A 5 Dollar Hit to Take Out Jiminy Cricket

Late last spring, Allie and Avery caught a toad, something I had no knowledge of until getting a text from my wife, Ashley. "Can you take a pic of the girls' toad & send to me?" The randomness of such a request, naturally warranted further clarification, which came via a series of concise directions that sounded like those a kidnapper would give someone for bringing ransom money to a drop site.

"Go out the back door through the laundry room. Look left. On the ground you'll see a large plastic container. Inside will be some grass. Push it out of the way, and you'll see the toad. Take a pic and send to me." And indeed there was--a brown, bumpy toad the size of a hacky-sack. I use hacky-sack here because when I was eight I had a friend who liked to pick up toads and kick them as hard he could--not exactly my sport of choice, but the image of amphibians being used as a form of athletic equipment resurfaces anytime I see a toad.

My phone lights up again. "It's a Great Plains Toad!"

The "Great Plains" part indicated to me that the thing is roughly a thousand miles south of where he should be; beyond this, knowing its exact nomenclature means nothing to me. I hope she doesn't think we're this thing. The thought prompted me to inquire as to the nature of her new found interest in herpetology. (That term alone should tell you everything you need to know about amphibians.)

"I need to know what it eats," she replied. Two days later and forty dollars poorer, I now have a Great Plains Toad living rent-free in a brand new, fully furnished aquarium that the girls have placed on their dresser.

What's important to know here is that I abhor having animals in my house. The place is filthy enough as it is without having dog hair coating the furniture or the smell of piss-filled kitty litter wafting through the air.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not judging anyone who does allow their pets inside, but being reasonably sane in most areas of my life, I feel entitled to retain some small measure of neurosis, which in this case, includes amphibians, rodents, and primates (non-human). Even fish don't thrill me.

Still, our family isn't ruled by a dictatorship; it's closer to a symbolic monarchy. I'm the King of the Castle and my wife is Prime Minister--like England. She lets me believe that my decrees are law and then she comes home with two Beta Fish. The thing about my wife, though, is that she never really informs me that, "Hey, I bought the girls a fish." Her tactics are, how would you phrase it? --Less than direct. I'm brought into the loop by seeing the girls smuggle in fish food and related paraphernalia hidden in bags from the craft store, or by being asked to take pictures of a wayward toad that's hunkered down in a plastic container.

Fine. At least the little squatter is quiet, which is more than I can say of its favorite meal--crickets. Crickets, as most of you know, are black, can leap high in the air, and make a chirping noise by rubbing their hind legs together.

Turns out, as a food source for toads, they cost money and come in sizes like T-shirts--small, medium, and large. (Whoever has the job of sorting crickets by their size must either hate life or really love insects.) Oh right, and you can get them in bulk or prepacked, a fact I learned during a begrudging trip to the pet store. Our pantry's stripped down to a bottle of cloves and a gluten-free pizza crust, and yet there I was shelling out cash for some stupid bugs--bugs that proved elusive to find amid doggy sweaters and three-story cat condos. Gimme a break.

I finally broke down and asked a clerk for help.

"Oh, man." he said. "Well, we're almost out. We don't even have enough to feed our animals, but I'll check with the manager just in case."

Lovely. On the bright side, maybe the toad would croak (from starvation that is).

The manager confirmed the store's short supply, but asked how many I needed anyway.

"I don't know. My wife just told me to get a box of 25." I shrugged.

My answer, though, seemed to flip some sort of light bulb on for the two store employees. "Ohhh, you want the boxed crickets," the manager said.

...Yes. The boxed ones. As opposed to the free-range ones because I'm really not too concerned about a toad's preference for an all-organic lifestyle.

Following the clerk, I turned the corner and, whadda ya know, it was a whole shelf full of crickets packed in box-shaped, plastic packages, neatly stacked one on top of another--kind of like cell-block B at San Quentin, only for bugs.

Poor bastards. I imagine it's rather hard being forced to watch excited kids come in here and walk out with a new pet day after day. And then to get their little cricket hopes up having someone like me come along to "adopt them." It's got to be one helluva a letdown to realize that their functional purpose is closer to gladiator fodder the moment the girls dump them into that glass arena with that and then cheer on the death of their miserable cricket existance in a fight to the finish against that toad. And the worst part--their buddies back at the store don't know any different.

Someone will come for us, guys. I know they will; I can feel it in my hind leg. I'm betting he's the one the others shove up front after they land in the aquarium.

Occasionally, though, there's one heady bugger who manages to escape after making a giant leap to freedom. I can always tell when this happens because Allie, Avery and their mom all let loose the same half-surprised, half-terrified "Ahhh!" before they then nearly trample each other in a race for the bedroom door.

Awesome. Now the cockroaches have a jumpy new friend.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, the only difference being that this cricket version of Cool Hand Luke was of the xtra-large variety. In a hurry to get home, Ashley picked up the wrong size from the pet store, a discovery made later in the evening when she opened the container as saw that the toad's meal had been super-sized. That brief moment of pause was all one of those crickets needed. "Ahhhh!" Stomp, stomp, crash, thud.

A halfhearted search turned up nothing, and that was that ...until it got dark outside. Then the chirping started.


I turned to my wife and gave her "the look." Seriously.

"What?" she asked, but Ashley knew what I was referring to.


"Alright, fine," she conceded, pulling herself off the couch and heading in the general direction of the noise which seemed to be coming from the top of the stairs.


Ashley, looked down at me. "I think it's right here." She searched the floor. The way she stopped abruptly told me she found it. Boom, boom, boom. "It's under the carpet, but I think I got it."

I had my doubts. Ashley had just finished two glasses of Merlot, and by the way she held out her empty glass at me as she climbed back on the couch, it was obvious she intended to polish the bottle off. Plus, it was likely more than a coincidence that the end of Ashley's hunt coincided with end of the commercial break during her favorite reality TV show. These suspicions were confirmed five minutes later.


I hung my head and closed my eyes. Ashley gulped wine and ignored me. And the cricket went on.




3:00AM Silence. Finally. Yesss.


Jiminy freakin' Cricket! --CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEP!

At 5AM, I got out of bed and closed the door shut. CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEP-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep... At 5:15 the alarm went off. And so did the cricket, apparently he was done for the day. Mine would not be so great.

By the next evening, I had been so busy I had forgotten about the cricket, and after dinner, I still had some errands to run. However, right as I started to walk out the door, the cricket fired up those magic legs of his.


Grrrrr! What my wife and I were able to determine before going to bed the night prior was that the cricket wasn't just under the carpet, he was hiding in some nook and cranny somewhere within the floor-boards. At the present, though, I was in a hurry, and didn't have time to figure out how to get rid of the damn thing. "I will give five bucks to whichever kid can kill that stupid cricket," I said walking out the door.

Based on the sudden scramble of bodies that ensued, I imagine happened next was a chaotic, riot of a scene with five, money-crazed children wielding chainsaws and crowbars over their heads as they mobbed their way to the top of the stairs. By the time I got home, however, all was peaceful ...and silent!

"I killed the cricket," my wife greeted me with.

"Really? How?"

"I used that thin nozzle on the roach spray and slid it in between the cracks in the floor."

"So you gassed him?"


I have no idea why I said this, but the first words out of my mouth were, "Kinda cruel, dontcha think?"

Apparently she didn't. "Where's my five bucks?"

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