Kathryn Lee Willgus — Insecta Dermaptera

The earwig. A common household pest. Similar to the slug: very fun to kill. Spray it with Raid or your favorite toxic household product and watch as its pincer-studded ass curls up around its exoskeletal back, as if reaching up to cut off its own head, trying to end its suffering. Its leg gallop through the puddle of stuff you created around it until the agony subsides and death comes.


I use Lysol. I spray the bug until it swims, aiming comfortably from the toilet. I flush and watch as it flips on its side and its legs curl like a pinwheel around its body.


The next day, my mom says nothing about the dead bug splayed on the bathroom floor. She doesn’t say anything about a dead bug because it isn’t dead yet and if it isn’t dead yet she is not touching it. Instead she touches my hair, calling it “limp” and “lifeless,” telling me I need a shower.


It is flipped on its back now, the pincers looking unusually large compared to the rest of the body. It is bloated, cracking but still moving. Lysol has bleach in it, right? I think to myself. I spray it again, bending over the air vent. I cough and sputter in the cloud of disinfectant. It arches its back as if in pain, and I feel a pang of satisfaction.


By the afternoon my mom notices that I haven’t left my room all day but she doesn’t notice the earwig. The Lysol has not put a rest to its squirming. In fact, it is back on its feet and it is growing. It tries to escape through the vent but it is mostly closed and the insect is too fat to maneuver the same places it once did. I get angry and aggressively cover the floor and the vent with Lysol. The fumes are wretched.


On the third day I find an earwig on the floor the size of a newborn kitten. My mom mentions how poorly my diet is working but doesn’t mention the deadly looking ant with ass-jaws wriggling across our bathroom. I coax it into the bathtub where I splash acetone haphazardly in its direction. I open a new can of Lysol.


In the morning my mom tells me the bags under my eyes look like I need some sleep but she won’t acknowledge the elephant in the room or the earwig in the bathroom. It thrashes around in the bathtub, filling it up, ripping down the shower curtain. I close the bathroom door and break toothpicks in the handle until it doesn’t turn anymore.


My mom doesn’t say anything when the monstrous insect breaks down the door. Where the bumbling head goes, the pincers dutifully follow, swaying back and forth through our dining room, crashing through our marble table top and my grandmother’s china cabinet. The ass-jaws close around my body and at this point I wish I could pretend I didn’t see it, too.



Kathryn Lee Willgus is an a recent New Orleans transplant  from Charlottesville, Virginia. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Russian and a Creative Writing Certificate in fiction from Sewanee: The University of the South in May 2016 and spent the 2016-2017 school year teaching English in Russia on a Fulbright U.S. Student Award. Kathryn’s work appears or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, Coldnoon, Nailed and others.