Writing & Photo Contest 2016 Winner — Non-fiction


Crawly Things

I still remember those tiny crawly things in our New York apartment. My parents called them cockroaches, and my grandparents would stick their noses up in disgust whenever they saw them.

I wondered where they came from, where they scurried to when the lights came on, and if they slept with me in my bed. I didn’t like that thought.

The crawly things both excited and scared me.

They vacationed behind sofas and in between freshly washed dishes. They would waterfall down the curtains, hid in every hole in the wall, and came out in waves under beds and stovetops. They watched TV with us, ate our food, and played with my toys when I wasn’t around.

They didn’t live with us—we lived with them.

One day, as I played on the white-tiled floor of our kitchen, I saw a jet-black cockroach bravely run across the room, right over my hand. Their tiny feet scampered onto my palm and its antennas felt the air. The cockroach appeared as big as my small hand.

My eyes widened.

Then it ran off to its family, and probably hid in the corner of the wall with the yellow wallpaper that peeled off a little more each day.

I jumped up and held my hand like it had been injured.

“Is everything all right?” my mother said.

I nodded my head and ran to the living room in the comfort of my loud TV that would scare away the tiny crawly things.

At night, I turned into a sneaky cockroach myself.

From my bed, murky shadows slithered across the wall. Every small, pitch-black object reminded me of cockroaches.

Frightened, I crawled out of bed, crouched low, and quietly ran from my parents’ room to my grandparents’. I blended into the inky darkness and wouldn’t stop until I reached their bed.

My grandparents waited for me each night. My grandmother would think of a new twist to the same story she told me over and over again.

I eagerly climbed onto their bed and over them like they were two big, soft mountains and I was an explorer in search of a new adventure.

I always sat in the windowsill beside their bed, looked down at the busy city life, and watched people that looked like ants walking to their anthill.

My grandmother captured me with a web of stories and fantasies of talking animals and little fairies that would eventually lull me to sleep.

“It’s time for you to go back to bed now, little doll,” said my grandfather, when he saw my droopy lids in the light of the streetlamp.

“No,” I said.

“Oh dear,” my grandmother said, as she called to my mom to get me.

As my mom carried me back across the living room to our bedroom, I sensed the cockroaches watch us as they reclined on the couches in the silence and safety of the night.

Judges’ Comment

The metaphor of the narrator turning into a cockroach is fresh, coupled with a great emphasis on detail throughout the story.

This was an entry in the 2015/16 Writing & Photo Contest.