When I was a kid growing up on the South Side we called all the bugs that make noise at night in July and August “crickets.” I am not sure why or if any are actually crickets. I think they are cicadas, but we reserved that word for the 17-year variety. As a boy I was told how much noise the 17-year cicadas made back in 1973, the year before I was born, and looked forward to 1990 for their next arrival in Chicago. When that happened I was in Europe on vacation and only arrived home for the tail-end of their emergence. They liked oak trees, everyone said and it seemed true, and my neighborhood had many oak trees. The trees themselves seemed to sing when the cicadas got going. When they came back in 2007 I was up on the North Side, where the cicadas where more muted and widely dispersed. But once that year I went to a cousin’s house in my old neighborhood for an engagement party for my sister, and I deliberately got off the train two stops early to walk over a mile down oak-lined streets to listen to the cicadas. I remember, on the deck of my uncle Bob’s, my great aunt Rosemary had a cicada sitting on her shirt like a living broach. Her husband, my uncle Kevin, sat next to me and asked me why no one made comedies anymore. I was somewhat confused, thinking maybe he meant the quality had fallen off since Chris Farley died, which seemed an unlikely opinion given his age. My dad later whispered “He means musicals.” Kevin was a daily communicant. Fought at Saipan, and was part of the first group of Marines who arrived at Nagasaki after Japan surrendered, which we only learned through a eulogy someone gave after his death a few years later. Rosemary, seated in the front row of the church, saluted the young marine who handed her the folded flag. I never saw her again.
Dennis O'Toole is an all-set cobra jet creepin' through the nighttime. He lives in Chicago.
If you need to reach me, dial:
denotoole AT SYMBOL gmail DOT co LETTER M.