Selected Modern Chinese Essays: The Cricket

◎ Wu Guanzhong

Grey-templed as I’m, I still always keep myself occupied. Everyday I bustle about town having little time to indulge in pleasant reminiscences of how I used to catch crickets in my childhood. One day, however, my wife and I were pleasantly surprised by the sudden chirping of a cricket in our apartment. How did it get into this tall building?As the sound seemed to come from a corner of our kitchen, I guessed it had probably come with the vegetables my wife bought from the food market.

On Sunday, when our youngest granddaughter Xiao Qu was with us, the cricket started chirping again at supper time with a rising clear and loud sound like in a performance. Xiao Qu was overjoyed and stopped eating as she was eager to catch the insect. Torch in hand, I found my way to a corner of the kitchen by tracing the sound and then cleared away everything in the way, like brooms, discarded outer leaves of vegetables, leftovers, waste paper, used empty bottles, etc. until my eyes fell on a big cricket on the damp cement floor near a water pipe. It stayed still as I lit it up with the torch. So I got it easily. The whole family was wild with joy. I put it into an empty colour-tube cardboard box and handed it to my granddaughter. But she said she wanted to have it kept in a transparent container so that she could see it chirp. Then she found a plastic bottle and happily watched the pitiable little captive therein moving about in panic. Her grandma, however, fearing that the cricket might suffocate, punctured a few holes in the plastic bottle with a pair of scissors.

Xiao Qu left for home with the cricket.

That night a complete silence reigned in our house. Our children had already gone to bed behind the closed door. My wife and I felt unusually lonesome in our bedroom. She blamed it on my having got rid of the cricket.

Late at night, we heard the chirping of a cricket again. Ah, that must be another one! My wife and I were too excited to sleep. We were lost in memories of our child life in our rural home with the starry sky outside the antique window, the glowing of fireflies, the warbling of nightingales, the ever-present accompaniment of crickets’ chirrups…We chatted on and on recalling elders at home, fellow villagers, kids in the neighbourhood, and so on and so forth. All the while, we were transported by nostalgia to our old home remote from Beijing. May the cricket settle down permanently under our roof!