Mr Bellinger was busy marking essays
reminiscent of the work of typing monkeys,
when his siblings died
in a head on collision with a road train.
Their brakes had been declared perfect,
by a mechanic as suspect
as a property developer’s ecological survey.
Without elaborating, Bellinger described his holiday
as “less fun than a choice between
having his brain vacuumed through his nose
and his liver extracted with a spoon”
Mister Piccolo, the music co-ordinator,
found his colleague more depressing
than a legless Taekwondo addict.
Bellinger’s first morning back
was as dull as dusting a warehouse one speck at a time,
and more tricky than untangling plaited vas deferens.
Being weeks from retirement,
was all that kept him from slashing his wrists.
Bellinger expected the final bell to be as exhilarating
as beating a forest fire to a barren hilltop.
During lunch, he dreamt of a bamboo massage parlour,
in a patch of urban rainforest;
it’s cosy atmosphere awash with Cedar oil.
He’d started marking at four a.m
so there was time to treat himself
to the closest thing to fulfilling his fantasy.
First, Bellinger had to judge a speech contest.
Was the current leader worthy of an award,
as the final speaker strode to the podium.
Guessing Huon Stratton’s topic
was like wondering if the Melbourne Cup
is going to be a horse race this year.
Bogans, nerds and distinguished scholar,
I wanted to explore the evolutionary history of Blatta orientalis,
but Bellsy said that would be less entertaining
than watching gangrene spread,
that I need a topic more lighthearted than infanticide.
If I can’t convince you learning about cockroaches is fun,
I’ll wear a hot pink mankini to the swimming carnival.
The cockroach brain is decentralized
so don’t be surprised if the one you decapitated,
with a razor blade, last week, is still alive.
Do not despair, ultimately it will succumb to thirst .
Due to it’s rectal water re-absorption you might die first.
Roaches can spit but can’t blow bubbles.
Alas they will never know the joys of bubble gum.
Incapable of burping,
or playing the gas bugle
they’d be insectoid gelignite,
before the end of the night,
if it weren’t for teeth below their oesophagus.
Cockroach kidneys writhe like snakes
as they frantically pump toxins from their blood.
Dracula deduced they’re are as good as juiced;
they have no blood vessels.
Roaches probably aren’t religious
but Ramadan would be a stroll through the dinner scraps
for these nuclear holocaust survival candidates.
They’d think nothing of enforced fasting for a month.
If cockroaches were Catholics the Pope would love them;
male roaches present their mates with sperm packages
wrapped in protein coats,
leaving them perpetually pregnant.
Cockroaches Achilles heel is poor eyesight in red light,
so they’re easy to kill in strip clubs.
Elsewhere they’re hard targets
for the swiftest of clown shoes.
Motion detecting hairs on their posterior
make the average stalker feel so inferior;
ordinary hunters are bound to despise
the two thousand lenses in their eyes.
It’s hard to envelope these insect Houdini’s
when they can slip through cracks as thin as an envelope.
Some species are harder to detect than stealth bombers;
small enough to hide in ant nests.
These ninjas of the insect world
are engineering marvels
but forensic experts would gladly break
all eighteen of their knees,
because roaches like to
track the arterial flow of murder victims across ceilings.
Many are globetrotting fugitives,
thumbing their nose at extradition treaties.
They’re stowed on ships and planes
before disgruntled crime scene technicians
and outraged cooks know they’ve fled.
In the seventeenth century the Danish Navy
dealt cockroaches self-esteem a stinging blow
by offering a bounty of a single bottle of brandy
per thousand carcasses.
William Bligh, captain of the Bounty,
once de-roached his entire ship with boiling water,
For the sports nuts among you,
cockroaches scale speed is on par with top fuel dragsters,
those finely tapered vehicles with parachutes for brakes.
Fortunately their reflexes would embarrass
formula one driver Michael Schumacher,
at the pinnacle of his prowess,
otherwise they’d be crashing into the fridge a lot.
The machinery driving these fiendish super athletes
has animatronic wizards salivating.
Insect dance troupes beckon.
These athletic marvels can spin fast enough
to make a ballerina’s brain explode
from the centrifugal force.
Roaches can hold their breathe
from kick off to half time in the football
so white water rafting murder plots
are dead in the water before they’re concocted.
Is mixed martial arts your favourite sport?
Male Madagascan hissing roaches
possess horns for ramming rivals
from their alpha male mantles.
Sadly their trash talking is indecipherable.
During the Middle Ages
it was customary to release cockroaches
into new dwellings.
Today, outside of sporting circles,
roaches aren’t so widely revered.
In a Plano, Texas, Cockroach Hall of Fame,
Liberoachi was the star attraction.
He sat at a miniature grand piano,
his white mink cape
as flamboyant as his dazzling claw strokes.
Mr Bellinger cleared his throat.
“If the winner is like a blue ribbon bonsai,
older than the Sphinx.
The also rans are toxic weeds
that germinated yesterday.
Sir, the art of pun sai, the forerunner of bonsai,
originated in the eighth century China.
The Sphinx dates back to 2494 BC.
Poets licence Huon, poets licence.
They must be easier to get than drivers licenses.
Sir, did you know the Egyptian desert roach,
Polyphaga aegyptiaca, can absorb water vapour?
Mister Stratton, did you know first prizes
can be arbitrarily revoked?
Bellinger was smiling, like a kid in a toy store.
For the first time since the Carter administration,
he considered working until nursing home heavies,
dragged him from his desk.