When One Cicada Stopped Singing (Imitating Ernest H.)

One rainy afternoon in Lisbon there were male cicadas in the weeds.  Within seven minutes it got loud and the thunderclouds went in, and the long humans with wide feet in protective shells on the bottom opened single wings over their heads and abandoned the street.  Two stayed near and made mud-women like snowmen with their top feet unprotected and pink.  She and Buz could see them above on the ditch lip.  Buz sat on a rock.  He was stiff and green in the cold ditch.

Buz sang with dual tymbals in his abdomen for one reason.  She was happy to let him.  When he performed for her he elevated her with the cicada rhythm; and they had songs, amazing-fine songs.  She succumbed, quivering lightly upon a cattail so she would not click-clicky about things during the noisy, mating moment.  Before she learned to cling to cattails she used to make a racket and Buz would have to get back on the rock.  There were many other cicadas, and they all knew about it.  Not one envied Buz. 

Before she left for the ponds they hid under a Ford and played.  It was slick and oily, and there were other cicadas click-clicking.  They wanted to stay monogamous, but their genes might not allow – both had other instincts.  They saw through monogamy, for they witnessed human failures, and because of this they tried it.

Buz drummed her many songs that she never got until after her season.  Ninety came on the wind to the ponds and she picked through the clicks and sat quiet straight through.  They were all about the ditch, and how little he missed her and how it was lovely to sing along without her and how beautifully all the males click-clicked in the night.

Before her season they fought about her move to the River to lay eggs.  Buz would not join her until she had laid several thousand down the cattail stems and could come to the aqueduct to meet him.  It was understood she would not eat the eggs, and she would not give them to any frogs or fish in the River.  Only to lay the future larvae and be monogamous.  In the air between Lisbon and Mill Pond they agreed about him not becoming monogamous at once.  Not until when they rubbed hello, in the wild iris at Mill Pond, would he sing only her song.  This they swore in agreement.  She felt pink with envy about his singing to others like that.

She came to the River upon a leaf via the Aqueduct.  Buz went back to sit in a ditch on the outskirts of Lisbon.  It was raucous and noisy there, and a swarm of homopteran insects whirred near the water.  Loitering on the dry bank in the sun, the females of the swarm asked Buz not to sing, and he had never known mute mating before, and finally sent a relayed song to the River that theirs had been only an incomplete metamorphosing relationship.  He was glad, and he knew she would be too, and would soon thank him, and be envious of him, and he believed, without question, he would never want to sing again or be monogamous in his life.  He would mate her as before, but he knew now theirs was only a fragmentary union.  He wished her success with the thousands of eggs, but had doubts about her leaving them to drop and burrow.  He sang his one last note.

These females did not have seasons, and mated him in the winter, and all other times.  Buz heard a song, relayed from the River about her.  A short song about the long line of larvae she ate before they could burrow while celebrating his silence, which bloated her thorax until she exploded while clinging to milkweed beside the sewer.

[word count 653] [from the old files, May 1998, imitating Ernest H. style]

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3 Comments

  1. My God, Lynn! This is a powerful story. In fact, it made me cry. It’s MY story and now my daughter’s story, too. It has all the elements of a folk story, meaning that it will last a long time. There is a beautiful flow to the words; it’s very poetic. Everyone who reads it can relate to it. Ernie is probably toasting you with a shot of whiskey.

    Reply

  2. I’m embarrsed to say that I haven’t read Hemingway. I found myself grinning as I floated through this. The problem was that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and stepped right in front of the bus with your ending.

    Lynn, this is charming and I can easily hear the click- clicky sound. Now I’ll know what my Michael is thinking when he makes it…

    She felt pink with envy is adorable and the tragic ending was not expected. Clever work.

    Sherry

    Reply

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