Staring at the roach, its little legs squirming between the Diablo’s thick, dirty thumb and forefinger, the Bug Man’s eyes widen. The thin, hairy roach legs wave aimlessly and reach out for his face, as the exterminator’s good eye quivers, shaking with a paralyzing mixture of fear and anger. The ice cream cone drops from the bug mans hand as his arms go slack, and it falls, turning over and over, slowly until the thick white ball smashes into the floor, dispersing like an asteroid. Looking down, the bug man examines the wreckage of his tasty, frozen treat. He licks his thick lips once and frowns. Still staring at it, he speaks slowly, the tension mounting in his voice, “You made me drop my. Ice. Cream. Cone”

One of the gang members looks to the Diablo nervously, and then to the ice cream on the floor, and then to the bug man, still staring down. He begins to back away, nervous perspiration breaking out on his forehead and upper lip. Manwell follows.

The bug man’s right hand comes up to hover near the gleaming canister of bug spray hung from his belt just so. He looks up, past the roach, into the Diablo’s eyes, and for a moment the two stare deep into one another’s souls, as behind them, a giant plastic ice cream cone revolves. The mariachi bands song raises to a fortissimo, one guitar string sounding out, plucked again and again, continuously in staccato.

In one fluid motion, like a well-oiled vending machine, the bug man tears the canister from his belt up to the Diablo’s face, spray releasing, hitting the Diablo eyes in a wash. Too quickly though, the roach is flung, and it soars through the air in a treacherous arc, sticky legs searching in all directions, until it collides with the bug man’s round nose. The duelists fall back, the bug man stumbling, flailing, grabbing for some handhold to steady himself, knocking into Travis, spilling the coffee and crashing into the counter. He slides to the floor. The puddle of coffee spreads out across the dirty tile, soaking into the Mack’s lavender, polyester slacks.

Travis, stunned, looks to see the Diablo’s body sprawled across one of the brightly painted red and yellow tables. The other gang members run away and Travis, looks to the bug man. Squatting down next to his now still, round frame, Travis leans in. Coughing the bug man speaks only in a whisper, “We sure had good times, didn’t we?”

“Now you hang in there. We’re not through yet.”

“No, Chief.” M coughs. “A man don’t recover from that.”

“Damn it. You hang in there—you hear me?”

Removing the roach from his glasses, the bug man contemplates it for a moment before closing his eyes. The puddle of coffee spreads out, thinning. “They won’t have roaches in heaven, will they, Chief?” He lets the squiggling creature drop to the floor.

“No. No they won’t, amigo.” Removing the lavender hat, Travis pushes back the wet sweaty combover. “You just rest now.”

Opening his eyes one last time, blinking quickly, the bug man looks at the hat in Travis’s hand. “You take good care of that for me,” he says. He grabs Travis’s shirt and whispers, “I hate them,” and his body convulses one last time before it is finally still.

A lone guitar melody drifts through the tinny intercom speakers, as Travis stands and look around. He walks behind the counter and makes himself an ice cream cone. Stopping by the exit, he surveys the damage. Then he walks out the door, lavender cap in hand, into the brilliant sunlight. It warms his skin comfortingly as he steps out of the air conditioned restaurant. Before him, the road leads off to the horizon, and he begins to walk, thinking to himself, I never wanted to be an exterminator. But he can’t help feeling that it was always inevitable.