The Cricket by Ron Burch
She woke me up from sleep to tell me that the chirping from the cricket was keeping her awake.
“What cricket?” I asked. She’d already been asleep when I crawled into bed.
I listened. In another part of the house, through the locked bedroom door, I barely heard it: the even song broken into two parts, and with my own troubled rest, a song that almost lulled me back to sleep.
She threw back the comforter. “I’ll get rid of it.”
I replied that I would take care of it. I rose, shutting the bedroom door behind me, and followed its sound through the dark house, unsure of even what time it was, until I stubbed my toe on the faded loveseat in the living room. The cricket stopped and remained silent, alerted it to my closeness. I sat and waited, contemplating whether to return to bed or remain, and chose to remain because I knew eventually, like a continuing argument, its sound would return.
I remembered that only male crickets chirp, trying to attract a mate, and then there was that story on the internet about how an audiophile taped the chirping of crickets in his yard and, by adjusting the speed or frequency, I don’t recall which, the crickets sounded like a choir. I was lucky enough to hear it myself.
My wife walked out, silencing the cricket again.
“Did you get rid of it?”
“Not yet,” I replied. She sat on the other side in the dark.
“You will kill it, right?”
“Why?” I replied.
“Because it will somehow get back inside the house. Somehow it always get back inside.”
“It’s getting cold,” I replied. Her head slightly shook. “I’ll take care of it.”
“You say that,” she replied, “but you rarely do.”
The house creaked, the creak seeming to jump from one beam to another, an event that seemed to go from inside to outside, perhaps even further than I even knew or understood. The cricket silenced.
She’s my second wife. My first wife had the same aversion to crickets, and I killed every single one for her, usually crushing them underneath a shoe.
I fumbled with the lamp but got it on. We sat in silence. The cricket started again, and I saw its brown insect body right near my slipper. She saw it as well. I raised my foot, only to lower it again. I could have trapped the cricket underneath a glass and returned it outside but this was merely putting off the problem, prolonging it even more.
I took her hand in mine, the first time we touched since our discussion earlier that afternoon, and said “But it’s here for us now. Why don’t we let it sing, our private concert?”
She paused. I smiled at her and grasped her hand tighter, something I neglected to do in the past. She shut off the light, and we waited for it to begin.
Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, Eleven Eleven, PANK, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles.