the roaches

the great editor and his wife were testing me,
they didn’t want to publish anything but the
real thing and they wanted to find out if I
was the real thing and so there I was down in
New Orleans living in a room around the corner
and I came over for dinner each night and
afterwards we drank, although I did most of
the drinking.

we ate at this table and there was a light
in the wall and a wire led down from the light
and it ran right past the edge of the table
and when the light was turned on and we sat
down to eat then two lines of roaches would
appear, one line going up the wire and the other
down and sometimes they bumped and one or two
roaches would fall to the table but they just
leaped up onto the wire again.

I noticed this the first night I ate there
but I didn’t say anything because I knew
that they knew I had lived in many cheap rooms
full of roaches and I was supposed to be used
to them but actually it made me a bit sick to
look at them and I always killed them right off
but down there in New Orleans I didn’t say or
do anything, I pretended that the roaches were
fine, just there,   and so what, and all that.
I wanted them to print my book, they did fine

they never said anything about the roaches
either except finally after about a week
the editor said to me, “have you noticed the
“the roaches,” I answered, “oh, yeah, yeah,
the roaches.”
“you know,” the editor said, “this other writer
came by one time to eat dinner here and
he saw the roaches and said, ‘why in the hell
don’t you get rid of these damned things?'”
“he did?” I asked.
“yeah, he did,” said the editor’s wife.
the editor smiled, “I told my wife that you
would never say anything about the roaches.”
“yeah, he did,” said the editor’s wife.

I let out a small belch, “forget about the
roaches, you got anything to drink around

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript