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.
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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.