The Plague of Cicadas & The Senior Prank

locusts, but will have to use it for the cicada blog post

One of my nightmare scenarios came true yesterday when I read the story out of Florida about the gnarly flying cockroach that crawled into a woman’s ear while she was sleeping, and the grotesque details of the procedure and follow up of the removal of this disgusting bug. I can’t tell you how much I loathe cockroaches and want to vomit every time I see even a picture of them.  Those hellish buggers are one of my phobias. You can read about my encounter with these gross creatures and other creepy crawlies in a previous blog post here. Also, if you’re interested in losing your last meal, you can read the nasty news story I mentioned above here.

After reading and grimacing through that news story, it prompted a memory from my teen years.

It was late spring in 1987 in Fairfax, Virginia, and the year of the horde of the 17-year cicadas. They descended upon my city with the audacity of a shameless celebrity, blanketing tree trunks and back porch screen doors, emitting the most haunting, deafening, echoing tunnel humming I’d ever heard. I was a junior at Robinson Secondary School, which housed 7th-12th graders. The juniors alone were a thousand students that year! The main hall that stretched from one side of the enormous building to the other  spanned the area of a football field, at least that’s what it looked like to my teen eyes. The gym was the size of three regular elementary school gyms. I could go on, but you get the point.

So, I avoided going outside as much as humanly possible to shield myself from the black-bodied, red-eyed creatures drilling me in the head or landing on my shoulder. They were around two inches in length and an inch in width. HUGE, ok? Each day, my mother would drive me and pick me up from school, which was just over a mile away.

17-year cicadas

One afternoon after school when the speckles of sunlight shown through the curtain of cicadas on our back porch’s screen door and their humming had become background din, Mom opened the sliding screen slowly, stepping onto the porch in her button-up, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She grabbed a pair of bush clippers and disappeared on the right side of the house to trim the hedges. Minutes later, she stepped back inside the den where I sat on the couch, cringing.

“I can’t believe you went out there,” I said.

She smiled, smoothing out invisible wrinkles in her jeans. “It’s fine.”

“The cicadas could have crawled all over you.”

“Naw.  Don’t be silly, Dorothy. You’re overreacting.” Still smiling, she shook her head.

A second later, she said, “Oh!” and bent over, pulling on the collar of her shirt and shaking it, until one of those hard-shelled vermin dropped out from her back onto the floor.

I screamed, “Kill it! Kill it!” I stood up on the sofa, about to have a heart attack at 17.

Mom managed to throw it back outside.

During these horrid weeks, a news report surfaced about a man driving in a truck that was attacked by a legion of cicadas that had flown through the driver’s side window, blocking his view of the road, causing him to veer off the road and crash. It was like something out of a horror flick.

The end of the school year was approaching. I gathered my clothes and backpack in the locker room and then crossed the shiny gym floor toward the doors leading to the main hall. Just before I pushed the doors open, a chorus of screams came from outside the gym. I headed toward the mob scene that was the main hall, which was how it always looked during changing classes. I moved toward the two-story 11th and 12th grade sub school straight ahead with its balcony off the second story 12th grade area that faced the main hall. The screams lessened as I fell into the haphazard flow of kids. A few kids (mostly girls) were yelling that the seniors had dumped cicadas from the balcony onto the juniors below them only a few minutes ago. My heart nearly stopped. I saw the evidence of these ugly creatures flitting about and some lying lifeless on the floor, people crunching them under their sneakers or stepping around them squealing. Relief of missing this death-inducing event washed over me.

Some senior prank. They couldn’t have just TP’d the classrooms or punctured the front lawn with a bunch of plastic forks like the seniors did at the local high school in our town here last year? No nasty bugs, just tedious plucking of utensils from the grass for clean up.

forks in lawn

So the rest of the day, the ugly suckers flew up and down the gaping main hall. One fellow student in Spanish class thought he’d be funny and had placed one of the cicadas on my back without my knowledge, of course.

He said, “Hey, Dorothy.”

I turned around to look at him–a little guy who sat behind me.

“Look,” he said, pointing at my back.

I peered over my shoulder and saw two red beady eyes staring at me. Inside I was freaking out, but I stayed calm on the outside knowing if I freaked out, he’d enjoy that too much and prolong the cicada’s lounging on my back.

“Get it off,” I said calmly, smiling as if I got the joke and didn’t care.

The student and his buddy next to him laughed, and he then removed it.

Obviously, I never forgot that day.

