by Eva Eliav
When I was ten, there was a plague of June bugs. There were crushed bodies of June bugs everywhere. It looked as if the sidewalks had the measles.
‘Why are there so many?’ I asked my mother.
‘Some years are like that,’ she said.
‘Why are some years like that?’
She shrugged her shoulders, groaning a little as if they were too heavy.
‘Nobody knows,’ she said. She shook her head. ‘Well, maybe somebody knows, but I don’t know.’
‘Maybe the weather man knows?’
‘Maybe,’ she said.
‘Or,’ I said, then stopped, then began again, ‘maybe Dad knows.’
I felt her stiffen. ‘I haven’t a clue,’ she said, ‘what your father knows.’
She spoke in her new voice, her bitter voice. A smile twisted her lips. ‘I could tell you a lot of things he doesn’t know.’
I shouldn’t have asked, but I wanted to provoke her. ‘Tell me,’ I said, ‘some things he doesn’t know.’
She glared at me. ‘Don’t be a smarty pants.’
And so it went that summer. My dad was gone. He was living far away, my mother said, a place too far away to even visit. She tried to be the same as she’d always been, but even a little girl knows how sorrow looks. Once, I caught her undressing before bed. Her slip had deep creases on the seat and the fabric under her arms was stiff and gray. One strap had torn and she’d fixed it with a pin.
I hated June bugs. I kicked them out of the way when I was walking. My best friend, Gina, said, ‘They’re pretty, really, if you forget they’re bugs. They look like shiny beads.’
‘Beads with spiky legs,’ I sneered, squashing one savagely.
Gina’s cats would catch them in mid-flight and crunch them up like sweets. I couldn’t bear the sound. It felt as if they were crunching up my heart.
‘A pity you don’t have a sister…or a brother,” Mother said, ‘to keep you company when I’m not home.’
But I didn’t want a playmate. I wanted Dad. I wanted him to come swinging through the door. Instead, June bugs flew in, messengers with rattling copper wings. They came to tell us the life we knew was over, the life we knew would never come again.
Eva Eliav received a degree in English Lang and Lit from the University of Toronto. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in a number of literary magazines, including The St. Ann’s Review, Room, Emrys Journal, Ilanot Review, Flashquake, Jewish Fiction.Net, The Apple Valley Review, Horizon Review, Boston Literary Review, Constellations, The Linnet’s Wings, and Arc Israel.