Cicadas – 1963
I opened the shoe box gently to show Kelly my treasure.
“Just tree mess,” said Kelly as she moved the leaves, twigs, and moss around.
“Couillon! They’re hiding from us.” And I gently picked up a green and brown insect. Its whirring whine made my three-year-old sister say, “Coooool,” as she petted its folded wings.
“Careful,” I said and replaced the insect as my sister searched and found the box’s true treasure – a poopy-brown thing. “Lookit this.”
“It’s dead,” said Kelly. I set it on the oak tree trunk whose shade we sat in. The brown bug took slow-motion steps up the trunk. Kelly could only stare.
“Looks like a seratops.”
Kelly reached to touch it with her index finger, but my larger hand covered my little sister’s whole hand. “Leave it. Just watch.”
Our heads moved close, close to the bug on the tree. We watched it mummy-move some more. Then it stopped.
“It’s dying,” said Kelly as she put her arm around my neck.
“Watch,” I repeated.
It took one and a half minutes for the younger girl to lose interest. “It’s really dead now,” she whispered into my ear.
“Shhhhhh,” and I squeezed Kelly’s shoulder and pointed. Kelly moved her head closer in. Did the brown bug’s back crack? Why was it killing itself? Then slow, slow a wet thing backed out of the cracked bug. Kelly remembered cartoons where a baby bird pecks its way out of an egg. She leaned in and almost kissed the tree bark.
I held her shoulder and brought my face over my sister’s. As the new bug emerged, it paused to allow its folded wings to unfurl. The green translucent beauty of the wings brought soft gasps from both of us.
“Now he’s gotta dry off,” I said, and we both froze to witness the new and improved insect glowing atop the broken carcass. It seemed to be sunbathing in the broken sunbeams.
Kelly held her breath and I nodded my head. After awhile the cicada made its whirring, clicking whine to flyaway. Both of our heads tilted up to watch the miracle depart.
Then I carefully took the split-open brown thing and placed it in my shoe box.
“Cool,” said Kelly. I nodded and put an arm around my sister’s shoulder.