Allegory by Russell Bittner

I'm a cricket. A one-legged cricket, so born.

Growing up with only one leg? No big deal. Playmates never remarked upon it. I had no uneasy grimaces from parents, as both were long gone. Cricket-parents, in my time, didn't tend to stick around much - what, with multiple matings, celebrations, commendations, promotions - the stuff of crickethood.

I, too, eventually grew to crickethood with yearnings for matings of my own. I looked at my friends of only yesteryear - how quickly they'd put away their playthings and had, instead, begun to toy with the thing of which they had a pair, but of which I had only one. They?

Rubbing, rubbing, rubbing - and always making odd sounds with their rubbing. Me? I certainly felt those sounds; I just couldn't make them. And so, I was left without what would've brought me company. Company was what I really wanted.

No pair of legs, no sonority. No sonority, no company. That's the law of cricketdom, and the law of cricketdom is strict. For millions upon millions of generations, it hasn't changed.

I thought hard and devised a plan for a new sonic architecture - for a song that would be both aubade and vesper. And then I ventured out and found a broad leaf - a broad Brugmansia leaf. Broader,
finer, more exotic than Brugmansia is hard to come by in these parts. This Brugmansia, out of zone, was here by sheer coincidence - and to my good fortune.

Time was fleeting. Winter was coming. And with winter would come the cold. This Brugmansia's broad leaves wouldn't survive the winter. More to the point, this Brugmansia wouldn't survive the winter. The way I figured, we were in it together.

I rubbed my leg against Brugmansia's broad leaf- and rubbed out, note by note, my Sonata for One Leg - which, to my ear, was a candidate for cricket-delectable. Yet no cricket came.

I rubbed harder. 'Rubbed then against the grain of Brugmansia's leaf. She moaned. And yet, no cricket came.

I stopped, bent down, put my ear to Brugmansia's leaf. She had her own rhythm and her own sonority, neither of which had anything in common with mine. I tap-tap-tapped my single leg like a
baton, but then paused in mid-tap and listened again to the leaf. For as long as the wind was still, she was still. When the wind kicked up - whether breeze or sudden gust - she answered with a sigh or a flutter, whatever the wind wanted.

In that instant, I ceased tapping. I laid my single leg upon Brugmansia's broad leaf and caressed it in the only way a single-legged cricket could caress. The result was something like kitsch.

In my cricket-crotchety state, I sensed another tap-tap-tapping. I pushed myself up on a single leg and looked around. What I saw, a seeming emerald ocean away, was an odd creature honing in on my call. My pair of cricket eyes told me I was looking at a wasp - all of whose five eyes stared back
hard into my two. .

I braced myself for a fight. I felt adversarial, gladiatorial, and no doubt looked the part in my cricket's carapace. She looked at me, I felt, also ready to fight - and raised herself up in all of her evil, waspish connotations. But then collapsed.

I blinked.

She raised herself up again- more evil and waspish still- but collapsed again. She then slowly advanced upon me in her odd way, and I braced for battle.

When she was almost within reach of my single leg, I realized I could take her head and all five eyes out with one swipe. I staked my position and raised my single leg. She advanced. And then--I noticed. She had only one wing. She couldn't fly. She'd fallen to the leaf. This single Brugmansia leaf was her last hope, and I her last company. A fall to the ground would've meant death by ants.

By a field-day of ants. By thousands upon thousands of them. As it had always been - for millions upon millions of generations.

I let her come and held out my stub of a leg. She looked, lowered her five eyes in shame, then held out her stub of a wing. We were a pair, we were. A pair of fucking cripples.

The wind played its windy sonata. Brugmansia's leaf sighed, grew brittle over time, succumbed to wind and winter, and dropped to the ground.

And the ants had their day.


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