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Song of the Cicadas1.
My sister and I pass the time singing and jumping rope while anxiously scanning the length of our long country road which slices through a golden sea of wheat to meet the horizon. Without looking up, Mom yells at us through her tight lipped grip on her cigarette as she sweeps the porch, which is already spotless.
“Get out of the road!”
We just smile and roll our eyes; three cars by here in one day is heavy traffic and we can see them coming from miles away in either direction. We are all excited; Dad is finally coming home today after being gone for nine long weeks. He never talks to any of us about his job, not even to mom. She is always a nervous wreck when he leaves—never knowing where he is, what he is doing or if he’s safe. This is the only time she smokes.
“I’ll put them down when your dad gets home", she says when we complain about her habit.
“Megan, look!”, my sister says as she points to a spec in the distance. It gets bigger as it nears but we can’t see it clearly through the vapors which rise from sun baked road. Winston, our yellow lab, runs out to the road and starts to bark while looking in the same direction. He always knows the sound of Dad’s car; it’s him.
“Mom, it’s Dad, it’s Dad!” we yell. We are jumping up and down and waving to him as he gets closer. He laughs and honks the horn because we won’t move to let him pull in the driveway. He parks the car in the middle of the road, gets out and walks toward us with a huge smile on his face.
We run to him and he picks us both up in a huge bear hug, laughing, twirling us around and kissing our cheeks. He looks towards Mom who’s taking in our reunion from the porch. She smiles, tosses her cigarette and walks out to join us. We are complete again…
I’m awakened by the loud car outside my window. It takes me a moment to realize that it’s no longer Winston barking or my dad’s car I’m hearing; my family is not with me. I want to go back to sleep and dream again. The dog upstairs is barking and whining as it scratches at the glass on the door. The door opens and slams shut with the sound of sleigh bells that hang from it. Something hits the floor with a loud thud, followed by yelling:
The dog yelps and its claws rake the slippery floor for traction as it runs away. I hear the man walk to my door. The lock slides open and the door knob turns, but I hear nothing else. Then the fourth step creaks as usual to give him away; he’s coming down. I keep my eyes closed in hope that he will just leave me some food and go back upstairs. Again I hear nothing, but I can feel him looking at me from the bottom of the steps now.
He drops something on the floor; the step creaks again and my door closes, followed by the deadbolt—I despise that noise. I hate it even more than the constant drip of my faucet which torments my every waking moment. The sound of the lock steals my hope and breaks my spirit more and more each time I hear it. I open my eyes to see a rolled up newspaper on the floor—no food. He has only ever given me the occasional book or magazine, never a newspaper.
The bells jingle again as the door slams shut; the dog whines and the loud car spits and sputters back to life. It rumbles off into the distance until I can’t hear it any more. My stomach growls right on cue; I'm starving. I close my eyes and hear my mom calling my sister and I in for dinner. I can smell it--meatloaf, mashed potatoes, zucchini bread… I would give anything for her home-cooked food right now—anything for the sounds, smells and tastes of home. I would give anything to be at home with my family again.
All is quiet with the exception of the faint sound of a bird singing. I’ve heard it every day for awhile now, which tells me it's been warm outside because it isn't the kind of bird you hear in the winter. I wish that I could see it, or see anything outside my cement walls for that matter, but there is a board on the outside of my only window which is close to the ceiling. The board is just short of covering it all which allows a little sunlight into my room, but the space is too high for me to see out of, even when I stand on my cot.
To fill my stomach I drink as much water as I can from my rusted faucet. I then lay down with my radio, dialing through the static trying to tune in a station--I stop. I turn it off and stand on my cot, pressing my cup against the bottom of the window with my ear.
My heart sinks. I hear the sound which takes me back to warm summer days with my family—picnics, camping, fishing, catching fireflies… and blowing out my candles on Mom’s German chocolate cake. I can hear their long winding chorus—the song of the cicadas. It’s July. I'm now 14 years old.