I had my book; he was working on his screen, each of us in our little world of thought on the GO bus. His hand was a brush and ink. He traced with a finger, and retraced, a flowing dark character onto the pearl-grey screen, in a movement that was almost balletic.
He caught my eye. "It's Japanese," he said. "Chinese originally, borrowed by the Japanese." He smiled. "Do you know what it means?"
Two lines across the screen -- four rectangles. A cricket quickly sketched into each one. Crickets in cages, the cricket on the hearth, crickets for luck. Chester, The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden's clever Chester, who learned the classics from the radio at the subway newsstand and chirped an aria. Garth WiIliams' tender illustrations, deep with crosshatching.
The man sketched a few more crickets for me and then we turned the curve that signals the Westdale stop. I heard the mechanized chirp of the bus-card machine as I stepped down into the rain outside and had a sudden memory of how a cricket falls silent as you approach.
I used to come upon them in the house sometimes: escapees from the terrarium full of lizards my young sons kept. The crickets were dinner on the run, fleeing to the basement, to the bath. They sounded like a summer day.
No gilded cage, no glowing hearth, no storybook. Tickled my cupped palms as they struggled, then went down the drain fast. But each time there was a wisp of doubt. Those were the years of Lego and pets and picture books. And of luck. You don't want any to slip through your hands.