Pleasant and high, barely discernible, a critter chirps to its mate. Last week's heavy drone of locusts has vanished, without the swarms we expect from the periodic awakening of the horde. I stood on my porch last Sunday, drawn by the unrelenting drone, wondering what year it must be in their cycle.
Another year, another porch. Our old one, square and flat-roofed, with tall, bowed screens and peeling paint. My son stands at the edge of our living room, just inside the screendoor, small sticky hands on the bottom panel, nubby nose against the grimy surface of the mesh. "What is that noise," he asks, in his awed whisper.
I stand behind him, my hand on his head, wondering if our cat has slipped outside to the porch on which she loves to scamper. She's an indoor cat, white with black heart-shaped spots on her coat, a year old and beloved. I stir, restlessly, as the noise of the locusts rises. The mild air of September wafts through the screen.
I pull my child away, and close the door against the chatter. We spend the day in the pleasant ways of mothers and sons: chores, and reading books, and singing songs. Saturday surrounds us with its warmth. I set aside my worry that my meager book of clients will not be enough to sustain us. I pretend I face nothing more challenging than the worn heels on the black cowboy boots that my son wears everywhere, even to bed.
I am asleep before he is most nights, in those days when I have not yet found the balance of the approaching decades. But I awaken early, lying in a bed too wide by half, wondering if I should make Schmarren for breakfast, thinking about church, missing my mother.
A shriek pierces the air of our home and jolts me from my languid reverie. I tear away the quilt and race to the sound of my son's cries, wracking sobs punctuated by pleas. His toddler bed is empty and the sound pulls me to the living room, where he has thrown open the front door.
I hear other sounds from ten feet away, and I quicken my pace, grabbing his small body as his hand reaches for the outer door knob, clutching him to me. I cannot quite grasp what noise surrounds us; some high, some intense, some low, mixed with a growl. I realize the whooping throb emanates from the alarm panel and lean against the wall, pressing the buttons which will silence it.
With the blare of the security siren stilled, the other noises stand out: The locusts have errupted, smashing through through the screens, swarming, thick as winter rain, filling our porch with their denseness. I cannot see sunlight. I slam the front door. But Patrick's howling intensifies. He has crossed the line to incoherence, and I sink to the floor, rocking him, murmuring, cooing. Still he cries, then pummels my chest with his small tight fists. "Listen to me, Mommy," he demands. "Listen to me!"
So I stop the motion, and focus. "My cat is out there! I have to save my cat!"
I must have left the cat on the porch at evening's end.
Only with my strongest promise to rescue his cat can I persuade my son to stay back from the door. With a broom up-ended held out, wrapped in a trench coat, feet clad in Doc Martens, I pull the front door open. The swarm's shrillness assaults me. My son urges me: "Save my cat, Mommy! You can do it, Mommy!" And I open the screen door, pulling the heavier inner door behind me, praying that I've been quick enough.
I see our little cat huddled in the corner. I hear her hiss, and the low rumble of her guarded growl. I cross through the swirl of locusts and throw the towel I hold down onto the cat, scooping her off the floor, wrapping her tightly. I drop the broom. I don't know why I thought it could do anything to protect me. Locusts slam against my face, my head, my long thick hair. The cat opens her claws and presses them against me, clinging. I back to the door, one arm clutching my burden, the other flailing backwards, until it lands on the brass knob. I fall through the opening, slamming out the host, stumbling, collapsing onto the sofa. The cat scrambles away.
My son stands, crowing. A locust or two has fallen across our threshold, and he stomps on them, pajama legs bunched over his boots. "I killed them! I killed them! Mommy and I saved Sprinkles!" Sprinkles, the cat, does not thank us. In fact, she does not even come out from under my son's bed for several days, except, perhaps, to steal food from her dish while we sleep.
The locusts did not hatch this year. Perhaps the loud drone that engulfed our neighborhood last weekend had some other source. Perhaps they hunkered down wherever locusts live, before they rise to overtake our porch, and just sang a bit to rattle me. This morning, though, I cannot hear them. Maybe what we heard last Sunday was just a memory, like the teasing flash of white and black I spied flicking around the corner of the bushes today, a few feet from the Yellowstone rock, under which our Sprinkles sleeps.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.
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