Starring Rockstar Roach. (Third Place, Journey Through Genres!)
All Words: 1142
The story I'm going to tell you today is about an insect. I'm guessing 'insects' count as 'animals'. You couldn't call it a pet, exactly, because its humans didn't know of its existence, and this insect liked it that way.
The insect I'm talking of is a cockroach.
How do I know about this cockroach? Ah, good question. I know because my Nanaji (grandfather) used to tell my eight cousins and me stories about this cockroach. We would gather round him on the soft carpet in the middle of the living room, and he would begin ... "Once upon a time, there was a cockroach ..."
Now, Nanaji's cockroach was a very clever cockroach. It knew how to type. This was before the days when computers were widely known. People used ordinary typewriters. Nanaji's cockroach typed everything in all-capitals. It couldn't hold the 'shift' key down along with the letter it wanted to type, so it would press down the 'all caps' key to start with. The entire text would, therefore LOOK LIKE THIS, though the cockroach wasn't trying to shout.
Anyway, this cockroach was hatched in a suitcase, under a pile of shirts. The last shirt in the pile apparently didn't fit the human any more, and it stayed put in the suitcase. This was good for the Roach Family, they could go about their business without being spotted and swatted (which is extremely annoying).
Nanaji's cockroach opted to stay in the suitcase after all his brothers and sisters had moved out. He liked it there, under the old shirt. It was comfortable and, moreover, he got to have adventures. He got to travel.
His human was a writer, who owned a typewriter. What's more, a travel writer, so that suitcase went just about everywhere. And a writer, being a writer and on a budget, stayed in the cheapest accommodation available, in each of the places.
You know what that means, for a cockroach, don't you?
It means lots of friends. It means lots of food. Nobody really cleans up or disinfects, at cheap accommodations.
So, at night in a new city or even a new country, Nanaji's cockroach ventured out from under the shirt and explored his new surroundings. The local cockroaches, smelling him out, came up and rubbed antennae with him. That was always the scariest moment. If they decided he was hostile, he would be finished. He was always outnumbered at least five to one. So far, he had been lucky, and the local cockroaches had always embraced him as one of themselves. They shared food -- he had now tasted various cuisines and was personally partial to pizza -- and they told him of the various travellers who had been in that room before his human.
It was then that, unbeknownst to his human, Nanaji's cockroach was at his most useful.
See, the first thing his human did, on unpacking at the cheap accommodation, was to set out the portable typewriter with a fresh sheet of paper in it, on the desk or on any available surface.
Nanaji's cockroach, on hearing the tales of the other travellers from his newfound friends, would proceed to type them on to the typewriter. Mostly, he typed in ALL CAPITALS, as I said, but sometimes, if his new friends were willing to help, he even managed sentence-case.
Cockroach would type all night, while his human slept. And when his human woke, he would listen from under the old shirt to the familiar voice, "Ah! I must've thought up a story in my sleep again! Look at how much I've typed out! I thought I heard the typewriter in my dreams. I guess I was actually using it."
The human became famous, publishing the stories typed by Nanaji's cockroach. "HOW did you think this up?" interviewers often asked. "What a unique perspective into human nature! I don't think anyone has ever seen it that way before!"
Once, in an especially quaint (and cheap) hotel, the local cockroaches had so many stories to tell of various homo-sapiens that Nanaji's cockroach had to learn to use a pencil on a paper napkin, to take notes. Fortunately, the human, and the suitcase and the old shirt, stayed in that hotel for almost a month.
Cockroach took notes. There were eccentric people There were 'normal' people. There was young people and old people, and tiny children who were the only ones who tried to reach out to the roaches. Some were business folk gone to seed. Some were retired folk whose grown up children had sent them on a cheap holiday. Some were new couples, with new babies, on a budget. And of course, there were the artists, the performers and the writers.
Cockroach listened, and noted. One paper napkin wasn't enough. He needed another. And another. At the end of three weeks, cockroach had five dozen paper napkins filled with notes about guests at the quaint (and cheap) hotel.
It was his chance.
With the help of his friends, he created amalgams of these characters. Soon, he had a strong protagonist, a stronger antagonist and a very supportive supporting cast of characters who were off-beat, but real.
The book was an instant hit.
When the human was asked to write the screenplay (yes, a large amount of money was exchanged when film rights were sold), Nanaji's cockroach made sure the dialogues were all real-sounding, by typing them up at night.
And Nanaji's cockroach went to the film set, too, on the first day of shooting. The human carried the suitcase along, and, while the shooting was in progress, put it on the prop table. Cockroach hid in a plate that was to be used on set later ... in fact, if you look closely at the scene in which Mr. Artistic offers Mr. Writerly a cheese sandwich, you'll catch a glimpse of Nanaji's cockroach just behind the ketchup bottle ...
So, cockroach had his moment of stardom. He was in a movie. A movie, moreover, for which he had written most of the script. He couldn't have been more proud.
Alas. They say pride comes before a fall, and they're right.
The human was rich now. Rich enough to have a reputation to maintain, an image to keep up. Cheap hotels were a thing of the past.
"And as for that battered old suitcase and the junk in it ..."
Nanaji's cockroach found himself in the trash can.
He did cry a little at first. It's a shock, you know. But roaches are made of sterner stuff. Pretty soon, he had made new friends. He even re-united with some of his siblings. He had new adventures.
Unfortunately, these new adventures are lost to humankind because roach no longer had either a typewriter or a paper napkin handy, and besides he was too busy having fun to care much about writing anyway.
Note: The character is my Grandpa's, but the story is out of my own head!
"Journey Through Genres - June 2018 Winners!"
Third Place - "Cockroach Cameo"