If there is a cooler-looking bug than a grasshopper, I don’t know of it. They’re prehistoric and futuristic at the same time; some of them even look metallic. Many a science-fiction monster owes its features to the grasshopper. As a kid, I caught them by the jar full -- and they were not easy to catch. You’d have to chase the fuckers all over the field; the big ones could jump ten feet and the ones with wings could jump even further. And they didn’t like being caught, either -- they fought like hell to escape.
During my youth, me and a few other dopes would traipse out to the field to capture them -- the father of one of my friends used to use them as bait for fishing, and he’d toss us a buck or two if we brought him back a few jars full. Most of the time I just let mine go, since the thought of Scotty’s father sticking a hook through them seemed more than a little cruel. Paul Lehman, Scotty’s dad, was a thick, strong-looking guy with a tattoo of an eagle on his arm. Like my father, he was a WWll veteran, and he used to cut the grass with his shirt off. He was a hairy motherfucker, too, and my father used to shout across the street to him, "Hey -- Apesy-Baby. Put your goddamn shirt on, for Christ’s sake."
Scott’s dad always complied, for some reason.
We’d catch grasshoppers all day -- they were endlessly fascinating to us. They came in every color and size, and whoever ended up with the most in one peanut-butter jar was considered top-dog that day.
There was this other kid who hunted grasshoppers in the same field we did -- an ill-tempered little bastard named Mark Offer -- and boy was he mean. His mom was a waitress at King Edward’s restaurant, and his older sister Nicki had a reputation for beating the hell out of boys. They were, to say the least, a formidable bunch. What bothered me about Mark was his cruelty: he would kill grasshoppers with a fork he filched from the kitchen of the restaurant. Or he would catch a whole jar of grasshoppers, pour water into the jar through the holes in the top, and stick them in the freezer -- just to be mean. Most the time, we avoided him. But when we ignored him, he’d go get his sister Nicki, who would tell us, "You guys play with my brother or I’ll stomp a mud-hole in your asses. All of you. . . ."
And she could. One time she pushed Billy Printy’s head down a commode for grabbing her tit. While he was choking on toilet water, she was punching his nut-sack.
We did not fuck around with Nicki Offer. At a sock-hop in eighth grade, she told a guy that he would dance with her or she would punch him in the nuts. He danced.
As long as Mark Offer had Nicki around, he could be as big of an asshole as he wanted.
One day, I was out catching grasshoppers and Nicki was in the field with her dog. She walked up to me, and I was terrified -- but there was something else too. Nicki Offer was beginning to be really pretty. It seemed like one day she looked like all of the other guys and then -- poof! -- she suddenly started looking like a girl. She was actually kind of beautiful; too bad she scared the shit out of me. Anyway, she walked up to me in the field and asked me what I was doing. I was kind of afraid to answer her, but finally I replied that I was catching grasshoppers and crayfish.
She asked me if I ever made the grasshoppers and crayfish fight. I told her no -- I hadn’t thought of that. She held her hand out and asked if she could see the jar of grasshoppers. Wanting to avoid an ass-kicking, I handed them over --monkey-fast. She studied them very carefully, and then she asked me if I knew what they were doing?
I didn’t know what she meant; there were like 30 ’hoppers in there and some of them were riding the others, piggy-back style.
She told me they were all fucking.
The world slowed to a snail’s pace and I heard myself ask, “What?"
She narrowed her eyes and said, "They’re fucking. They’re not riding each other piggyback, you dope."
I felt my whole face flush hot and said, "I have to go home."
Nicki grabbed my arm and said, "No, stay here – let’s watch them fuck." Jesus -- Now I didn’t know what to do. She was holding my arm and looking at me with a different kind of light in her eye. As the seconds passed, I started to feel less scared, and then, she kind of leaned into me -- clumsily, we kissed. As quickly as it had happened, she pulled away and smiled at me.
She ran about 20 feet away and then turned around to face me, her face red and flushed. "You better not tell anyone . . . fucker," she said.
I just nodded my head and smiled.
TONY FITZPATRICK is an artist from Chicago. For his blog, click here.