Tuesday, April 04, 2006

translation: khavn's cockroach

The Cockroach Inside The Trashcan
by Khavn

Translated from the Tagalog by Dean Francis Alfar


A COCKROACH NURSING its injured wings makes a temporary home inside the trashcan in the living room. The structure is a small marvel; the cockroach slowly transforming crumpled paper, used cardboard and fragments of unwanted plastic into a grand dining room, a comfortable bedroom and a wide-enough roof for basking in the sunlight should circumstances permit.

The wastebasket is shut most of the time, and rightfully so. People tell stories about these being breeding grounds by creatures of dubious circumstances.

(Once, someone forgot to cover the trashcan, and a pair of spiders of uncertain origin managed to get in. After a few hours, it attracted the enfeebled attention of the old man of the house. At the moment his hand reached down to cover it, he paused, startled by the unexpected scene revealed within: a tiny crowd of color pulsed with motion within the wastebasket, dancing and singing in an exhilarating celebration of pure life.

The old man hurriedly retrieved a pail of water and emptied it into the trashcan, consigning the oscillating families to a deluge of biblical proportions.)


THE GROWING HOUSE of the lonely cockroach now occupies more than half of the wastebasket’s interior, adding more rooms and levels in an attempt to obviate its occupant’s solitude. Even if its wings are already healed, the cockroach’s head is flattened from smashing into the trashcan’s cover, from doomed and heartbreaking attempts to fly out, hoping for that elusive moment of freedom.

It is dark inside the trashcan. Even if it has a crack on the side, it is the smallest of holes; even the most intrepid ray of light concedes and refuses to attempt entry. (Every time someone uncovers the wastebasket, the cockroach maniacally splays itself on the roof of its home, soaking fleeting sunlight in desperation.)


THE HOUSE OF the cockroach is now almost as tall as the trashcan, rooms upon rooms, floors upon floors extending every which way.

A child lifts the cover of the trashcan, intending to discard a bit of used tissue paper. At that precise moment, the cockroach takes the opportunity to escape, falling over itself in excitement. When it reaches the tip of the wastebasket, it extends its wings, readies for flight, hurls itself into the air and finds itself repealing the law of gravity for one exquisite moment before falling helplessly to the ground. The child, surprised by the unexpected motion, lets out a cry. His older brother chances upon the scene and sees the stunned cockroach quivering next to the trashcan in a paroxysm of agony. He quickly takes his slipper in hand and repeatedly strikes the cockroach, which is stuck to the floor until this very day.

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