He was black, black as night. And he was painfully short. But none of that should have been a reason for everyone to despise him and reject his attempts at selling them his candles. For indeed the candles were of great quality and at even then at a reasonable price.
The quality, at least in his own thoughts, was due to his homemade approach and the love and effort that went into each candle. None of these were from an assembly line; each one he’d hand crafted from beeswax. The beeswax was somewhat dangerous for him to collect, if again, that was only in his head, it still remained a constant nuisance going to the bees. He feared them, and the bees sensed the fear, so he thought.
But nonetheless he gathered the wax from them, thanked them, thanked the beekeeper and went about on his way molding.
For the wicks he braided cotton around wood. He carved the wood into thin, tall slivers and then braided the cotton tightly around to make fine wicks. After dying them with a special flame-resistant dye (a trick that took him years to discover and a trick that the candles otherwise, for those years, would not burn properly) he would begin the dipping process with the beeswax. He made them large and small and fat and thin; he made them dyed with other colors. He tried designs by carving with small toothpicks at the wax, but still they did not sell.
And again, even the price was fair. Oftentimes if he were lucky enough for someone to even ask for a price he would say that they could pay whatever they wished, as long as he made something for his trouble and passion. Mostly they would consider that odd and shut the door.
Certainly he was a quiet individual, quiet enough, he thought. But that also shouldn’t have deterred people. He mostly was just scared of them, and scared of judgment, derision, the like.
It might have been that he had antennas. They were long, longer than his body and under them lay his wings. Most crickets looked as such, but most people hated crickets, he supposed. He lugged around the candles through the streets with a string holding the four candles that he currently had. It took him about eight minutes to lug the candles from door to the next. He’d started counting.
It’d been about three years since anyone had purchased a candle; these ones were becoming old, but candles mostly kept all right. He almost despaired at the thought of making more before selling these old ones that were starting to become scratched up and faded.
The next place was nestled in a small town out in the countryside. The houses were wood and packed close enough together. The stars shone bright as it was late in the evening. The candle seller took grabbed a pebble by the side of the door and knocked it against the wooden door. If he didn’t knock with pebbles, people would never hear him.
An old man answered the door. He wore some oversized night shirt and a cap that bent over and rested in a point on his right shoulder.
“Who’s there? Who is it?” he shouted out.
“Down here sir,” said the cricket.
“Oh,” said the old man. He looked down through his half moon glasses and his nose and saw the cricket. “I say, quite late isn’t it?” he cleared his throat. “Especially for a cricket.”
“I’m nocturnal sir.”
“Well quite late for me anyhow,” said the old man grumpily.
The cricket knew humans like to wake up with the sunrise but this made selling candles difficult. He liked to wake up when the sun went down. He tried to utilize these precious few hours when he and humans were awake at the same time.
“I’m sorry, I thought I might catch you before you went off to bed, sir.”
“Yes?” the old man adjusted his glasses and craned his neck up whilst straining his eyes down. “And what for? Come out, out with it.”
“Do you read at night sir?”
“Oh, yes, hmm, candles eh.” He said the word candles with some sort of disdain. “I’ve heard about you. Come in, come in.”
The cricket was taken aback. A long ways aback, because no one, in the history of his candle making, candle selling, and any travels ever had invited him in for anything. Some people tried to step on him. Purposefully step on him.
“Well,” the cricket hesitated.
“Come on, come on. It’s cold out.” The old man grabbed up the four candles before the cricket had a chance to respond further. He followed him in.
“Sit down,” the old man motioned to a soft velvet chair across from another. The fire burned bright. The cricket jumped up and sat in the middle watching the old man put his candles by the shoes.
“So what kind of cricket sells candles?” asked the old man. He puffed on a pipe now.
“Well,” thought the cricket. “I suppose there’s nothing else to do, we’ve all got to make a living.”
“Humans, do, yes, but not crickets. There’s something else to it.”
The cricket hesitated once again. “Well, it’s not satisfying work, I admit.”
“And no one really likes me, it seems. I never sell any candles.” He motioned to his four candles. “I’ve had those for years now. Maybe I need new wax.”
The old man shook his head. “You’re missing the point.”
“How do you mean?”
“It’s not the wax, it’s what you’re doing.”
“Maybe I’m a loser.”
The cricket looked down with his beady black eyes and moped. All the thoughts came flooding. This happened once in a small while. “Maybe nobody likes me for a reason. Maybe I should quit.”
Setting down his old pipe, the old man then pressed his thumb and forefinger together and started rubbing them in a circle.
The cricket stared.
The old man kept rubbing them in a small circle.
The cricket looked away, feeling the awkwardness of the situation.
“Do you know what this is?” asked the old man. He continued on.
The cricket shook his head.
“It’s the smallest violin playing just you.”
“I don’t know what that means,” said the cricket.
The man stood up slowly. “It means quit feeling sorry for yourself because nobody else does!” The old man arrived at the door and opened it. “I’m keeping the candles. Find a woman, someone you love, perhaps. This candle business is only killing you.”
The cricket, uncertain of how he would acquire the candles had he even wanted them, hopped out the door. He heard it slam behind him.
Later that night, when the sky was full and still and the humans had all gone off to bed, the cricket sat in the grass outside of that tiny village and thought about what the old man had said. He pondered on being depressed and why the candles wouldn’t sell. He thought about other things besides. He pictured symphonies composed entirely of violins. He pictured himself playing a tiny violin.
Then he thought of his wings, their fine comb, and the words of the grumpy old man. Slowly, he scraped the top of his right wing on the bottom edge of his left. It made a noise that pleased him to the core; a noise that he hadn’t thought he’d ever be able to produce. He scraped harder and softer and back and forth until the sounds started coming together.
For hours he experimented.
Being one of the very few crickets in the world, he wasn’t prepared in the least when a lady cricket stuck her beady eyes over a hill in the grass.
He stopped and stared at her. Then he immediately kept playing for fear she would leave.
He stroked his wings together creating music that he found beautiful beyond words.
Perhaps she would too, he supposed.
“What is that,” the lady cricket said. She was awed and inspired, he could tell.
He cleared his throat worried about what he might say. He stroked his wings again and met her gaze.
“What is that?” she asked again. She was very close now, as immersed in him as much as his music.
“Well,” he started clearing his throat again. “It’s the world’s smallest violin,” he finally said triumphantly.
She waited awestruck.
He continued playing and looked to her.
“Why are you playing?” she asked.
“I’m playing just for you,” he replied.
She smiled and he never thought about candles ever again.