Creative Nonfiction | Issue 1 (April 2023)


Melissa Nunez

Summer sometimes signals screeching from the trees. Branches blare the reverberant chirrups of giant chicharras. The rattle-buzz of clicking chitin amplified by resonant abdomens. I am used to identifying surround-sound source without a visible body—cicadas calling forth new creation as we move and work our own circadian sequence.

One morning at the start of September shift to sun-down coolness, as I was helping my husband load our younger two children into the car, we found a cicada nestled in front of the right rear tire. When the ruckus of slamming doors and engine revving to life did not motivate movement, I guided my husband in maneuvering around the insect while reversing down the driveway. We expected that motor in motion, finally, to scare it off, but it remained still. My oldest son and I took this as invitation to lean in for a closer look.

The length of a thumb, it resembled a tiny, winged frog. Black-bead eyes bubbled up from the top corners of its head, seemingly comprised of velvet-leaf green. Leading to wings that resembled a pair I had purchased for my daughter at a Renaissance festival: wire hanger covered in hosiery painted fairy pink and purple. In this case coated verdant green, intricately veined, fading brown at pointed tips. The triangle of abdomen exposed between upper wing appeared mirrored molasses. Two front legs visible on each side of upper thorax, brown at the feet, and powder-coated in a white perhaps intended to serve camouflage as bird excrement at upper extremity. All this detail, aside from the overwhelming green sheen, indicative of my inability to spot them in the treetops.


The room shone green with light filtered through the giant leaves of vine erupted from magical beans—my favorite page of my three-year-old’s favorite fairy tale. Jack sitting up in bed, surprised by the offshoots of beanstalk that have stolen into his room while he was sleeping. Titan tendrils envelop the words of the text, the entire page tinged a luminous lime. We have read the story at least once a day for the past two weeks. He never quite took to books in the same way as his siblings, but he is enchanted by every word of this story. It took a while for him to digest the full threat of the giant, and even now I am unsure how much he fully comprehends. He usually absorbs more of abstract concepts than I give him credit for but tends to come away with interpretations all his own. In this version, death, while hinted in dialogue, happens outside our pages. There are no bodies depicted, only mystic mention of men consumed days prior. Each reading prompting more questions, like what or who the bone pictured on the floor at giant’s feet belonged to, if any people can be found in the colossal platter of food. And even then, certain deaths can be undone: giant taken from crevice-crashed bottom of earth and returned to his castle at heaven’s heights at retreat of timeline.


Throughout this inspection, the cicada has remained silent, unstirred. It was hard to believe this insect could be the cause of such choral commotion. Right when I told my son we should head inside, we noticed an agitation in the tree behind us, the rustle-squawk of grackles.

“What if they see it,” he asked me. “What if they are waiting for us to leave so they can eat it?”

I stepped closer to the insect, nudged it with a bare big toe, but it didn’t budge.

“Maybe it is also waiting for us to move and then will fly away on its own.”

My son was not convinced, so I left him to stand watch while I scoured the garage for something to scoop it up with. I found a thin sheet of cardboard and tried to gently lift the insect. The provisional tool was simultaneously too thick yet too pliant, and only the back half of the bug elevated. On the third attempt, with a shrill chee it finally flew off.


“Fee-fi-fo-fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.” We have now come to what is my youngest son’s favorite part. He snuggles further into me, his little body absorbing the performance timbre of my ogre voice, repeating the words in his rendition of feigned ferocity. Sometimes his older brother wanders in from wherever he was previously occupied to chant along. “Let him be alive or let him be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

This tale wasn’t one my oldest asked for on repeat, more taken by the likes of the gingerbread man, but his grandfather used to announce himself this way when entering our house. Scooping him up for a tirade of tickles or a piggyback ride, while seeking out his hiding place. My youngest isn’t old enough for distinct memories of this, but he has been drawn to these same words. Centuries old, fascinating a new generation. Their grandfather died a little over two weeks ago, and my little one doesn’t understand that grandpa is gone. That there is no more next time or again. His nightly prayer requests require turning back the clock, bringing resurrection. His questions come daily and in loops: Why did he die? What is too old? Can’t we go visit him? Would you miss me if I was in heaven?


The giant chicharra has a life cycle of four years, most of that time spent underground. Once they emerge from the soil, they spend four to six weeks as adults. My oldest is saddened when he learns of their relatively short life span. Although he has just turned ten, he has always been introspective, and ideas that prompt changes in his perception of the world and the way it works can put a damper on the day.

“We don’t know their consciousness,” I tell him after some thought. “How they experience the passage of time.”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe it’s like dog years, but with cicadas even more condensed. What is a week for us, to them might feel much longer.”

He nods his head, still processing.

“We don’t know what it is like to be a cicada. But this morning we got to share a moment of time with it. You took part in the care of it. We can choose to move through the world with respect for all things. For all life. Whatever the stage.”

We hugged, and I hoped I had lifted the gloom from his day. That he would remember the cicada rescue, as he spoke of it to his siblings later, with fondness. That it wouldn’t be overcast gray but glow a hopeful, humming green.

Melissa Nunez lives and creates in the caffeinated spaces between awake and dreaming. She makes her home in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where she enjoys observing and exploring the natural world with her family. She is a column contributor at The Daily Drunk Mag. She is also a staff writer for Alebrijes Review and Yellow Arrow Publishing.