Having seen greenish-colored cicadas here in Pennsylvania in smaller size with “regular” eye color (I just know they weren’t red!), they didn’t look so bad.  In retrospect I feel a bit sorry for those cicadas at my high school. They were brought inside unable to do their mating, which is why they had dug themselves out of the ground after 17 years. They had no food sources and died by the next day. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d feel sorry for these bugs, but I do now. Ah, how your perspective changes some thirty years later. 🙂

 

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My Short Play Making it to the Stage (Video Included!) & My Short Story Making it in the Finalist Category in a Writing Contest — All in One Week!

Book. Opened book with special light. Education

This week has been an amazing blessing from God.  I am so thankful for the gift of writing He has bestowed in me since childhood, that has been able to grow more than thirty years later.  As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I wrote a play for my creative writing class in 2015 when I was in my first year of online college at Southern New Hampshire University.  I had never written a play before.  It was really a screenplay at first.  I had to write something and had absolutely zero ideas of what to write.  I didn’t want to write something overdone, regurgitated too often, and for me, that meant a love relationship or some dire storyline.  But I couldn’t pull anything from my gray matter.  It sat there, lounging, out to lunch, not wanting to be present for this assignment.  So, I decided there was nothing else to do but to just start writing whatever came to my mind, no matter how stupid or incoherent.  Hey, it’s best to just get a gaggle of words down on the paper and worry about order and lucidity later.  In this process, I wrote ten pages of a play about nothing.  I named it “Falling Up Stairs” — the topic of the discussion in the play.  Ninety-eight percent of this play was written from a stream of consciousness, which tells you a lot about my brain’s functioning power to come up with ten pages of nothing.  The other two percent was making sure it made sense.  And lo and behold, it did.  What a relief!

I turned it in the week it was due, and shared it on the discussion forum the week after and got positive feedback from both my fellow students and professor.  They found my story funny and enjoyable.  This was good to know, not only grade wise, but that I was able to pull off a play that made some people laugh.  What a joy that is!

Fast forward to this past December when the director of artistic programming after several emails with me, set up a night for actors from the local theater in which she worked to read my two plays, “Falling Up Stairs” and “The Tricker’s Treat.”  Both plays came to life through these readings, and were enhanced by these actors’ brilliant jobs of reading with such animation and emotion.  I do hope that “The Tricker’s Treat” will come to the stage next fall.  God willing…!

And from that point, I signed up for the theater’s Open Mic night that was scheduled for January 20, 2018.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Noises Off with Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, you’ll understand me when I say I felt like Michael Caine’s character, Lloyd, the director of the play.  Yes, my nerves were just about as bad as his, worrying how the play would go down in front of the live audience, and wondering if the actors had their lines completely down.  I’m an anxious sort of person, so this wasn’t unusual or surprising.

Noises Off pic of Caine taking valium

Well, I fretted over nothing (which is usually the case).  My play was performed by these three fantastic actors to a receptive audience last night (January 20, 2018).  I couldn’t have been more proud of them and their great work, or more pleased.  I am so grateful to them for having agreed to act out my play, and I thanked them both verbally and with a small gift for their effort.  You can watch the performance on the video below.

On Thursday, January 18, I received an email from a publishing company who had ran a writing contest online back in November 2017.  I was informed that my short story, “Summer Memories” had been chosen as one of the twelve finalist pieces that they will include in their anthology of short stories for this year.  I can’t tell you how incredibly thrilled, but at the same time stunned, I was that my story had been chosen.  This past November had been the first time I’d entered any of my stories in writing contests. I entered three of my short stories in three different contests, and one of them was selected.  It’s nearly impossible to express the elation I have felt from this.  My work has been recognized by editors at a publishing company.  My work that I’d edited myself and submitted thinking I may have a chance, but if my work wasn’t chosen as a finalist or didn’t win, that was all right, too.  It was a great learning experience and helped me to overcome my fear of putting my work out there for people to read and examine.  The catalyst was turning my plays over to the director at the theater.  This was the first time I’d let those in a professional field (in this case, play related) read over my work.  It broke the huge wall of fear I’d constructed for the past two years.  This fear paralyzed my ability to make headway in my writing until last October when I sent my plays to this director who was so supportive and encouraging.  Things changed rather drastically after that.  It was as if God had opened the doors and windows ahead of me as I walked this path of mine, the writing path, the path I’d been given the gift to trek.

I now wait to work with this publishing company through further correspondence on what comes next for my short story in their anthology.  I look forward to it.

The video is under eight minutes.  Please share your thoughts after watching my play on what you liked about it, and if it made you laugh.

 

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