The other day I was walking through a parking garage when I heard a cricket. I thought it was weird to hear a cricket in a downtown parking garage, and almost immediately thought how irritating the sound of a cricket is — and suddenly I remembered something I hadn’t thought about for years.
It was the summer of 1968. Mom and Dad had loaded the five kids in the Webner clan into our Ford Country Squire station wagon to drive from Akron, Ohio to Fullerton, California, where Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Barbara and their kids lived in excitingly close proximity to Disneyland. (To get a sense of what the trip was like, think of the Griswold clan making their cross country trek in the Family Truckster in National Lampoon’s Vacation.)
We had stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Dad wanted to do a little gambling and get blissfully away from his five brawling, bawling brats. We were staying at a strip motel with a swimming pool. With seven people in our family, there was no way we could stay in one room, so UJ, Cath and I were in our own room.
Of course, we stayed up much later than we should have — what self-respecting kid wouldn’t take advantage of that opportunity? — but when we finally decided to go to bed we heard the cricket. It was chirping away, somewhere in our room. At first we tried to go to sleep anyway. It was just a tiny cricket, after all. But we couldn’t sleep. The chirping was like a rusty saw scraping against the brain. Even though we were exhausted, with eyes that felt like they were coated with sand and brains that yearned to lapse into slumber, we couldn’t fall asleep with that insistent noise. And the cricket seemed to taunt us. It would stop chirping for a beat or two, and we would think that maybe it had stopped. And then it would start up again.
Finally, giddy with fatigue at about 3 a.m., we decided we had to find that cricket and shut it up. It was us, or him. UJ and I scoured the room and finally found the cricket behind the dresser in the room. We moved the heavy dresser, exposed the cricket . . . and then killed it with a shoe. I am ashamed to admit that I was ridiculously happy to have killed a living creature, because I knew it would finally let me get some sleep. And that is exactly what happened.