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The Death of Crickets

By September 20, 2013 One Comment

Here, as elsewhere in nature, it’s really all about sex.  Their raspy lascivious retching, I’m told, comes in four different songs, slightly different takes on the same passionate murmurings.  Proper authorities call their crooning stridulation, a word so infrequently used my spell check won’t admit to knowing it.  

Only males do it, of course, like fantasy football. If it’s all about sex–I suppose that goes without saying.  But then, who knows these days?–maybe female crickets have their own insect-y Fifty Shades.

The men sing four different melodies. The first has a dual purpose, experts say–it both attracts females (there’s no accounting for taste) and repels other horny males.  Should the cricket in your garage do a kind of Frank Sinatra-song, cool and sweet, he’s whispering sweet nothings and employing the second song, a softer tune, in a male cricket’s repertoire. If you’re a Calvinist, clear the area lest you see something unseemly. 

You’ll not be surprised by the third piece–it’s most overwhelming and emitted when some other sexually aroused male stumbles into lover’s lane. It’s a grunted growl, I guess, something akin to two lineman coming off the snap. 

 The final tune is post-coital–you know, a sort of “at ease” thing, something enriched by afterglow. Those in the know call it “copulatory,” yet another word the spell check won’t admit to knowing. even though we all understand.

Like I say, it’s all about sex.

And now to my wife. We’ve been married for 41 years.  We were reared with the same catechism, the same Sabbath rituals, the same potatoes and pea soup, which is to say our traditional cuisine was similarly Dutch bland: our mothers both cooked cabbage and prepared quaint little sausage balls wrapped in tiny quilts of dough.  

We went to the same college, where we took some of the same classes, and when we married we joined a church forthwith and had no trouble determining which because we are, individually and collectively, immensely tribal.  Still, we have our differences.

My beloved wife believes true sleep cannot be achieved unless one cannot see one’s hand before one’s face. She’s a country girl, and there were no mercury vapor lights on her barn–and certainly no halogen.  Thus, by night, the only truly acceptable light is lunar. She believes in the dark, and, no, I’m not going where you might be thinking because the human chapters of this story are not about sex, although being male myself, like those crooning crickets, I wouldn’t exactly mind if it was. You know.

Me? I can sleep with a light on.  I was, after all, born in town, where someone considered long ago that “let there be light” didn’t have to be the sole utterance of the Creator of heaven and earth.  I don’t choose to sleep with a light on–I’m not a child, I’m a man; but I can quite readily sleep with at least some lights on, if need be.

Not so, my wife.

However, crickets keep me awake.  Not the ones outside–and they are legion out here in the country, but the ones that take up residence in our kitchen, say, which, in this house, is barely a step away from the bedroom.  One really horny guy sneaked in a few nights ago and burst into some oversexed song. The kitchen has a tile floor, the chirping was amplified, and somewhere around 4:00 drove me nuts.

Like mice or bats, crickets simply get in–I don’t know how.  A week ago, while packing books in the upstairs attic, I lifted off a cover and found one.  How on earth it managed to get upstairs, into the back room, and then into a covered box was beyond me. She must have been female. I didn’t look. But after listening to her lovesick mates croaking, I don’t blame her for going into hiding.

Anyway, even a sex-mad jackass can be nigh unto impossible to find. I got up and searched–I swear it.  I thought I had him isolated in the southeast corner of the kitchen, but for the life of me when I’d get anywhere close, he’d cool his blasted jets and shut the heck up.  Be darned if I could find him.

I went back to bed, couldn’t sleep, and then he started crooning again. I tried once more to find him. No luck. I gave up and headed into the office to write something–not this.  

Now my country wife, who can’t sleep with a light on, slept through all of that, totally unperturbed. The very walls were shaking with that beast’s concupiscent crooning, and she didn’t even turn over. I swear. 

Here’s my theory:  country girls grow up with crickets, just as they grow up with darkness.  It’s a matter of culture.

Anyway, truth be told, the next night, when we were in the family room watching the news, this hot-to-trot cricket played whatever bodily organ he strums to produce that throaty bleat once again.  Together, on tiptoes, town boy and country girl went hunting.

And she found him where I couldn’t.  Forthwith, he stopped his song.  Perhaps the passive voice is best employed here:  forthwith his song was stopped.  My wife whacked him with the fly swatter and, in one fell swoop, cleansed–morally too–our abode. No more love songs.


This morning, it’s just after five, and the patio door is open to my left.  There’s no end to the crooning out there. I don’t want to think about how much sex is going on just outside my door.  

And me?–I’m just happy and sleepy and, if I were to sing, the melody would be something more in the genre of post-coital. 

No, don’t go there.  

What I’m saying is, the crickets are all safely outside doing their dalliances, our kitchen is secure in its silence, and I’m happy to be married to a country girl, even if it means that in the abject darkness she demands, this old man stubs his toes too blasted often on trips to the loo.  

This has gone on way too long, but it’s just another way of saying that this morning I’m thankful for that killer wife of mine, who in the plain style of a wonderful country girl, dispatched yet another amorous cricket. 

James C. Schaap

James Calvin Schaap is a retired English prof who has been something of a writer for most of the last 40 years. His latest work, a novel, Looking for Dawn, set in reservation country, is the story of two young women joined by their parents' mutual brokenness and, finally, a machine-shed sacrament of reconciliation. He writes and narrates a weekly essay on regional history for KWIT, public radio, Sioux City, Iowa. He and his wife Barbara live on the northern edge of Alton, Iowa, the Sgt. Floyd River a hundred yards or so from their back door. They have a cat--rather, he has them.

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