The Brown Ones by Mark Antony Rossi

The Brown Ones by Mark Antony Rossi

Today I squashed another brown body against my English book, ruining the brown bag book cover. I quickly scraped off the twisted legs and thick fluid with a white piece of cardboard from yesterday’s Twinkie package before my friends discovered. I don’t need the headache.

Roach spray is not helping matters. I think these frigging beasts get high on it. Laughing all the way to their nests. Millions reveling in evolution’s triumph. Makes me want to find Darwin and smack the shit out of him. But he’s a hundred years dead, and I’ve only killed about forty roaches today. Not nearly enough to guarantee peace of mind.

"darwin matrix_1600" image by Flickr user Graham Steel

“darwin matrix_1600” image by Flickr user Graham Steel

Exterminators normally do the trick. Mass-murderers even your mother could love. Yet who has the money? That jerk pig of a landlord doesn’t care. In fact, when his exterminator stops by the roaches sense danger and rush down to my place. Safe in the knowledge that a poor boy with a big book can’t possibly pose a threat to their brood. They reproduce better than a copy machine.

Last week my great plan fell through. Call me naïve, call me a silly city boy wishing the best. Figured I’d offer to clean up the exterminator’s shop, answer a phone or two, and maybe just maybe the owner would spray my place as payment for services rendered. Fat chance! My simple proposal was obscenely rejected; he gave me the finger.

Business was booming, but I still couldn’t get the exterminator to help me out. Must be my background. He deals with rats as big as cats without breaking a sweat. Yet Puerto Ricans are a threat to national security. The guy’s in fear for his life. Let me remind you, buddy, good chance my family has been living longer in America than yours. You might want to look that up if you can actually read. Dirtbag.

I’d rather not face this bug-infested reality. Too many of my friends are diving head-first into dope. The room spins and produces roach-free fantasies every kid on the block wants to believe in. I want to believe in them, too. I believe so much that I am willing to live with degrading comments. Live with the fear that a roach or two might have stowed away in my school bag ready and willing to jump ship and streak across the classroom floor. Bringing loathing, embarrassment and explanations I’m too tired to lie about, or too pissed off to tell the truth about.

I’d rather not face this roach-ravaged reality. But I must. Dope doesn’t agree with my English aspirations. Nor my roach problem. I don’t need any more problems. Plus I see the truth without the help of funny smelling smoke: the only browns succeeding on this block are the roaches. Teachers know this. So do my classmates.

The library is the only clean shelter for miles around. In there, bugs are pictured in books instead of smashed on them. This peaceful place is bug-free, crime-free – all too often brown-free. My friends won’t face the truth. Street corners become their homes. Homes of lost souls soaking in fortified wine. They won’t face misery without chemical assistance. Blind fools unable to see beyond this bug-crawling neighborhood where brown roaches know freedom better than brown people.

I have tried and tried to reach them. But I’m just the Bug Boy to them. A roach carrying dreamer valued less than returnable beverage bottles. My friends understand another truth I can’t deny: society wants those bottles more than any of us. I accept their reasoning while bouncing between sharing and forgiving it. Every fact-finding fiber in this sturdy frame screams escape. Escape them, escape roaches, escape poverty, insane truths and failed plans. Each a stone slab erecting staircases to raw rage. Pouring from pens firmly planted into the eye of convention. All secure things others take for granted. All the serene things required for sanity.

Here, at the library, it’s bug-free. Posted on the outside bulletin board an assistant book-stacker position is available. Might be my ticket to freedom of some kind. Books tell me of places where brown bugs are forest creatures. And brown people live as free men should. I must believe this is true. What else do I have to keep me company but the roaches? Roaches are enemies of the poor. They vandalize plausible dreams. Roaches must die for my salvation. My destiny’s at stake: it’s them or me.

What a wicked battle I wage. An evolutionary evil Darwin never warned me about. I hate him even though it’s not his fault. Better to hate the dead than the living. Better to hate roaches than humans. Better to love, but I’m not at that point yet. I constantly remind myself normalcy is restraint, reservation makes discipline, and every drop filtered through my emotional faucets makes me stronger. Otherwise unkind truths have a strange way of spilling into the bloodstream. And the mainstream.

2013-06-29 16.26.17Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of the nonfiction bioethics volume The Intruder Bulletins: The Dark Side of Technology and the short fiction collection No Town of Mine, published for the Kindle Reader at Amazon. His plays, Cross and Thief in the Night, have been produced off Broadway. His poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction have been published by The Antigonish Review, Cerebrus, Death Throes, Deep South Journal, Flash Fiction, Japanophile, On the Rusk, Slugfish, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, The Magill Review, and a dozen other worthy publications. You can find him online at