Because of all of the recent news about the 17-year resurgeance of cicadas, I thought readers might enjoy all of the cicada references in Dead Animal People. Do you have any favorite literary pieces about cicadas? Let us know if the comment section!
Cicadas in Dead Animal People:
Deep in the woods, thousands of cicadas whirled from the shadowy tree limbs with a pulsating orchestra of clattering rhythms. They arrived from the ground every seven years, digging their way from within the earth armed with exoskeletons and spiked claws, picking their way through rotting leaves and clumps of burnt-orange pine needles, and latching onto any tree root, fallen branch, exposed stone, or tree trunk that offered a safe place in which to undergo the metamorphosis from haggard insect of the underworld to winged predator of the treetops. The cicadas of rural Virginia lived, bred, and died according to an ancient rhythm that pulled them into and dragged them out of the dark ground like black-eyed embryos of routine, roused by the music of warm wind every seven years – one of nature’s ticking second hands in the timeless clock of existence.
The darkness grew louder. Tobias recalled when, seven years ago, he and Larry tied yellow thread to the hind legs of cicadas and flew them like kites. Running around their back yard beneath the leaning gutters full of decaying leaves and the sun-spangled grass that grew in clumps between the shadows of pine and oak branches. They began by looking for the abandoned cicada shells, which were pale orange and – if more than a few hours old and exposed to sunlight – crispy to touch, so that one could pulverize them into a powder simply by grinding them with a thumb and palm of a hand. The cicadas exited each shell with exact precision, as if a surgeon had cut a half-inch incision with a scalpel lengthwise down the back.
After morphing into their new identities, the cicadas encountered unknown enemies who ruled the airspace above the smatterings of yellow buttercups beside the pungent shrubbery and below the high gaps where the county employees sawed off branches that interfered with telephone wires. The yellow hornet with its killer instinct, striped body, and lethal stinger, attacked the emerging cicadas with ruthlessness. Tobias and Larry watched a cicada and hornet skirmish on the ground beside the back steps – the insects clutched in each other’s skeletal grasps, having fallen from an overhanging sycamore branch. They wrestled each other in a stretch of dust, their diaphanous wings veined like malnourished eyes, fluttered against each other and the ground as they tumbled around, clearing a circle in the dust, kicking aside dirt, shriveled blades of grass, and small twigs in their battle for survival. The hornet repeatedly stung at the cicada, exploiting a weakness in the white underside of its dark green exoskeleton. The cicada whizzed and made desperate electrical noises. The hornet brought death with its grip. Sensing the cicada’s demise, red ants appeared from beneath the fallen leaves and bent grass, and slowly circled the dwindling fight. The red ants scurried through the grass like veins of blood. Then the cicada’s wings pressed for a final time against its body, and clattered still. The hornet rolled the cicada onto its back, and stood on its victim.
“It’s over,” Larry said. He stepped on the cicada and the hornet. The reds ants scattered. “Let’s go get the garden hose and shoot at the bee’s nest under the old picnic table.”