The Roach Master
Not long ago at all, there was a man who had been put into a grim
and most horrendous prison for holding views quite contrary to what
men in that land were supposed to be holding
Because of his views and because he would not change them, nor stop
talking about them, and even other prisoners might be listening and
might start to think the wrong things in return, he was kept in a very
small cell all by himself, deep, deep in the dungeon cellars, deep
below the main prison towering up above.
Here, the sun never shone and there were few sounds; those that were,
were far away and deeply distorted.
Here, the man and his views were all alone, and it was a hard time, a
very hard time, which grew harder still with each hungry, cold and
painful day or night that passed.
It was here that the man began to make friends with the only other
living creatures he could find.
Those were the cockroaches who lived in the cellar too; and he would
keep a part of his meagre portions of stale slop which wasn't really
food at all to feed and train the cockroaches for company and for
As the years passed by outside in bright spring rains, hot blue gold
summers, glorious fire burst autumns and solemn pure white winters,
for the man inside, the cockroaches became his world and all there
was, and to the others in the prison, even though he never knew or
heard of this, he became known as the Roach Master.
But then, so many years beyond the time before which now was all but
forgotten, there was a change of rulers in that country and the views
the man once held were now no longer deemed to be so dangerous or
wicked. Like many others, the man was to be set free; and a special
liberator was despatched to fetch him from his dungeon cell and help
with his transition into the worlds of here and now.
At first the man did not know what to do or how to speak beyond a
mumbling and a clicking, that was his special language he had used to
talk to all his roaches all these years, but with some patience, first
the liberator got him used to being in the presence of an other, and
then to now remember how to speak and talk and understand.
The liberator then encouraged what had been the Roach Master for so
long to leave his cell, to step out to the bright and clear beyond the
walls, but here, the man held fast and cried, "How can you ask me such
a thing! How can I leave my friends behind, my dearest roaches, every
one is named and everyone my deeply cherished child, the brothers of
my solitude - I must take them with me, you must find a means of
transportation, and if this can't be done, then I'm afraid, I cannot
go with you."
The liberator was astonished yet they understood and in return
replied, "Dear man, please know and do remember that these roaches are
but roaches - they seek to feed, they seek to mate and that is all.
Once you are gone, they will continue on their way and do as roaches
do, with ne'er a thought of you at all - that love and gratitude you
hold them is inside yourself, and nowhere else, and you should never
let a love become an obstacle to freedom, and unfoldments of the new."
The Roach Master listened, and thought, and cried a little, but he saw
the sense and let the roaches go; no sooner had he opened the small
cage he had fashioned and expanded with such care across the lonely,
bitter years, than all the roaches scuttled off, one by one, until
they were all gone and only little scratchings could be heard; they
too did fade most soon enough.
The man who was no longer now the Roach Master, but instead was on his
way to find a name and new distinction for himself, sighed deeply,
shook his head and slowly followed out behind the liberator who was
there to steady him against the shock of sunlight, and of bracing wind
The liberator took the man in his carriage to the central city, where
reparations would be made and bed and food and clothes awaited; but on
the journey there, they came across a meadow, beautiful in summer
flowers and so green and gold, it made the man's heart glad and he
wanted to be there, lie down awhile, and let this beauty aid in his
transition and his journey to the life ahead.
They stopped and the liberator was much moved to see the reverence the
man displayed and the attention that he gave to grass and weed, to
tiny flowers and the earth itself, the way he looked at clouds and
skies and to the treelines, and behind him, blue, blue mountains in
the distance far away.
They saw another thing, and it was this which made them smile.
A bird, a dove perhaps, came and it took to land quite close, beside
the man, who in response, stretched out an arm in invitation. The dove
was acquiescent and it came, short flurry of white wings, and settled
on his hand.
The man looked at the dove for just a moment, maybe two, and then he
raised his arm and made the dove fly free, and high above.
© SFX 2004