This morning, I woke up to the sound of crickets in the backyard. It had rained the night before, and dawn hadn’t yet really announced itself, so the birds stayed silent. Drivers, too, slept in, and so it was the crickets and me, awake in the semidarkness.
I love the sound of crickets and have often wondered why we use the term “Crickets” to mean that an idea has missed the mark so much that it’s greeted with silence. Crickets are loud. They wake you up with their horny little song.
Listening to the crickets flashed me back to seventh grade, out in the same yard with a peanut butter jar. Inside I’d added two cotton balls soaked in my mother’s nail polish remover. I was doing Science. Our teacher had tasked us with capturing a cricket, among other common insects, sticking it in the fume-filled jar, and killing it. I was then to stick a pin through the corpse and stick it to a board, labeled with the bug’s Scientific Description.
I captured the poor creature easily—I’d caught a lot of bugs in my day, though I’d never suffocated one before. My cousin Billy liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass and the sun, but I wasn’t too into murder. Just curious. Anyhow, I caught the cricket and put it in the jar. I watched it panic, and then slowly acquiesce to its fate.
I got an A on that project, and it saved my science grade. Even at the Baptist school I went to that year, where we learned that dinosaurs did not exist, and that the earth was no more than 4,000 years old (we could do all the generations back to Adam, you see), science still involved some math. Math was not my strong suit, so killing bugs saved my year.
When I hear crickets, I still think of that one cricket, corpse turned to dust, a tiny piece still pinned to a foam board that will never decay, faded middle-school writing identifying the remains: Animalia, Anthropodo, Insecta, Orthoptera, Ensifera, Gryllus spp. Field Cricket.
I’m sorry little cricket. You deserved a mate, not the killing jar.
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