My cousin Gregory was scared to death of crickets.  Petrified.  Could barely go outside in the summer, and, at night, he had to sleep with the TV on and three fans going, and if one little chirp managed to leak on through the window, he’d pull the covers up over his head and practically shit himself.  That was why Uncle Lenny drank so goddamn much, everyone said, and the whole situation was a mess, and one night we drove Gregory out to Mystic Lanes in Mason City.  Told him we were going bowling.  Except we had these three old canning jars in the trunk, and they were full of crickets, and Lipmann brought ‘em all in in his league bag, and, right around the seventh frame, we just let the freaks run free.  Middle of Gregory’s turn.  They’re chirping and fiddling and what have you, and some youth group girls are screaming and praying, and I swear to Christ they all started chanting the Our Father, and Gregory, he fucking nearly passed out.  Just straight crumpled.  Sat there only halfway breathing, and as he’s laying there twitching the bugs are crawling all up and down his arms and legs.  One of ‘em is like pawing at his teeth.  Lipmann, he’s cracking jokes about Chinese fucking delicacies, and Old Man Hicks is at the counter about to call 911 when “Maybe Baby” comes on over the speakers, and the whole thing gets pretty fucking surreal.  Like one of them slow motion movies.  Gregory looks pale as shit.  Lipmann is telling him to get his ass up, and the whole time I’m figuring, well, this is pretty much it, isn’t it, and either he dies right there in the gutter or else he ends up owing us just about the world’s biggest favor, and I don’t know where he is now, but sometimes somebody gets a postcard marked Idaho or fucking Utah, and alls I can see is Gregory on his back.  He’s looking up at Mormon sky.  Trying not to drown in that Great Salt Lake.  

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Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in Chautauqua, the minnesota review, Emrys Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, will be published in December 2020 by Split/Lip Press. He’s currently working on a book set in and around Clear Lake, Iowa.