Previously published at both SkiveMagazine.com
by Russell Bittner
I’m a cricket. A one-legged cricket, so born.
Growing up with only one leg? No big deal. Playmates never remarked upon it. I had no uneasy grimaces from parents to contend with, as parents were long gone. Cricket-parents, in my time, didn’t tend to stick around much after birth…what, with multiple matings, celebrations, commendations, promotions – the stuff and fluff of crickethood.
I, too, eventually grew to crickethood – with yearnings for matings and such. I looked at my friends of only yesteryear – how quickly they’d put away their playthings and had, instead, begun to toy with the thing of which they had a pair, but of which I had only one. They? Rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. And always making odd sounds with their rubbing. Me? I certainly felt those sounds; I just couldn’t make them. And so I was left without the sonority that would have brought me company. Company was what I really wanted.
No pair of legs, no sonority. No sonority, no company. That’s the law of cricketdom. And the law of cricketdom is strict. For millions upon millions of generations, it hasn’t changed.
I thought hard and devised a plan for a new sonic architecture – for an aubade and a vesper both. Then I ventured out and found a broad leaf. A broad Brugmansia leaf. Broader, finer, more exotic than Brugmansia is hard to come by in these parts. This Brugmansia, out of zone, was here by sheer coincidence – and by my luck.
Time was fleeting. Winter was coming. With winter would come the cold. This Brugmansia’s broad leaves wouldn’t survive the winter. More to the point, this Brugmansia wouldn’t survive the winter. The way I figured it, we were in it together.
I rubbed my leg against Brugmansia’s broad leaf. I rubbed out, note by note, my Sonata for One Leg – which, to my ear, was a candidate for cricket-delectable. But none came. I rubbed harder. ‘Rubbed then against the grain of Brugmansia’s leaf. She moaned. And yet, no cricket came.
I stopped, lay down, put my ear to Brugmansia’s leaf. She had her own rhythm and her own sonority, neither of which had anything in common with mine.
I tap-tap-tapped my single leg, like a baton, but then paused in mid-tap and listened again to the leaf. For as long as the wind was still, she was still. When the wind kicked up – whether breeze or sudden gust – she answered with a sigh or a flutter, whatever the wind demanded.
In that instant, I ceased tapping. I laid my single leg upon Brugmansia’s broad leaf and caressed it in the only way a single-legged cricket can caress. The result was a resonance which sounded, I confess, like dissonance.
In my cricket-crotchety state, I sensed another tap-tap-tapping, then pushed myself up on a single leg and looked around. What I saw, a seeming emerald ocean away (even if just at the other end of a broad expanse of leaf) was an odd creature honing in on my call. My pair of cricket eyes told me I was looking at a wasp. All of whose five eyes stared back at my two.
I braced myself for a fight. I felt adversarial, gladiatorial – and no doubt looked the part in my cricket’s carapace. She looked at me, I felt, also ready to fight. And raised herself up in all of her evil, waspish connotations. But then collapsed.
She raised herself up again – more evil still, more waspish still – but then collapsed again. She slowly advanced upon me in her odd way, and I braced for battle. She was now almost within reach of my single leg. I could take her head and all five eyes out with one swipe. I collapsed and raised my single leg. She advanced. And then…
I noticed. She had only one wing. She couldn’t fly. She’d fallen to the leaf. This single Brugmansia leaf was her last hope, and I was her last company. A fall to the ground would have meant death by ants. By a field-day of ants. By thousands upon thousands of them. As it had always been – for millions upon millions of generations.
I let her come. I held out my stub of a leg. She looked, lowered her five eyes in shame, then held out her stub of a wing. We were a pair, we were. A pair of fucking cripples.
I extended my single cricket’s leg. She met it with her single wasp’s wing.
The wind played its windy sonata. Brugmansia’s leaf sighed, grew brittle over time, succumbed to wind and winter, and dropped to the ground.
And the ants had their day.
Russell lives in Brooklyn, New York. His poems have been published on paper by: The American Dissident; The Blind Man’s Rainbow; The Lyric; The Barbaric Yawp; the International Journal of Erotica; and Wicked Hollow. An additional poem with appear in the International Journal of Erotica in the summer of 2005. On-line, his poetry can be found at: Quintessence-encouraging great writing; ken*again; Spillway Review; Erotica-readers; Edifice Wrecked; Ink-mag; Girls With Insurance; Thieves Jargon; Fireweed and Salome Magazine. An dditional poem will appear in June at Opium Magazine; in June, July, August, Sept. and Dec. at ALong Story Short; and in Sept. at Southern Hum. His prose can be found at: Satin Slippers; Ink-mag; GirlsWithInsurance; SkiveMagazine; Quintessence, encouraging great writing; Underground voices; Dead Mule; Pindeldyboz; Mannequin Envy; and the uncom.mon Yankee pot roast.org. Additional prose pieces will appear on paper in the Edgar Literary Magazine in April of 2005, and in The International Journal of Erotica in the summer. A third story will appear on the ‘Net at Southern Hum.com in September. Russell completed his first novel, 'Trompe-l’oeil,' in September of 2004. A second is underway.