the cricket (a Broken World story)
The truth is that during the summer the window are closed because the air conditioner is always on, so it’s only in the fall that Otto gets to drift off to sleep to the sound of crickets. A pastime he enjoys immensely.
Beginning in mid-September he will have the windows fully open and he will turn off anything in the house that makes even the slightest noise so he can immerse himself in the relentless come-ons of the male cricket.
Then, starting around mid-October, things start to get a little chilly, which on one hand just makes falling asleep with the windows wide open that much better. Nothing like a little nip in the air to make one snuggle down just a little deeper into the blankets.
On the other hand, the number of chirping crickets starts to decrease. Not only that, but their stridulation (the act of producing sound by rubbing body parts together) begins to slow down. By late-October the cacophony has been replaced by only a few stranglers. Otto wonders how much of the chirping is trying to find a mate and how much is just trying to keep warm. How many female crickets are even in the market for copulation with winter just around the corner?
Then one day in very-late-October Otto decides to get off the bench and insert himself into the game. When corduroy pajama bottoms won’t do the trick, he buys a secondhand violin and removes the fingerboard, peg box and strings and duct tapes them to his inner thigh. On his other thigh, with the assistance of the aforementioned duct tape, he affixes a bow.
Then he lies in bed and chirps to the best of his ability.
I implore you to picture this before moving on.
For the next few nights he sits in bed rubbing his legs together, doing his best to keep warm and perhaps attract a mate. The latter part being something that Otto has been exceptionally bad at up until these very-late-October evenings. It’s not that he’s particularly unattractive; it’s just that he’s the kind of guy who would buy a violin so that he could tape various parts of it to his thighs in order to chirp. You can see how this act would not get much play outside of the cricket community.
Especially if you took the time, as advised, to imagine how he looked sitting in bed rubbing his legs together.
And then one very-very-late-October evening there were no crickets chirping whatsoever. The last of them had decided to call it a day and expire. This caused Otto no small amount of heartache. It did not, however, cause his stridulations to cease. In fact, in his grief he was chirping much louder and longer than he’d ever chirped before.
And that’s when his doorbell rang. One of his neighbors had complained to the local authorities and outside his front door stood an officer of the law.
A female officer of the law.
He opened the door, the violin parts and bow still taped to his thighs, and inquired as to the reason for her visit. She looked at his thighs as if putting the last piece in a very odd puzzle, only to find it didn’t fit.
He broke the awkward silence. “The crickets stopped chirping tonight. Not even one of them” he said. He looked forlorn.
“And so you were…” She could not finish the sentence herself. It was the kind of sentence that invited further explanation, but Otto just looked too sad for her to continue her enquiry.
“Can I ask you to stop?” she asked politely.
“Got it. It’s just that I feel less lonely when I know other things are out there calling out for companionship.” He paused and then added “Going to be a long winter.”
The officer smiled and nodded.
Otto, his thighs rattling together quietly, turned and closed the door.
Upstairs he closed the windows, removed the violin parts and bow and got into bed. Sleep was hard to come by and an hour later Otto, wide awake and climbing out of bed to make himself a cup of warm milk, heard his phone chirp, alerting him to the fact that he had a text.
The text read “Hi. It’s the police officer from earlier tonight. Still up?” followed by a winking face emoticon.
It was his turn to smile.
So it came to pass that Otto, on a very-very-late-October evening, with no stridulation or hesitation, chirped back.