Listen. You can hardly miss it. During this muggy month of July, in the belly of the desert’s heat, you can hear them in their undaunted despair, that annual chorus of male cicadas crooning to mate, singing for the simple satisfaction of sex before impending death. It’s a soothing sound — a biological white noise — permeating the comings and goings of a planet overwrought with the chaos of life. And under the thud of your own beating heart, you know you have been here before. Because within this returning seasonal hum of nature’s glory is a recurring small sanctuary of comfort in our often hazardous world. The incessant buzz of these bugs, like a litany, calmly reminds us that we have, ourselves, toughed out another year, alive and intact — otherwise, we would not be here to hear the song of the cicada.
But down the road from this insect orgy another drama plays out. At a dimly lit bar tucked in the back of a neighborhood casino sit a man and a woman. Drunk and glassy-eyed, the man possesses a pussy-seeking heat-missile for a cock, and his honed barroom philosophy is: “Who gives a shit?” She matches him drink for drink, a lady with a lifetime of romantic rejections and inside whom something was emotionally broken years ago, when she was a girl.
And their lives offer them only two choices. They can either pick imminent self-destruction, or wait for the inevitable act of God. A man can walk to Hoover Dam and leap off unceremoniously, while, at the local hospice, cancer-gray great-grandmothers choose to wallow and linger. Life for the lowly adult cicada lasts but a few weeks; for adult humans, in the grand scheme of the universe, it’s about the same amount of time.
So, knowing he has the big one that can briefly fill the senseless gaps in her life, the woman at the casino bar makes her play.
“My place?” she asks, whispering in his ear.
“Sure, baby,” he says, thinking momentarily of a wife at home who doesn’t care anymore. As they get up and leave, a bartender scoops up their empty glasses with one hand.
Across town, at that same moment, two pet chimpanzees escape from their cage in a residential home. Known to chug bottles of sugary soft drinks, these monkeys are going apeshit, terrorizing unsuspecting neighbors. Chimps gone wild. Buddy, the male, goes berserk from his new-found freedom in Vegas. The police, practiced at the art of shooting humans, kill him. C.J., Buddy’s female simian companion, pulls back from her self-destructive binge, allowing herself to be recaptured and, like many women living in a hazardous world, recaged.
Which brings us back to those cicadas, also trapped by destiny, in a tree down the street from the neighborhood casino. Where a lone female erotically snaps her wings, inviting a lucky suitor into her domain for the good stuff. For him, after 17 years underground as a virginal larva, this will be the greatest day of his life. Well, sort of — because being a handsome bug has its downside, too. After you get laid, you die soon.
“Can you stick around?” she asks in a clingy voice following their cicada sex.
“Can’t, baby, gotta run,” he replies.
“But why, sweetie?”
“Because a man gotta do what a man gotta do,” he says.
And sometimes the world just seems too big, life too short, for a man, any man — cicada, monkey or anything else. And if you listen for that incessant buzz, dear reader, you can hardly miss it.
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.