A number of people here at my marina enjoyed my post about a “stowaway” on board, so because I’m sure some more liveaboards can relate to it, I posted it on a couple of FB sailing groups.
Call me Ishma . . . no, call me Evenly Matched – by a cricket. One snuck aboard my boat last night, and of course it didn’t make me aware of its presence until after I had turned off the lights, crawled into my bunk, and felt my breathing slow as I entered the wonderful world of sleep. (“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.” – Shakespeare) Yes, exactly as I could feel my mind changing gears and my body stepping down, I heard, near to me, a single, “Chirp.” Translation from insect language: “Ha!”
When I turned on the lights to look for it, apparently this particular cricket backed into a hiding place and went silent; I suspect it even held its breath. I started moving things around to look behind them and under them, increasingly sure the little bugger was holding on to the bottom or back of stuff I was moving, hitching a ride to a “cleared” zone. I did a pretty thorough search but found nothing, not even a tiny spider or mute ant. That’s mute ant, not mutant. But maybe . . . aw, hell, I went back to bed. But not to sleep. I couldn’t, sure I would be hearing cricket noise all night. In a regular house a cricket song can be quite annoying, but inside a narrow boat, where all the walls are so much closer together, a healthy cricket’s noise can be hellacious.
In the near blackness, it started to sing (ya, I know; it was rubbing its legs together, not singing.) In the near blackness, I tried to “echo locate” it, but the sound seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. In the near blackness, I slowly uncovered myself and got to my feet, cocking my head like a dog trying to at least narrow the possible source areas. Hmmm . . . maybe a ventriloquist cricket . . . I could become famous! . . . No, not if I kill it, and I was going to kill it. If I could find it. I must have stepped too near, because it went silent again. I stayed motionless. For minutes. Standing in the near blackness, motionless, nearly naked, I was a hunter stalking its prey. It was a miniature monster, but a monster nonetheless. Primordial instincts were taking over; I was a savannah cat stalking its quarry under a moonless sky. I was an idiot in need of sleep.
It chirped. It was a tentative chirp, a test chirp, a cheap chirp. Unlike a full chirp, this one didn’t bounce off all the walls into every direction. I had him! Earlier I had dropped a T-shirt on the floor near the head of my bunk, and he was near it, maybe behind or under it. He was in the corner, with clear floor on both sides: a kill zone. I was going to smash it, smoosh it, step on it and stomp on it; I was going to murdalize it, pulverize it, finalize it.
Slowly I reached up for the overhead light, hoping the little guerilla sleep-stealer wouldn’t run before he was frozen by the light. I was in control now, Master of My Universe. I knelt down, not on my knees but on the balls of my feet, ready to shift my stance. Slowly, carefully, I reached for the dropped T-shirt. I didn’t want to flick it away: if the cricket was in a fold of the cloth it might just catch a free air flight to freedom at the other end of the boat. Watching the surrounding area’s escape routes, I lifted the T-shirt. There it was, motionless. I had him. I was sure. I was wrong.
Slightly, ever so slightly, I shifted my weight, preparing for a precision pounce (a la the spirit of a prehistoric savannah cat.) It took a few steps to its left and paused. I moved only my eyes to follow him. It reversed direction, took a few steps to its right and paused. Again with my eyes only, I followed. It took exactly one step and stopped. It was watching me, watching my eyes, I just knew it. Switching directions again, it took a few steps to its left, but it was a feint: it abruptly bolted right and hopped out of my reach! That little insect-brained bugger thought it could fake me out! An insect, punking me, in my own home! Now, now I was mad!
It had hopped out of my reach but not my sight. I gave chase, lunging after it, throwing everything I could lay my hands at it, from it snatching everything it could use for cover. I swear every single item inside the boat was airborne, everything launched and re-launched so quickly all of it appeared to be floating. Anyone who might have been passing by on the dock would have thought a quiet boat had just erupted into some kind of poltergeist event. Rocking the boat from side to side, from cover to cover I chased the little bugger. I think maybe I was slobbering and swearing, too.
In the galley, everything changed. There, the Battle of Midway-into-the-Night went to the next level: counterattack! Having nothing to do with my tossing the boat’s contents, having nothing to do with my rapidly juggling 173 household items, suddenly, surprisingly, I was pelted about the face and shoulders with plastic cups, spice bottles, canned goods, and various other kitchen items. It nearly put my eye out with a rubber spatula (OXO brand, hefty!) Apparently – and I know a lot of people just won’t believe this – The Creature, the Commando Cricket, wedged itself between the wall and the stuff on the shelves, and with its strong hopping legs, the damned thing kicked things at me! It was a Ninja Cricket! But no, every time a can of food flew at my head I heard a very faint but clearly recognizable dit-dit-dit-dit tone: it was a 6 Million Dollar Cricket! Or maybe a combination, like a cyborg Ninja Cricket! Or something else, something paranormal, like a Chupacabra Cricket! Aw, man, fuck me!
Dispirited, I lost the wind in my lungs, fell back against the wall, and slid to the floor. I was suddenly cold but sweating. I sat there in my underwear, nearly thoughtless. I didn’t move. The Alien Cricket didn’t move. Stalemate. Eventually, not more than an hour later, I noticed a can of aerosol cooking spray. A solution was presenting itself. Careful to keep my eyes straight on my worthy opponent – earlier he had emerged from behind a can of creamed corn and then just stood there, staring at me, and I swear, I swear he was smiling at me, grinning, like he knew something I didn’t – with my right hand I slowly fumbled for the barbecue lighter, then reached for the aerosol can.
The cricket, watching me, stood a little taller, a little more attentive. He started to shake his head slowly from side to side, maybe communicating a, “No, don’t do that. It’ll turn out bad for both of us. No, not that. NO.” I was there, man, it was happening TO ME, but even right then I knew my buddies would never believe it next time we traded big-game hunting stories around the safari campfire.
Still sitting on the floor, slowly, still holding the lighter, I reached up to unlatch the cockpit door. With my toes I slid it open. Slowly I brought the lighter close to the aerosol can in my other hand, my finger poised above the spray button. Still staring at the cricket, eye to eye, neither of us blinking, I nodded my head toward the open door. Not immediately – maybe he was considering my trustworthiness – he nodded his head in the affirmative. Two short hops and then one long bound out the door, then another couple of leaps and he was up on the gunwale. There, before he disappeared into the night, he gave me a single, “Chirp.” Translation from insect language: “Ha!”
Cathy – Absolutely love your narrative. Crickets can be diabolical.
Zahn – Missing Skipper [the dog], are you??
Zahn – This story is wonderful Mik. I read it aloud and had to stop periodically to simply laugh!!
Cecilie – Great story Mik! Clean up a few words and with a bunch of pictures it would make a great children’s book. Pretty funny short story for adults too!
Mik – Well, y’know, more than once I’ve been told my mind is rather child-like . . . or child-ish – is that the same thing?
Cecilie – Childlike, imaginative, creative, warped…great storyteller!
Julie – Loved it. Simply loved it! I was right there with you the whole time!!😳🐜🦂🕷😫 Damn little ninja cricket!!!!!!!😄
John – Nice. Just imagine what you could have done if you’d embellished things a bit.
Mik – Em–bell–ish . . . what mean this word, “embellish”?
Meadow – Hahaha ninja cricket. . . kicking cans at you. This made me crack up a bit. Thanks for the read.