American Metamorphosis

Greg Samson, like Gregor Samsa, woke up one morning as a cockroach. Beyond that initiatory fact, the stories of Greg and Gregor are dissimilar.

Samsa lived with his mother, father, and sister. He worked like a dog to support them. Samson lived with two slacker roommates. He worked at Blockbuster but the store was about to close and he didn’t care. Watching movies cut into his gaming time, which he resented, and he had copied every Blockbuster game he cared anything about long since.

Samsa’s family members were shocked, to say the least, when they saw him after he had changed. (He wasn’t actually a cockroach. He was an [I]Ungeziefer[/I] – you could look it up – whereas Samson was the real deal: 180 pounds of [I]Periplaneta americana[/I].) When Samson’s roommates saw him at ten in the morning, saw a big bug stuck on his back in bed, they were both already tweaked. They took the sight of this cockroach in stride. Both had seen a lot worse before when high.

“Dude, did you see Mimic?” said Josh to Micah. “These things eat human flesh.”

“That movie blew, Dude,” Micah said. “Cockroaches aren’t what you call carnivores. If we’re lucky, this thing will get rid of all our garbage for us.”

“I say we waste him. Go get the bug spray.”

In the Kafka story, Gregor has trouble speaking and ends up just listening throughout the tale. Not Greg. Greg was, like, screw that.

“I’m stuck on my back,” he said. “Roll me over.”

“No way,” Micah said. “You’ve already ate Greg. You aren’t gonna eat us.”

“I am Greg, moron,” Greg said. “Didn’t you ever read the Kafka story?”

“Huh? I played Bug Quest.”

“You totally sucked at Bug Quest,” Josh said. “No wonder you want to waste this thing.”

“Shut up,” Greg said. “Turn me over and then call Blockbuster and tell them I’ve turned into a cockroach, and then bring in the garbage. I’m starving.”

The roommates turned Greg over, so that his legs weren’t waving around in the air. He scuttled across the floor, clacking his mandibles.

“Dude,” said Micah. Josh hurried out to the dumpster and brought back two Hefty bags full of garbage.

Greg poked his proboscis into one of the bags.

“Mmmm. Cockroaches are a hungry bug,” he said, “and a horny bug.”

“You want me to go find a female under the sink in the kitchen?”

“Listen,” said Greg. “Gregor moped around the house and ended up dead at the end of the story. That is bull-twangus. If I’ve got to be a big bug, I’m going to be a damned alpha bug. I’m a playah. I need to find a cockroach babe who runs 150 lbs minimum. You know me. The bigger the better.”

“Where are we going to find somebody, I mean something, like that?”

“First of all, I don’t like light. I’m crawling under the bed until dark. Come get me then. Let me figure this thing out.”

The roommates left the bedroom and closed the door behind them. They wondered if this would all seem funny when the weed wore off but then decided that they didn’t want to find out, and opened a bag of rock they had scored that weekend. They also finished three bottles of Jagermeister they found on a shelf.

When darkness fell, they heard a scrabbling at the bedroom door. They opened the door. Greg scuttled out, feelers waving.

“Open the front door and follow me,” he said.

The roommates opened the front door and staggered out into the night behind their friend, the roach. Out on the street, Greg instructed them to lift the manhole cover (personnel access cover), and slide it aside. It was too heavy, with no place to get a grip. Micah retrieved a tire iron from his car and pried up the cover. They got a grip on it and dragged it off the hole.

“Phew,” Micah said.

“It’s a sewer,” Greg said. “What did you expect? Roses?”

“You going down there?”

“I’m a roach with big appetites,” Greg said. “I’m not sitting around in a bar all night, watching pole dancers. Just pray I don’t meet one of those gators you always hear about. Replace the lid and then come back at dawn and pull it off again.”

Greg disappeared down the hole.

The boys slid the cover back on, returned to the house, and passed out. When they woke up, the sun had been up for an hour.

They took a couple of minutes to splash water in their faces and smoke a joint and then they went back out to the street. There was traffic. Josh bent down by the gutter grate at the curb.

“Greg!” he called. “You down there?”

He heard the raspy sounds of chitin on brick.

“Hey,” Greg said.

“You ok? You ready to come out?”

“No, Dude. Truth to tell, it’s heaven down here. The best thing you can do for me is go use the bathroom and flush twice. [I]Vaya con Dios[/I], Dude.”