Mesa Musings: Bugs lead to free night at the beach

My wife, Hedy, is creeped out by bugs.

So creeped out, in fact, that she refuses to read anything by Kafka.

About a dozen years ago we traveled to Hawaii. We'd made numerous trips to the islands with our daughters, but now, as empty nesters, we were planning a romantic getaway.

We wanted to visit Oahu, Maui and Kauai, and, most especially, the remote and enigmatic Molokai. We'd seen Molokai from Maui, rising mysteriously from the sea like Bali Ha'i, but we'd never been there.

I booked a room for two nights at a small resort on the ocean, east of Molokai's main village, Kaunakakai. I secured a ridiculously low rate of $32 a night.

We landed at the island's airport after the short hop from Honolulu, and noticed immediately that sleepy Molokai was unlike the other islands in the chain. Lush and tropical, she was a sparsely populated wonderland.

We checked in at the outdoor "front desk" of our resort. A nice lady walked us to our bungalow. It was in the second row of bungalows behind the beach. Though not exactly on the ocean, we were close.

As we approached the front door, Hedy froze. Next to the porch was a huge black-and-yellow spider on a web dropping from a vine. The spider was the size of a small child's hand.

"That's not real, is it?" she asked suspiciously.

The lady gave her an icy glance.

"No, of course not," I said, trying to defuse the situation. "It's a prop spider, much like the faux, polyfiber web it sits on."

My attempt at humor fell flat.

"I can't stay in this room," she announced.

No problem.

The woman escorted us to another bungalow, this one fronting the ocean, and informed us there'd be no additional charge. I quickly accepted.

After dinner in town, we returned to the room. The resort was dark and eerily silent. The only sound was the gentle lapping of waves on the shore. We quickly fell asleep.

The next evening we sat in bed and read — the room had no television — then turned out the lights. We were flying to Kauai early the next morning.

Just as I was drifting off I heard a flutter. Something had flown just inches above my head. I decided to ignore it. I listened to make certain that Hedy was asleep. She wasn't.

"What was that?" she whispered with apprehension.

"What was what?" I asked, feigning ignorance.

"Something just flew over us. Turn on the light!"

Because the lamp was on the dresser next to Hedy's side of the bed, I had to awkwardly climb over her to turn it on.

As our eyes adjusted, we saw a half-dozen, huge flying cockroaches stretching their wings and crawling on the walls. Hedy screamed, then did something I thought odd. She stood up in the middle of the bed. I climbed out onto the floor.

At that moment a cockroach alighted from the wall and dove for her brow. She dropped to the mattress and buried her head in the covers. By now, I was laughing hysterically, unable to breathe.

Pandemonium ensued. The cockroaches began flying at once, putting Hedy under assault.

"I'm not staying in this room tonight," she squeaked from beneath the blankets.

We gathered ourselves and journeyed to the front desk. It was 11 p.m. and no one was there. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

We elected to sleep in our rental car, and discovered that it was the only car in the parking lot.

I tried to sleep in the backseat of the compact car. Hedy slept in the front. The next morning, with seat cushion waffle patterns imprinted on our faces, we trundled to the front desk.

"I trust you had a restful night," the hostess said.

"We didn't," Hedy responded. "Do you know you have flying cockroaches in your rooms? We slept in our car."

The woman didn't charge us for the second night.

I ended up paying $32 for two nights on the beach at Molokai. Sweet!

Like pillow chocolates, the waffle patterns were an unanticipated bonus.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

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