The following is a short called “Cycles” by me, Evin Hughes.
We called them kayds because we were at that age when wasting time on extra syllables didn’t seem to make any sense. Kayds. Cicadas. We knew what we meant.
We picked the lower ones first, delicately working the bark around the thin film of shell so as to not rive the legs from the body. We had to get them before our dog Bozo found his way out of the house; she liked to claw them down and chew them up. We didn’t understand her sense of humor.
We piled the carcasses into a recycled-cardboard shoebox like a tomb, painstakingly collecting each fragile remains from the group of pine trees that shaded the backyard. We were gods, saints of war picking up the dead off the coarse vertical battlefields to put them to rest; we weren’t sure of the cause the kayds had given their lives for, only that we’d heard the lure of their clarions, the clash of swords, the moans of mortal blows, and the songs of lament—our ear witnessed it all yesterday when ma said it was too dark for us to play outside. She wanted us to remain neutral.
When we’d asked the reverend—where’s Heaven?—he’d pointed up, so one of us climbed, pushing his body weight equally against two close trees to inch up, and the other handed up the shoebox.
Before we learned the importance of syllables, discovered the invention of the latter, before Bozo bit the doggie dust to the swerve of the neighbors pick-up, before we got our first real earfuls of war in Iraq, before we were told that the cicadas had not died, that they’d only moved on through another cycle of life, before we learned that we were already living our last one, we arranged the fallen kayds in a uniform row just beneath the pine tree limbs, the needles, the cones.
A moment later Bozo escaped out of the back door, a pratfall down the steps. Ma watched from the porch as we climbed down, too afraid of the kayds to come any closer. She knew how illusory our quests were but she kept her syllables to herself.
“They’re in Heaven now,” one of us said, “So they’ll live forever.”
Bozo laughed. She’d never heard that one before.