Vernon didn’t see the cricket coming. He’d figured he’d while away the lonesome lockdown hours teaching himself to pick a banjo, so he swept the faded floorboards in his bedroom, faced a wooden chair to the window, and set to. It was slow going at first but Vernon didn’t mind, he didn’t want to teach himself any bad habits and he knew he could learn to play anything if he just kept after it.
Vernon taught himself the old songs. Songs brought from older countries on leaking boats, songs played in hollers and juke joints at the end of dirt roads. He taught himself new songs too, songs by Hannah Mayree and Link Wray. Songs like Etta Baker’s One Dime Blues.
Somewhere along the way the cricket showed up.
Vernon didn’t believe it at first, but before long he was sure: the cricket was playing along. Accompanying him. Damn near a million octaves up, sure, but harmonizing, no doubt about it. Vernon named the cricket after Tray Wellington and kept doing what he was doing. The cricket kept it up and more — started adding a fill or two, the odd grace note here and there. But he never tried to lead or solo. He was too humble.
Spring turned to summer, and the rains didn’t come. The lawn dried up and dead leaves fell from the trees. Vernon found an old brown shoe and stocked it with newspapers and seeds, cuttings from the few house plants he could keep alive, blades of grass that grew up where the hose bib leaked. The cricket moved in.
Hard winds blew and a new dustbowl boiled. Day in and day out the sun baked the earth into a brick that crumbled itself into a dusty haze and disappeared. Crops failed all around them. Most nights the moon refused to rise.
Vernon and Tray kept playing.
Vernon and Tray kept playing, each giving the other a reason to believe, giving the sun a reason to forgive and forget. They played the moon a reason to return and they played prayers for the rains to come and save us all.
Prompted by dark.moon.writer (a shoe, a cricket, a bedroom). Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt.
Tray the Cricket is named after Tray Wellington of the Tray Wellington Band with much respect.