The city was grey .Grey buildings; grey people; grey skies .Grey. One day –twelve years ago- I saw colour. A small green person hobbled about town in a big, heavy suit, weighing down on his thin shoulders. Then he came to my building. He asked me for a job (or at least what I thought he said – his American was very poor). I didn’t know what he was, so I didn’t give him a contract. I later regretted this as Cicada was an amazing worker.
17 YEARS LATER.
Cicada has been working for me seventeen years. He is a data entry clerk. He has never made a mistake nor had a sick day.
Cicada stared at the blank wall, plucking up the courage to show me his work. Terrified, he poked his small round head out of his (so-called) office, anxious to avoid the building bullies. He urged himself to believe that they appreciated him but how could he after they pound him with physical and verbal violence!
“Cicada go show boss work. Tok, Tok, Tok,” he muttered as he scuttled out of his cubicle and down the silent corridor. Into the room entered Cicada. The room – situated on the fourth floor of the stormy grey office block – had plaster peeling off the steel grey walls and an expensive desk dominated it. This was where I sat, in my plush leather armchair.
“What is it now Cicada?” I asked, my voice as sharp as a knife. Cicada felt like a nuisance. He asked this question every day, and he knew I was sick of it.
“Can Cicada have holiday?” he mumbled twiddling his fingers. He shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, awaiting an answer.
“I told you if you work here twenty years you will get a big payday. Nobody else has the rules bent, so why should you!” I had always spoken like this to workers; even so, this time, I felt awful.
“Have you done those twenty years?” I asked
“Cicada has not,”
“Have you done all of this week’s work?”
“Cicada has not,”
“Are you…” I paused. Was this the best thing to say?
“Are you human?”
Cicada felt tears prickling up against his eyes.
“Can Cicada have holiday?” Cicada wailed. I was shocked! No employee had ever spoken to me this way before. I decided to approach the situation calmly. I spun my chair and stood up to face the lone window.
“Oh Cicada,” I chuckled “You will wish for a holiday but you don’t have a contract so I can’t give you a holiday,” I said sympathetically.
Cicada scuttled out of my office. Was he really just a foreign bruise whose words could not persuade anyone to love him? Cicada walked out of the building. He was weary – he had had to use the stairs because he could not reach the button for the lift.
This had taken quite a while, and now Cicada was desperate for the loo. Knees buckled, Cicada tried to run down the road, but this failed with him toppling over several times. Finally, Cicada reached a greasy pub with a lazy owner. Cicada dashed behind the counter; to the toilets.
Cicada hurried back to the building, only to find that the day of work was over. I had docked his pay by ten dollars. I was curious to see Cicada swim upstream through the crowd of workers. I came out of my office and followed Cicada to a vent grate. Cicada crawled through.
I chose to forget about this, as it was too much to balance on my conscience. I saw him crawl out and walked out of the building, up to the forest. He pulled a knob of bark off a tree and let sap pour into a tiny tea pot he was holding. He walked back through the glaring lights of the city, enclosing the tea pot in his briefcase.
That’s when two figures jumped out of the shadows. Boris Hindrance and Graham Sacrifice. The building bullies. I closed the blind on my window as I would disgrace to see a fight.
At last I reopened the blind, I saw Cicada. Disappointed, Cicada began to retrieve the contents of his briefcase. The tea pot of sap was untouched, but the tea cup had been smashed to pieces. Tears stung his eyes, which clung to the sides of his face. The voids of unhappiness swallowed passers-by in darkness. His leaf green frown conveyed his sadness to the crumpled pile of teacup in his hands.
Boris and Graham weren’t even as bad as Cicadas colleagues. When together there were always whispers or awkward silences. They were embarrassed to be seen with him and half of the time, completely forgot about Cicadas existence. However much Boris and Graham harassed him, it the whispers of the people and environment around him was worst.
At first I thought I would never appreciate my working neighbour’s identity, but now, I miss him so!
Cicada`s produce of work was decreasing by the day. It came down to him just pressing a button (the space bar). Soon after I noticed this. I found a letter waiting for me on my desk. I grasped for my letter opener and cut the envelope open:
To whom it may concern,
As I am the leader of the National Workers Union, I am begging you to change your employment policy after one of your workers wrote to us. Our attention was drawn to his letter as it described his awful living conditions, sanitary difficulties and size issues. How would you suffer in his place?
The letter went on a bit about Cicada`s discomforts. When the day ended, I usually saw Cicada heading to the stair well: to the roof of the building.
I burst through the door onto the roof.
“Cicada, Cicada!” I shouted “I didn’t know. Cicada I`ll help you!” But I was too late. The sky was filled with vivid orange insects, illuminating the grey city.
Cicadas little green body was standing on the edge of the roof; he was split in half! I had lost Cicada to the forest but I hoped he was all right.
Two weeks later, Cicada died. In these two weeks Cicada found a mate, had some children and thought about the humans and I. The forest Cicada came to was green and beautiful. The lake flowed from the hill where the great oak sat. They say Cicadas find their mates there. Red roses bloom in the roots of the oak and lilies grow by the stream.
Large weeping willows reach their branches across the lake and Cicadas perch on them. Thousands of trees fill the forest and moss covers everything. Reeds’ heads poke out of the water. The stream spreads from the source like a hand clawing the ground.
It was luxury for Cicadas. Gorgeous pink sunsets filled the sky, casting a hazy glow on the summery forest. Cicada didn’t have to go anywhere to get sap as it was all in the oak they all called home.
I miss Cicada. I haven’t found another worker quite like him. The grey city is ever-more grey without the little glow of green Cicada gave off. I assume that I shall ever see a Cicada again, but next time, I will say goodbye.