PIC OF GRASSHOPPER TO GO HERE!
When I was young, me and my brother — yes, I’m feeling like breaking some grammar rules today — spent a lot of time catching grasshoppers and crickets. I can’t remember how we learned this particular skill — a skill which my dad didn’t possess, and I can’t remember anyone showing us — but it was highly addictive and something which we both took very seriously. While our parents wandered around nearby, doing quintessentially adult things like thinking about the future and planning when to go shopping — two things which lost all credibility in our minds, as we focussed on this thing very much in the present — me and Maff stalked these most majestic of insects. And we were successful, really successful. Using a careful and highly strategic method which never failed, we caught grasshoppers and crickets over and over again.
Up until today, I hadn’t thought about any of this in years.Looking back, though, there seems to be no dividing line between that childhood and this life; no time when it stopped being important to do things like this. It makes me wonder how important catching grasshoppers and crickets really was to us as kids. The more I think about it, the more it seems that we took it for granted — just something which we did without any real effort, without even trying. Yet now I think of that time as special. Funny how things gain gravity all at once, such a long time later.
For these reasons and also just for the sheer hell of it, today, it being a bright, sunny day — the kind of day when grasshoppers would be loving it — I decided to see if I still had it in me (not the juvenile passion for doing all things that is exciting — I certainly hadn’t lost that). I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as when I was 9 or 10, but what I didn’t realise was just how much I had forgotten in the last 20 or so years…
I probably shouldn’t be too surprised about that, seeing as how I can barely remember what I ate for dinner. But still, I really thought it’d be easier than it was.
It wasn’t easy, it was really, really hard. Just as predicted, the meadows at my local nature reserve — I am lucky to live not far from an amazing, immense space which glows in the Summer and the only downside is that you can’t go there at night as there are doggers — were heaving with life; the kind of intense, thrumming sound which is around you wherever you are, but that stops with eerie abprutness the second you take the smallest step forward.
“It was like I had the eyes of an eagle!”
After five minutes: nothing. I couldn’t even see any crickets or grasshoppers, let alone attempt to catch one. Where, before, the long yellow grass had looked serene, swaying in the breeze, now it just pissed me off. There was a moment at the ten minute or so mark where I considered abandoning my mission. But then I got a grip of myself. “You can’t turn around and just give up,” I said, trying to ignore the walkers who were passing behind me, probably wondering what I was doing prancing about in the grass all hunched over and concentrated. “If you could do it when you were 9 or 10 then you can damn well do it now!”
It was time for a re-assessment of my approach. What I had been doing obviously wasn’t working. Taking a step back, I tried to think like a grasshopper/cricket. Only joking, that’s taking it too far. But I did consider more deeply how to go about my task (I did briefly try to locate the long-lost memories of me successfully managing my task, but this did not last long, as it involved traipsing through the quagmire that is puberty. No thanks).
This time I was more careful. Everything was more thought out, less adult, and my footsteps caused less of a disturbance. Soon I was following grasshoppers and crickets of various sizes as they sprung from one long grass to the next.
And now, amazingly, I could see them amongst the grass. Before they’d been camouflaged and hidden. Now I could spot them from a distance. It was like I had the eyes of an eagle! A very bored eagle, but an eagle nonetheless.
I spotted an impressively-large grasshopper clinging to that long bit of grass next to the hundred-thousand or so others, you know the sort. This one was different, and I mean that literally: it was a scramble of browns and reds, with large hind legs and a kind of knowing expression on its face. Or maybe it was just the way it held itself.
Cautiously, I stepped forward and knelt down in front of it, being as careful as I could to avoid squashing the long grass behind me — the grasshopper’s expansive home, no less — with my gigantic human arse. As I brought my cupped hands down towards it there was a moment where we were both still as the most still thing. Then, swiftly, I closed my hands around it, expecting it to escape, as they always had done before, at that very last moment.
Except this time was different. I had finally done it: the impossible had been achieved. For just a few seconds, my little friend scampered about inside. Then I opened my hands ever so slightly and watched her crawl slowly out then vanish in an instant.
I tried to catch some more after that and failed. It didn’t matter. I had done what I had come for. I was in the sunshine. I was happy.
More stories like this over at Stories that are short.
Alternatively, if you enjoyed this post and want to read my new novel you can find it at Amazon UK here and Amazon US here (paperbacks are on the way soon, I PROMISE — email me if you need more details).