Register Tuesday | June 25 | 2019

Bugging Out

A Winner in our Taking Things Seriously "Thingamajig" contest

Maybe you call them locusts, but I call them cicadas and I’ve got the carcass of one on my desk.  I may live now in Montreal, a city of dark brick and icy winters, but I didn’t start out this way.  I started in a place where summer was the long, dominant season that lasted until the time you finally found your mothball-smelling sweaters in November.  In the summer, only grownups wore shoes. Us kids wore them to the store or the movies, and by the time we were stuffed into new school shoes, our soles were thick and hard and dark. Fireflies danced and the only thing louder than the roar of air conditioners was the sound of cicadas chanting around us in unison like crazed, hypnotised monks. 

The cicadas came every summer but held a family reunion of dramatic proportions every seventeen years.  They arrived as if they owned the joint. They barged through screen doors, making surprise appearances in cupboards, between sheets, behind curtains. They invaded every garden, crawled over every tree, gnawed every leaf.  They crunched underfoot. Some people said they tasted good—deep-fried, of course.  When I was eight, I made a necklace of their carcasses by threading their bodies into big, buggy beads that weighed next to nothing. 

Seventeen years later, at the time of the next invasion, I was living in hip Montreal where the only bugs were roaches.  Seventeen years after that, I was lakeside where frogs made a good job of chanting, but couldn’t achieve the madness of the cicada shriek.  Then last summer I was south of the border again, when my sister-in-law, exasperated, held up this dead cicada and said, “Can you believe this?  Look at what I just found in my house!”  I brought it north, did not declare it, and later adopted it as my talisman.  His name is Faulkner.  He’s too dead to be bothered about Canadian winters and it makes me warm just to look at him.