The Intruder

As one writer details, there are some Southern staples that are okay to hate.

Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins

There was an intruder in my bathroom this morning. 

He was ugly and dark. He slipped up on me silently with evil in his beady little eyes. He made me go cold and hot all at once. He made my heart jump into my throat.

He was between me and the door. I was unarmed … not even a shoe, not even a book to heave at this fiendish prowler. He was advancing on me, backing me into a corner. I had no choice but to grab a can of hairspray, aim for the eyes, a leap like Baryshnikov over his writhing carcass and through the open door.

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I was transformed into a little girl, running screaming down the hall.

Only this time I wasn’t hollering, “Daddy, come kill it,” but “Husband, come kill it.”

Which he did. Swiftly and violently. My hero.

Sweet Jesus, I hate a roach!

Why, I wonder, does this vile creature have such an effect on me? Why does it make my heart race? Why does my stomach churn at the mere mention of the R-word?

It doesn’t bite. It doesn’t sting. It poses no real threat. It is small and easily disposed of. One stomp reduces it to a greasy spot. The rational, educated Audrey knows all these things to be true.

But the palpitating, shaking Audrey remembers that they fly. Sort of. A roach will launch himself into something resembling flight like a haphazard, rudderless bomber. You don’t know where he will go. He doesn’t know where he will go. But wherever it is, he will inevitably land somewhere on my person, hairy legs and pointy feet clinging on for dear life as I swat and flail.

The terrified, wild-eyed Audrey remembers that roaches spread disease, and bacteria, and germs, and pestilence, not to mention ill will, fear, and intolerance. They are dirty and nasty. They look shiny and greasy. They might get something on me. Something sick and diseased. Something rare and catching. Will there be a cure? Will it be painful? Will it wash off?

And the hyperventilating, throat-closing Audrey knows there is no escaping them. No matter how clean you are, no matter how many little black motels you put out, no matter how often the nice bug lady sprays deadly poison in your home, if you live in the South, you will have roaches. It’s a fact. Just like humidity. No escape.

For 40-odd years, I’ve tried to quell my unreasonable and visceral reactions to these horrible bugs. I’ve tried to resist the urge to blow holes in the floor with my .38. I’ve tried to breathe deeply and think that they are harmless little things just a mutant watermelon seed … with legs … and wings … and the capability of spreading infectious disease far and wide. Nothing to worry about. Really. Pashaw.

But every time one creeps up on me, all that rationale flies right out the window with me not far behind.

Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog

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