Matheson Hammock. Scene of the trauma.

Matheson Hammock. Scene of the trauma.

Some of my worst childhood memories have to do with cockroaches.

Which really sucks for me because I live in South Florida, home of the gigantic flying cockroach Palmetto bug.

(Did you know that when you crunch a Palmetto bug, it emits an almondy smell like Vidal Sassoon shampoo?)

But this particular scarred-for-life memory stands out from all of the rest.

Picture a blissful mid-1970’s day at Matheson Hammock park, a little local swimming hole off of Biscayne Bay. I used to ride my bike there, back in the days that parents let their kids ride a few miles away, alone, to go swim in a big body of water.

Matheson had an awesome snack bar. With the best Slurpees, even though they weren’t from 7-Eleven. I was there one day with my childhood friend K. Of course we were hot. It was Miami. And we needed something to quench our thirsts.

So we moseyed on up to the snack bar and ordered a couple of Slurpees. I swear, I can remember that mine was blue. And there we sat. Me and K drinking our Slurpees. Cold, icy, sweet. Sipped through a straw. Dripping down our throats. Heavenly.

You know that sound a straw makes when you get to the bottom of your drink? That slurpy sound. (Those 7-Eleven people weren’t stupid when they named that drink. Actually quite genius.)

Well, mine wasn’t making that sound. In fact, my straw felt like it was pushing down on something hard. Too hard to have been the bottom of the waxed paper cup.

So I looked. I shouldn’t have.

I look at a lot of things I shouldn’t look at. Like my county’s Police Blotter, where oddly enough I frequently see people that I know. Or county court records that document how much that snotty couple, a few neighborhoods over, paid for their house. And how much they refinanced it for during the housing boom. And what it went for when they had to short sell it.

Yes, I looked. And down at the bottom of the cup, where it had been the whole time I was sucking down my blue Slurpee, was a Palmetto bug. Not just any Palmetto bug. A frozen one. With it’s antennae hanging limply in the Slurpee residue.

I dropped the cup and screamed. Or it may have been the other way around. K was just happy it wasn’t hers.

And I haven’t been the same since. Not even my own parents’ divorce, at the age of 16, was as traumatic.

Divorce didn’t deprive me of the ability to enjoy frozen drinks. Because you never know what’s on the bottom. Drinks like Pina Coladas and Rum Runners. Or frozen Margaritas, though I do enjoy a good one on the rocks.

Divorce doesn’t send me cowering in to a corner screaming out, “Mommy. Mommy. Come quick. You have to kill the roach.” Even though I’m 46 years-old and my mother lives 75 miles away.

No, I blame all of my issues, of which there are many, on Eurycotis floridana.

Thank goodness it wasn’t a penis down at the bottom of that cup.

Even just looking at this makes me lose my appetite.

Even just looking at this makes me lose my appetite.

Matheson Hammock image via Vitamin Sea