Monday, April 22, 2013

MMWUC - 17-Year Cicada Cycle

This year is the 17-year Cicada Cycle when that strange spaceship noise will blow your mind. This is one of the sixty-six stories in BATHROOM READING--Short Stories for Short Visits that touches on this subject. Enjoy while you still can.


At some point, Bob Zucker slept. At another point, he awoke, but as he lay there in bed, he couldn't recall either of those points in time or how long they had lasted. All he could think about was the damn noise the cicadas made. Hour after hour, day after day, night after night. And he left the noise of the city for the peacefulness of the country. He turned over in bed and realigned his pillow over his ears. “I could sleep better under the El.”

The cicadas seemed to be pointing their unwanted attentions at him. For the first three weeks, he heard them everywhere: home, work, at the park, fishing, outside the bowling alley, coming home drunk from the bar. “Ubiquitous.” The word dribbled out of his mouth, as he slipped out of bed and went to the kitchen for a beer and whiskey chaser. The sleeping pill wasn't working. He could feel tightness in his chest. He belched. Some relief. He noticed the cicada noise was a bit less intense in the kitchen, so he drank there.

He cursed the cicadas. He cursed his boss, Mr. Barrister, for the pressure the bastard applied when he knew that Bob was having trouble sleeping. He cursed Acme HVAC for not fixing his air conditioning unit, and then not returning when he’d threatened them with a lawsuit. He cursed his wife, Matilda, for insisting on the move out to the country, and then for leaving him just after the cicadas started their racket. She claimed it was his temper, not the bugs. Everyone and everything else can dump on him, but he’s not supposed to get angry about it? Right! One beer became two. Two led to a third with another shot.

By the fourth one, he envisioned the death of each cicada. “Damn their crusty little empty-shelled bodies everywhere.” When he had opened the fifth beer and drank the third shot, he got up and staggered over to the gun case. He extracted the shotgun, and then decided on his deer rifle. “More noise for the little buggers to deal with.”

Out on the porch, he loaded four shells. He fired at the tall oak in front of the house. “Take that you bastards.” His neighbor's light came on and a voice rang out.

“Bob, are you nuts? Put that gun away before you hurt someone.”

“Screw you, Mark.”

Bob fired again and then laughed before noticing that the noise seemed to have diminished somewhat. “Hey, maybe the little buggers don’t like loud noises.” He fired a third shot higher in the tree. “Maybe there's more of you up there.”

“Bob, put the gun down.” Mark marched up Bob's driveway. His wife, Abigail, trailed behind him.
Bob sneered. “Can't you see I'm trying to help everyone out?”

“Mark, don't go there,” Abigail pleaded, tugging on his shirt tail.

“Just leave this to me,” he hissed back at his wife.

“He’s drunk again. Let it go.”

Bob laughed. Mark stepped onto the sidewalk leading up to the front porch. Bob’s demeanor changed. He pointed the gun at Mark. “Get the heck off my property.”

“Don't be stupid and don't point that gun at me.”

“I'll point it anywhere I want.”

Abigail stepped in front of Mark. “Let's just go.”

“Yeah, go.” Bob echoed Abigail's request.

Mark stared at Bob. With Abigail pulling on his arm, Mark finally turned and walked away.

Another shot rang out. Abigail screamed. Mark grabbed her. They both turned around to see Bob laughing, his rifle on his hip pointing to the sky. “Cicadas got you spooked?” Bob said, and then stuck out his tongue at the two of them before he dropped to the ground.

Later, Detective Stark examined Bob's prone body. “This is another one for that website about dumb people doing dumb things,” Stark said. “First he shoots at the tree, then he confronts his neighbor, then he fires one shot straight into the air, and damn if it doesn't come right down on him catching the artery just right. He bled out in four minutes.”

“Stupid bastard,” the patrol officer said. “Found the source of that noise. This white noise generator is set to turn on every night at nine. It was in the attic, but whoever put it there forgot to unplug it. Damn thing sounds like cicadas.”

“Yep, glad that racket's over with for another seven years,” Stark said, turning the noise generator around. “Says here, it’s the property of Maltida Zucker. She must be his wife.”

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