too many words by laura lemay


Over the last few days, we have been completely plagued by crickets. I suppose it could be worse, we could be plagued by, say, tigers. But no, its been nothing but crickets all the way down and I will go insane.

I have so many pleasant memories growing up of summer evenings and the quiet chirping of field crickets. The operative word here being quiet. I remember the field crickets chirp chirp chirp in the backyard and I remember the story that if you counted as many chirps as the cricket made in 17 seconds and added 35 then you could calculate the temperature, or something like that. The few times I tried it the temperature was usually something like 165 degrees, which explains why I am now a writer and not a mathematician.

Out here in California we have two kinds of crickets, the kind that go eeeeeeeeeeeeee and the kind that go cheep cheep cheep. And it was the kind that go eeeeeeeeeeeee that woke me up at 3AM the other night and kept me awake for a good hour and a half.

When people come up to our house to visit they always comment: its so quiet. If you’re used to the city you get used to the ambient noise: car noise, train noise, people noise, noise noise noise all around you. There’s none of that up here; on still days you can hear the freeway three miles away and sometimes you can hear a motorcycle go by on the road. But mostly it is completely still. But that means that you become sensitive to small noises. Like crickets. LOUD CRICKETS going EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE in the middle of the night.

Its not just the crickets that bother me. I’ve also had trouble with the frogs. We have a hot tub, which makes for the biggest frog singles bar in the neighborhood, and when the frogs get going the noise (RIBIT RIBIT RIBIT RIBIT) is deafening. And then there’s the deer. Deer have this kind of pastoral reputation, an image of stepping delicately (and silently) through the sun-dappled trees. What they don’t tell you is that the noise deer make is GROOONNNNNK, a sort of hideous constipated brontosaurus sound that makes you bolt up from your chair in horror in the belief there’s something horrible coming out of the woods after you. Between all this and the raccoons you may wonder why we don’t just move back to the city. At least there we could get broadband internet and a burrito.

But back to the crickets. It was a hot night and the cricket was somewhere just outside the window, going EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE at 3 in the morning. I was awake for a long time, thinking that surely this was just ambient noise and I could just get back to sleep. But then the cricket would stop. And then start again. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. pause. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. argh.

Finally I got up and put in ear plugs. I keep ear plugs around for storms and to take with me to hotels. I don’t really like wearing them because they make me feel like my ears are bleeding, but if its a choice between that and not sleeping I’ll take bleeding from the ears any time. Fortunately, the earplugs were effective in blocking out the cricket. Unfortunately, they were also effective in blocking out the clock radio.

The next (late) morning brought an additional surprise: There was another cricket in the spare room. This was a cheep cheep cheep kind of cricket, and it was very happy. cheep cheep CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP. I had breakfast and coffee and then armed with a flashlight I went looking for the cricket.

The secret to finding a cricket is patience. If you come too close to the cricket the cricket will stop cheeping. So you have to follow the noise until it stops, then stop moving until it starts again, and then slowly keep moving toward the CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP until you narrow in on the noise. Cricket marco-polo. Unfortunately, unlike eastern field crickets which are a good inch long and black and shiny, western crickets are only about half an inch long and greyish, so they blend in with the background of just about everything they sit on. Finding them is a challenge (the ones that go eeeeeeeeeeeee are bright green, which makes them easier to find). Do not ask me how they get into the house; this I do not know.

This particular cricket yesterday took me about twenty minutes of marco-polo to track down. He was lurking in between two boxes and I had to rattle around a lot to find him. After I had spied him, however, it was a simple matter of snagging him with a water glass and a post-it note and releasing him outside, where I’m sure he will meet up with his eeeeeeeeeeee friend to bother my sleep again tonight.

They say that crickets in the house foretell riches and good luck. Now that would be nice.