end of the bed, listening, eyes scanning every corner of the room. “I didn’t hear this in the hallway.” He whispered to Jessica who only returned his gaze. “What is that?” He continued frowning. The noise grew louder. He walked lightly toward the small closet in a corner of the room. Just as he planted a foot inside, a large roach with fluttering wings jumped out of the crack of the pocket door and plopped onto Richard’s head. “Ahh Shh…” He bellowed, jumping out of the closet, swiping frantically at the top of his head. Jessica stretched her eyes and bolted out of the room for the Black Flag. She dashed down the hall on her return, jumped onto the bed and across it, landing directly in front of the closet. She pressed the can at the top of the pocket door crack and sprayed a continuous stream all the way down to the floor and up again.

“Here, seal it up!” Richard said, tossing her a roll of duct tape. She pulled a long strip, another and another until the entire opening was closed. They finally stood side by side huffing – holding each other’s worried gazes.

Having decided to move within the next four years, removed furnishings revealed the slugs’ entrance. In the “master bedroom” under the bed at the baseboard, was a whole in the floor spanning eight inches – from water damage.

Antoinette Clinton

Copyright 2012

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About Antoinette Clinton

Writer, Reading Specialist I like reading, writing, arts and crafts, racketball and alternative medicine.
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