The continuing adventures of Phil and Pete The night was a beautiful tapestry of wind-swept clouds and lake spray. The breeze off Lake Ponchartrain danced through the Mardi Gras fountain like sprites chasing stardust. The moon was a crescent cutout against the velvety blackness of the star-studded sky. This was our favorite time of day. The annoying sun-bathing teens had left and the lovers had yet to make their appearance.
A car pulled in, momentarily blinding us.
“Damn lights,” I cursed and turned away. Phil continued to watch, resting comfortably on my shoulder as the young man in the car leaned in for a prolonged kiss with the knock-out blonde next to him.
“I miss the the thrill that pure, truly pure amour can bring, the joy of the first time ever with a woman,” Phil said, a note of melancholy in his deep voice. “Can’t wait to get to my new love! Every hour away from her is one hour too many.”
“Love?” I almost burst out laughing, but thought better of it. The image in my mind was disturbing even for a cynic like me. I couldn’t imagine the process, but those millions of roach eggs came into existence somehow. But love, could it be possible?
Phil must have noted the smirk on my face. “Oh, please, not again….” He rolled his eyes and stared me down, indignation oozing from his tiny body. “There you go. I suppose you believe love is a human invention. Well, think again.” He paced back and forth across my shoulder, his antennae twitching in irritation.
“Sorry,” I stammered.
“Must seem pretty funny–a roach falling in love and all that, but I’ve been there, buddy, and it’s no laughing matter!”
Phil wasn’t himself. Even his bravado had lost some of its spark. Something was up, and I was determined to get to the bottom of whatever was troubling my friend. “Why the long face?”
A deep sigh shook Phil’s long slender body. “Fifi again, but I’ve got to let her go once and for all,” he muttered.
“Fifi?” A smile crept across my face.
“Yes.” His voice was sharp once more. “Is there something wrong with the name Fifi? And don’t tell me you had a poodle named Fifi.”
“Well, no, actually she was a bulldog.” Phil wasn’t taking the bait.
“I’ve had enough,” Phil replied and slipped into the pocket of my jacket.
“Oh, come on, Phil, I was teasing. You’ve got to tell me the rest of the story or I’ll never believe roaches fall in love!”
I watched the moon rise higher in the night sky and waited. I could just make out Phil’s feelers peeking out the top of my pocket. There was nothing else to do until the cantankerous little bastard decided to forgive me. A stray gush of wind slapped my face with a spray of dirty lake water. I sputtered, and hurriedly wiped my wet countenance with a sleeve. From within the hollow of my pocket a deep chuckle sounded.
“Serves you right, you cynical swine.”
“I’ve been called worse things, but that’s funny coming from a roach.”
Phil flew out of my coat and landed on the tip of my nose. I stared at him cross eyed and blinked. His tiny legs clung to my skin with their barbed ends.
“Okay, Phil, you’ve made your point. Now, tell me the Fifi story.”
With a rush of wings Phil once more positioned himself on my shoulder. I waited patiently knowing there was no use rushing him. He would tell me in his own good time or not at all.
Another set of lovers strolled along the seawall and Phil sighed. “Fifi,” he moaned and wiped a tear from his protruding black eyes.
“Spill the scoop on Fifi before I send you to roachie heaven.”
Phil lit his little joint and inhaled. The smell reminded me of my college days at Tulane and the long nights spent in endless ecstasy with Melissa. Better not to open that channel down memory lane. We’ve all had our Melissas and Fifes.
Phil coughed as his glazed eyes filled with contentment. “Fifi worked at a cabaret on Bourbon St. The prettiest set of legs that ever graced the stage and a body designed for sin.” He took another long drag. “But she was a whore from the tip of her feelers to the end of her exquisite derriere.”
“Let me guess? She was a stripper.” I nearly burst trying to stifle the giggle that welled up inside me, but laughing would have insured Phil’s silence forever, and I’d never hear his story.
Phil glared at me. “No, an exotic dancer, strippers have no class. They just bump and grind like a Westinghouse blender on slow-mo. Fifi had it all. She could charm the pants off ya.” Phil blushed.
I stared at him in amazement. Could a roach actually blush or was this an aberration of my booze-befuddled mind?
“How much did she take you for?” I asked.
“Everything! The bitch ran away with the four legged piano player. What she saw in him I never understood. Pity, I guess, after he lost his legs and manhood in the coffee grinder. I guess love is deaf, dumb, and blind.” Phil finished. The ashes from his joint fell softly on my coat.
“We’ve all made mistakes from time to time, partner.” I tried to console him.
“Human or bug, all of us have fallen into love’s pits,” Phil agreed.
“Yes, but what a ride.” I smiled.
“I want you to meet my new love tomorrow, the babe who has my antennae in a whirl. She’s the only thing that kept me from dumpster diving after my break-up with Fifi. Dangerous thing dumpster diving. Many a good roach has gone to sleep with a full belly full of food, and woke up with the noise of the crusher about to bring his world to an end.”
“So where does this girlfriend of yours live?”
“All in good time, Pete. First bring me downtown tomorrow for my old buddy’s second line? I set up services for him and arranged for the band. The procession ends at Saint Louis Cemetery Number One.”
“That’s where my family has our mausoleum,” I replied. “Who is this buddy of yours?”
“My old buddy is not a roach or a person. My old buddy is the most important thing in my life, but I have to lay him to rest if I’m going to commit to one woman the way I’m supposed to, I’ve gotta do away with my little black book. Let’s visit your crypt. That fits in my plans perfectly. I want to lay my little buddy to rest with the human dead. Bring a utility lighter and an old newspaper.” His voice quivered a bit, and I wasn’t sure if it was from fear or sorrow.
“And your purpose in all this is?” I asked.
“To shake all my old girlfriends from my heart. It’s a ritual we Romeo-type roaches go through before we tie the knot.”
“Tie the knot? You plan to tie the knot? With who? When did this development come about, Phil? I didn’t think roaches….” I stopped myself.
“There you go again, looking down on roaches. Roaches are people too! I rebuke your disparaging comment, the development, as you put it, is my darling Lisa, my bride to be. No lesser honey could have captured my heart after all the beauties I’ve known. Hang with me, buddy, and you’ll get a chance to meet her and hobnob with royal-roach high society. I’ve got a good one this time around. I promise you, even you will be impressed!”
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