We were in a little bar east of downtown, talking about what we always talk about. We like a little elbow room here, in which to talk. To talk about how we wound up where we were. To talk about where we’re from. To talk about night—about nights—and childhood and boyhood and the neighborhood girls and nighttime and the noise of it all. So we were talking about cicadas. These are J. Ray’s stories about cicadas, even though one of them is probably about locusts. The third is a story about bats. A story that might once have been a lie but now is noise too.
When he was a kid, J. Ray had this neighbor. Dale. Ray asked me a couple of times did I know Dale or do you remember that guy. I almost did. I remembered him like a word you want to say but can’t quite. My parents had moved out north of town when I was young. But I spent a fair bit of time around J. Ray’s neighborhood. Most of it with a girl who lived the next block up from J. Ray’s Dad’s place. It was the kind of neighborhood where somebody like Dale might make a little stir. The moms mistrusted him. They scuttled amongst each other about his daily meanderings. That’s really what I remember. More than Dale himself, I remember the mention of Dale. I never knew what was wrong with him. It was hard to say, really. He was probably twentysomething, then. Not quite old enough to be a town simpleton. But clearly well past being just a slow kid.
Most of us actual kids were slogging through our own awkwardness. Some of us were molting into grace. Brunette grace. But somehow Dale slipped our pity, with his lank greasiness and his digging fingers. He had become big but could not quit his boyhood. Not the kind of boyhood that tugged at the moms, either—the stupid, beautiful, hairless sex of boys in cars after school. No. The kind of boyhood that is unwashed and revels in whatever it expels. The boyhood that holds forth unnamed liquid discoveries. Beautiful boyhood was now a thing those moms twittered about but did not touch and tried not to see. The leftovers of that winsome kind of boyhood now occupied their couches. They saw the worst of boys in their husbands’ slouching. They knew the bore of violence that twitched occasionally in all of them.
It was difficult, even at our age, not to see the wisp of contempt they harbored for us. It was hard not to understand it. . . . Read More.