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Friday, June 19, 2009

People Eating Tasty Animals

Whoever is in charge of publicity at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a public relations dreamboat. PETA will do anything to get publicity, especially if it’s free, and they are geniuses at getting it.

Their latest publicity stunt involves weighing in against President Obama for killing a fly during a television interview. A PETA spokesperson, one Michael McGraw (certainly no relation to Quick Draw) said: “One thing this has done is raise awareness, that even the smallest of animals, a chicken, fish, cockroach, or yes, even a fly deserves protection.” To set Barack straight, they sent the president a no-kill fly trap.

Wait, back up a second. Did he say “cockroach?”

I have a question for One Michael McGraw, and it goes like this:

“Mike, have you ever had a cockroach, a really big, Florida-sized palmetto bug-style cockroach, fly into your mouth?”

I have, and I’d like to meet you one day and stick a live one in your mouth, and see how you handle it.

I was nine years old. In 1966, there were no such things as plastic garbage bags. We used paper grocery bags to line our trash can, and we didn’t have a garbage disposal, so all of our meal wet-nasties went into the open bag. When it got full, I, having been the sole male in the house for three years, had the responsibility of taking it out to the can.

This was not a task I took kindly to. The garbage cans, made of galvanized steel, initially sat outside our garage. There were always lizards around, and I hated lizards. They scared me and grossed me out when they stuck out that bright orange goiter-thing at me. And I had been bitten by more than one. Not to mention the fact that they loved garbage, and when they saw me coming, they would herd around me as if I were some kind of reptilian Pied Piper, or like feeding time at the O.K. Cold Blooded Corral. They would jump all over me.

The outside location of the cans became problematic. The Farriors, one of the wealthiest families in Tampa, bred beagles like rats, and just let them roam free around the neighborhood, knocking over people’s trash cans, spewing nastiness all over the property. Since I was the one who had to pick up their stinking mess, I successfully lobbied to have the trash cans moved inside to the locked garage.

And that’s when cockroaches became an issue.

Whenever it was time for me to take out the garbage, I turned on the garage light from inside the house at least five minutes before I took out the stinking yutz. Lights make cockroaches hide.
Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cockroaches already housed in the metal trash cans hide. Whenever you opened the lid, there was cockroach mayhem. They would flutter around as if the giant, animated can of Raid had entered their perimeter. Some would flee south into the bottom of the can, some would crawl out, and, because they were Florida palmetto bugs and they could, some would fly out.

One night the can was particularly gamy, and I did as I always did before I opened the lid, which was to bang on the outside of the can to let them know Mr. Raid was about to make an entrance. I could hear them scatter, so I took the lid off, dropped in the soggy paper bag, and then noticed, right next to my face, underneath the lid that I was holding, the mother of all insects, the size of a grown man’s thumb, dark brown and shiny, with flickering antennae and six hairy-looking legs.

I froze and screamed, and the instant I started screaming, the bug took flight and landed right in my wide open, screaming orifice. As quickly as I could, I spat it out, stomped on it, and ran inside to find anything that would rinse away this memory forever: mouthwash, bleach, sulfuric acid, electroshock therapy. Needless to say, nothing worked.

It is still one of the top ten worst memories of my childhood, possibly even number 2. I realize that in the scheme of possible childhood traumas, this is petty, even insignificant, compared to, say, contracting leukemia or polio. Nevertheless, it’s something you never forget.

So Mr. One Michael McGraw, I invite you to be a guest at my home here in South Florida. I’m sure that if I let my exterminator skip a spraying, I could find a nice juicy one for you. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get a female with a nice, fat egg case popping out of her abdomen.

Now you just sit back and relax while I let this adorable, defenseless little animal roam around the depths of your outspoken, publicity-snaring mouth. I want to watch you as you calmly grasp it with cotton-padded tongs, place it in a luxurious, dark shoebox full of rotting refuse and then go out find a nice adoptive family for it.

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