Johnny America


For Whom The Bell Crick­et Tolls


Al­lan was dis­ap­point­ed the staff Hal­loween par­ty at the mu­se­um broke up so ear­ly. It was on­ly 9:30. Oth­ers had oth­er par­ties to go to, but Al­lan just went home by him­self, as usual.

His Japan­ese Bell Crick­et cos­tume was an in­spired choice, com­bin­ing ref­er­ences to his eth­nic her­itage and crit­ters the mu­se­um dis­played. He won prizes for best cos­tume, but now they just made him feel like a los­er. He could­n’t think of any­one with whom he could use the oth­er Imax movie tick­et and the bright yel­low smi­ley face mug seemed to mock him.

As he stepped out of his car in front of his place, the bells pinned to the lapel of his jack­et jin­gled. Care­ful­ly clos­ing the door be­hind him, the garbage bag in­sect ab­domen strapped to his be­hind rus­tled. Au­tum­nal odours of damp rot­ting leaves, scat­tered shards of sculpt­ed pump­kin, and per­haps resid­ual fire­works lin­gered in the cool res­i­den­tial air. The moon was not quite full, but bright enough to help him ne­go­ti­ate the oth­er­wise un­lit path to his base­ment suite. The up­stairs peo­ple were ev­i­dent­ly out to some par­ty somewhere.

In­side, he peeled off his black Rock­ports, de­formed in­to squashed ba­nanas by the feet that his fa­ther called ‘scows.’ He could nev­er find shoes that fit. Way back in high school, he was al­ways afraid to dance close to some­one, in case he stepped on her toes. That was his ex­cuse anyway.

Slip­ping in­to his health san­dals, the lit­tle nibs in the soles mas­saged his feet. They al­so trapped lint and dead skin, but he tried not to think about that. He jin­gled and rus­tled his way past the kitchen sink full of ne­glect­ed dish­es in­to his mea­gre ex­cuse for a liv­ing room. The lit­tle red light on his an­swer­ing ma­chine glowed un­blink­ing­ly in the dark­ness. No mes­sages, as usual.

He turned on the light and be­gan shed­ding his ex­oskele­ton. From the hat band of his bowler, he plucked the pipe clean­ers twist­ed to­geth­er to form long white an­ten­nae. This fea­ture of the Japan­ese Bell Crick­ets had sur­prised him when he first them in the Search Gallery. Per­haps they were long to sense dan­ger more ef­fec­tive­ly, but why would they be white? Maybe they were just get­ting old. Al­lan had a few white hairs him­self, he thought, run­ning his hand through his short, thin­ning hair. Now thir­ty-six, he was close to half a man’s life ex­pectan­cy. And if it’s halfway, he must be mid­dle-aged. Mid­dle-aged. Cer­tain­ly his mid­dle had aged. He grabbed his bulging bel­ly. Guys aren’t sup­posed to get this way un­til they start liv­ing the soft life of be­ing mar­ried. He was the old­est one at the staff par­ty. Did he have a young spir­it or had he not quite grown-up? Per­haps he won best cos­tume be­cause oth­er peo­ple had bet­ter things to do.

Hang­ing the bowler on a hook in his clos­et, he imag­ined him­self a lost soul in a sur­re­al Rene Magritte paint­ing. He orig­i­nal­ly bought the hat at Val­ue Vil­lage, for an Austin Pow­ers par­ty. He dressed as Ran­dom Task, a par­o­dy of the stocky and sto­ic Asian as­sas­sin Odd Job in the James Bond movie Goldfin­ger. The me­dia of­fered him such a lim­it­ed gallery of Asian role mod­els. The im­ages fill­ing his head nev­er matched the face he saw in the mir­ror as he cut him­self shav­ing every morning.

Slow­ly, he re­moved his in­creas­ing­ly thread­bare waist coat. He bought it used for twen­ty dol­lars about six years ago. From the shoul­ders, he un­pinned the black garbage bags that he cut in­to wings. From his re­search on the crick­ets, Al­lan dis­cov­ered the males make their name­sake bell sound by rub­bing their wings to­geth­er to at­tract a mate. His bells were on­ly for show; they failed to at­tract any belles at the ball.

From un­der the armpits, he un­pinned the pair of ex­tra legs made of rolled-up black Bris­tol board and rub­ber spiky rods he found at a re­main­ders store. This had been the trick­i­est part of the cos­tume: find­ing a vi­able leg de­sign that would be flex­i­ble and at­tach with­out be­ing too cum­ber­some. Sort of like his ide­al woman.

He un­buck­led the belt that held his bug bot­tom and ad­mired his hand­i­work; a black garbage bag stuffed with news­pa­pers. He had rolled and taped the top of the bag for re­in­force­ment and cut slots for a belt to fit through. He al­so taped the bot­tom cor­ners so they stuck out like sen­sors and fold­ed ridges to look more like seg­ments. As an in­sect, a big butt could be an at­trac­tive sign of vig­or. Too bad this was not true for humans.

At last ful­ly moult­ed, Al­lan slumped his big butt in­to his flat­tened fu­ton couch and chan­nel surfed. The rain spat­tered on the dark win­dow like a end­less lo­custs against an un­for­giv­ing wind­shield. Ads for tele­phone par­ty lines. He was­n’t that des­per­ate yet. He just had­n’t found the right one, that is, some­one who ac­tu­al­ly liked him. Be­sides, there was more to life than hav­ing a mate. Most bell crick­ets died off with­out ever mat­ing, de­spite their ef­forts. Some day it’ll hap­pen. In the mean­time, see­ing two Imax movies by him­self might not be so terrible.

Filed under Fiction on July 29th, 2004

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Reader Comments

David Smookler wrote:

It is re­al­ly the be­gin­ning of a sto­ry. It is very ef­fec­tive at cre­at­ing this sad char­ac­ter. I was wait­ing for some­thing won­der­ful to hap­pen to him, like in Robert Hein­lein’s Have Space­suit Will Trav­el i.e. the cos­tume would some­how open the door to an adventure.
I thought it was very ef­fec­tive in­ter­play of think­ing and do­ing, makes the sto­ry more vivid. I wait for the next installment.

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