Karl the Curmudgeon Hates Crickets

"Did you hear that?" asked Karl, leaning forward in his deck chair, eyes wide, searching.

Hear what? I asked.

"Listen," he hissed. "Crickets!"

Oh, I thought that was the laugh track to your jokes tonight, I said. Karl told me to what I could do with myself.

It's just crickets, man. What's the big deal?

"It's not just crickets, Kid. It's that cricket. Right there." He jabbed a finger at his yard. We were sitting on the back porch at his house. He had grilled a couple of steaks to celebrate the launch of his latest mystery novel, "Naked Came The Jaybird," and now we were sitting in the dark, drinking beer, and listening to the night noises.

Which Karl hated.

"It's just that one cricket, "he said, looking around as if the offending insect was about to stand up and identify himself. "He's been chirping like that for the last four nights. I can't find him, can't get him to stop." Karl rubbed hard at his face.

"That damn thing is going to drive me crazy, Kid."

Have you tried stomping on him?

"Two nights ago, my neighbor nearly called the police because he saw me out here in my robe, marching up and down that part of my yard, trying to stomp the damn thing. He was worried I'd gone off my meds."

I've worried about that for years. What about spraying insecticide?

"No can do, Kid. She won't let me." Karl jerked his thumb at the house. "She" was his youngest daughter, Alexis, the family's organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist who was currently living at home because her Gender Studies degree from her small liberal arts college was proving to be less attractive to employers than she had previously thought.

What about spraying it with water?

"Tried it. I'm also not supposed to leave the water on all night either, apparently. I haven't slept well for the last three nights."

Surely Alexis must be suffering too.

"Of course not. She said it reminds her of fall evenings at college. She's even taken to sleeping with the window open so she can 'feel closer to Gaia.'" He made air quotes with his fingers.

A second cricket joined in, thinking it must be a party.

"Shut up you f---ing crickets!" Karl shouted and threw a few empty beer bottles toward the noise. We heard from inside, "Typical male behavior. Using violence and befouling the earth to beat nature into submission."

Ah, I see Her Nibs is home tonight, I said to Karl. I had been on the receiving end of more than one of Miss Alexis' rants before. They were about as shrill and incessant as the crickets, except the crickets stopped at sunrise.

"Yes, she is," Alexis called from the kitchen window. "And she can hear you."

Karl and I grimaced at each other. Hey, Lex, I said. Night off from the coffee shop?

I heard her mutter something about her father's disreputable drunken friends as she stomped off. I was counting that as a win.

Hey, I'm not drunk, I called after her.

"Kid, I don't know how much longer I can take this. That incessant noise just won't let up. It's like an ice pick in my skull."

It's not that bad, I said. She'll find a real job soon, and get a place of her own—

"Not that, the crickets." He paused. "But yeah, that's pretty bad too."

He drained the last of his beer, and cocked back to throw. "Dear Lord, please guide my hand so that I may end my torment."

So you're asking God to help you kill one of God's creatures?

"He'll understand."

I thought you were agnostic.

"Kid, I'm desperate. I haven't slept well in 72 hours."

I guess there are no atheists on porches, I said. Karl threw his bottle and it bounced off the side of the house. The chirping stopped. "Touchdown!" he shouted, throwing his arms up.

"What happened to my crickets?" Alexis shouted from her upstairs window. "I can't sleep without my crickets."

"Sorry, honey. It was God's will."

"You're agnostic."

"There are no atheists on porches," he answered, stealing my joke.

The crickets started back up again.

See? I said you weren't that funny.

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