* Author : Eden Royce
* Narrator : Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
* Host : Graeme Dunlop
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PC 477: Crickets Sing for Naomi is a PodCastle original.
Crickets Sing for Naomi
By Eden Royce
“If these danggone crickets don’t stop following me,” Naomi grumbled as the insect bounded out of the path of her wedge heel. Another of the bugs scuttled across the top of her foot, its spiny legs pricking her exposed skin. Under the streetlight, moths danced in the circle of brightness on the otherwise dim road. Heat ebbed from the asphalt, making her wish she’d worn flip-flops.
For months, the insects had followed her around. At her parents’ house, one had even jumped out of her pocketbook onto the hardwood floor. While her mother screamed and leapt onto a chair, her father had chuckled, scooped up the invader, and placed it outside.
Deja blew a bubble, the pink gum garish against her black lipstick. Once it reached the size of a tennis ball, she sucked the bubble back into her mouth with a silence-rending crack. “Know why, ennit?” she asked, working an acrylic nail under the bra strap biting into her shoulder. “You. It’s all you and your Afro-Asiatic, trans-continental—”
“Okay, okay. Leave it alone.” She’d had enough commentary on her parentage when she was in school. Black mother, Korean father in the middle of the race-obsessed Bible belt, add to that thick glasses, pimply skin…it all served to make her the object of scrutiny and ridicule. But ten years later? Unacceptable.
Still. At least she hadn’t brought up any of the older, more insensitive nicknames. She could still remember Deja pounding her fists into the belly of that ashy-skinned lil boy who yanked her glasses off that time after school while they were waiting for the city bus. Maybe that was part of the reason she was out here with her now, quaking under the ’round midnight heat. Duty. Payback.
A car rolled by, not slowing, headlights a sickly yellow-beige that barely cut through the tarry night. Another followed it.
“Ain’t they supposed to be lucky anyway? If you catch one or something?”
A tiny chitinous body thumped into Naomi’s arm before falling away, feeling like a reprimand—her mother’s finger flicking against the tender inside of her elbow to get her to pay attention in church. She’d turn her eyes to Reverend Parker’s squat, sweating form clad in folds of blue and gold robes and let her mind drift. From the frantic waving of her fan, she was sure her mother wasn’t fooled, but to everyone else nestled on the padded pews, it looked like she was rapt.
“What, crickets?” Naomi rubbed her hands over her upper arms to chafe away the feel of the scrabbling legs. “Yeah, they’re lucky. And not just in Asian culture. African too.”
A third vehicle, a sun-bleached silver van, inched up to the corner, then stopped. The engine gave a rough purring cough as it idled, puffs of charcoal-tinged smoke adding to the mugginess of the night.
Deja nudged her, then headed toward it, her freshly plaited braids snatched back from her forehead so tight, she was the one who looked Blasian. “Then you couldn’t escape it. Come on.”
Escape was on her mind right now. Could she manage to keep Deja’s friendship if she just turned tail and hauled ass back to her car? She’d parked it off the road, at her friend’s request, near a thick growth of saw palmetto leaves to obscure it from prying eyes. After that they’d had a ten minute walk to the corner facing Old Mister Ronnie’s red dot. Naomi could use a red dot right now; she’d had he...