September 9, 2016

Charles Dickens, upon making a pile of money from the publication his story, “A Christmas Carol,” lamented to a friend that he had created a monster. Before the story, Londoners celebrated the holiday modestly. After the story, the described pageantry of good will, avarice, gluttony and charity evolved to our modern, vulgar celebration.

Dickens, an obsessive fellow, ever aware of the bottom line re selling books, began the Quixotical task of writing one Christmas story a year for the rest of his life. It didn’t go well. But one such story, “The Cricket and the Hearth,” enjoyed modest success.

Crickets are perfectly harmless and amusing creatures. They are packed with protein – just ask Scout the Cat, who has been obsessively catching crickets in the basement, eating off their legs and bringing the alive, chirping torsos upstairs for me to dispatch.

Crickets sing beautifully on September nights, in the wet grass: “Crick, crick, crick, please have sex with me, I won’t shut up this song until you, Jennifer Lawrence Cricket, spread your legs – if you have legs, due to a fiendish cat.”

One such horny cricket has been ruining my sleep for days, by singing under my bedroom window.

A friend advised me to get out of bed, grab a flashlight, run outside to the back of Genehouse, shine the flashlight, temporarily blinding the sex fiend, and “kill the sum bitch.” I actually did this, two nights ago, a gentle rain falling, me in tennis shoes and tighty whities, flashing light upon the cute little bugger below my window. I intended to relocate the sexually starved critter, but I accidentally stumbled and smashed the “sum bitch” to a cricket smoothie.

Then I walked back to the front of the house, where about a thousand other assorted insects were humping my porch light. There was even a green praying mantis under that light. I began swatting at the horde so that they wouldn’t get into the house, then I reached for the screen door and the praying mantis flew into my pie hole, whereupon I spat the mantis into the stratosphere.

A lone car drove by at that exact moment – of course it did – me standing in my undies under a lamplight and launching a green praying mantis to the Space Shuttle. If the driver was drunk, he or she might have assumed I was an avenging demon, and driven to the nearest church for prayer and contriteness.

(The church would have been locked, of course, leaving the sobbing alcoholic lying on the stairs, a vision of an old man in his tighty whities dancing in his or her head, his or her only option to join the Church of Praying Mantis Almighty Apostolic, Hash # “Et hummingbird Eatus.”)

The next morning, I went down into the basement and swept up dead cricket and water bug and unknown species of bugs, into a dust pan. One of the bugs shuddered. It was encased in a spider web. Which alerted me to notice a funnel-shaped spider web under the stairs, reach in with my broom bristles and tug the web into the light, revealing a bulbous black spider which came charging out, which tripped on an exoskeleton and rolled onto its back, revealing a red hourglass shape, which prompted me to internally scream – in Basement, no one can hear you scream – which motivated me to smash that bitch black widow spider into the Kingdom of Heaven.

I am not a violent man. I am not a man who wantonly slaughters insects or kills snakes. But sleep deprivation has led me to a life of bounty hunting, of walking in the night in my tighty whities, forever intent on noise abatement, cricket displacement and spider effacement and my own debasement.

And so I cry out to the night with Dickensian delight: “Bah, humbug!”

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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