We’re kicking off Giving Tuesday early this year! Your donation today will be matched up to $10K, doubling your impact! If you donate $50 today, the Reader will receive $100.

The Reader is now a community-funded nonprofit newsroom. Can we count on your support to help keep us publishing?

(Cicada buzzing sounds)

MAN: Those damn cicadas. (Phone rings.) Aren’t they dead yet? Can’t even hear the phone ring. (Phone rings. Picks up phone.) Hello.

CICADA: (Buzzing sound.) Hello! This is the Cicada Employment Service. We have a special two-week offer. As you know, a surplus of unemployed cicadas is in your area. As a small businessperson, you know the delights of a bargain. Cicadas make excellent part-time, short-term help. They’re clean, lively, energetic and won’t slack off–

MAN: Not interested. (Slams phone down.)

(Cicada push-buttons phone number. Phone rings. Man picks up phone.)

MAN: Hello.

CICADA: They won’t slack off, they won’t form unions–or require health insurance. They are reliable and provide their own transportation

MAN: I’m sorry! (Slams down receiver.)

(As before, cicada push-buttons phone number. Phone rings. Man picks up phone.)

MAN: Hello.

CICADA: Some people are eating them, dipping them in chocolate or frying them. We’ve already mated, there’s nothing else to do, we don’t have much time left, we thought life would be better above-ground–

MAN: I said NO. (Hangs up.)

(Cicada push-buttons phone number another time. Phone rings. Man picks up phone.)

MAN: Hello.

CICADA: They’re really cheap. We’ll pay YOU–

MAN: Auggghhh! (Hangs up.) I’m not a small businessperson. I can’t help them. This has gotta stop. (Man push-buttons phone. Phone rings.)

PHONE BUREAUCRAT: Illinois Bell. Customer service.

MAN: I want to complain about some calls.

PHONE BUREAUCRAT: Are they calls of a harassing nature?

MAN: Well, it’s this Cicada Employment Service–

PHONE BUREAUCRAT: Oh, that’s a great outfit. They work closely with Illinois Bell. In fact, I got my job through the Cicada–I had so much time on my (pauses) hands.

(Man hangs up.)

(Cicada push-buttons again. Phone rings yet another time.)

MAN: Hello.

CICADA: Oh, you sound sooo handsome, and soooo smart. I bet you know your modern history. I bet you know why they lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

MAN: Is this a radio quiz? That crazy public radio? It was during the Vietnam era. The argument was, if you’re old enough to die, you’re old enough to vote. Can I go now?

CICADA: Not yet. You’re so smart. Im calling on behalf of the Cicada Rights Action War League.

MAN: (Starts to hang up, but is intrigued) You’re going to war?

CICADA: Actually, we needed something with a W, to form the acronym CRAWL. The point is, we cicadas are discriminated against because we never reach 18. At 17 we’re old enough to die

MAN: WE cicadas! WE cicadas! What am I supposed to do about it, lady? LADY!

CICADA: If we could just hold on till October, we could all vote absentee.

MAN: This is too much. (Hangs up.)

CICADA: At least I tried. They said after five times you can take a break. And I have so much to do. I’ve got so much to look at and so much to eat, after sucking root juice for 17 years. And so much reading–17 years in the dark, and finally I can get to the classics Ive been hearing about all my life. I can’t decide which one to read first: Notes From the Underground, The Good Earth, Desire Under the Elms, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Lord of the Flies, The 17 Year Itch, The Living End, Up the Organization, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. And the poetry. I just love that Wordsworth. He had such a capacity to appreciate beauty:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high on land that was


When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden-winged cicadies.

And Edgar Allan Poe, he gives me the chills:

And the cicada, never flitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door.

Not to mention that Robert Frost–he’s such a card:

I tell my neighbor, my good cicadas will never stoop

To buying stolen auto parts

And selling them wherever.

He only says, with a wink in his eye,

“Good cicadas make good fences.”

And that’s just English-language literature. There’s another book I’ve started. It’s a brand-new translation of a classic, just published as Eastern Europe emerges from the dark days of repression. The introduction is written by Vaclav “Buzzy” Havel himself. It goes like this: “Gregor Samsa awoke after a night of fitful dreaming and found that he had been transformed into a giant cicada.” I can’t wait to finish it, but it bothers me that the cicada is being shown in what is called a false light. I called the Cicada Rights Anti-Defamation War League to complain, but no one answered. It may be a classic, but I think it’s wrong to spread incorrect information about the habits and attitudes of giant cicadas–even if they are Czechoslovakian and of a fictional nature. I’d like to ask someone for advice on this, but everyone I know is my same age.

I guess I shouldn’t worry so much about it. I might as well start on these books before the boss comes back. I’ve heard that summer is the time to catch up on reading, but I don’t know. I have a feeling my summer reading will be cut short. (Keels over, crashing to the floor.)