A voice woke me out of a deep sleep.

“Whassat?” it asked.

The voice sounded familiar. Whose could it be?

Oh, it’s mine.

I sat up.

Outside my bedroom window, the woods breathed with the sound of the wind in the tree tops.

We sleep with the windows open, so I often hear strange sounds in the night.  In the city these sounds that never bothered me. There, my mind filtered out the things I did not need to know, the brawls in the alley or the occasional gunshot, but in the country it is different. I’ve not adjusted to the sounds of country nights.


Like that one.

Rural evenings are filled with nature’s racket.  Mostly it is critters spamming for sex; like the love-starved chipmunk who clucks for hours at the same annoying tempo, but this is not him.

If it were, I would have stuck my head out the window and shouted, “Ladies, help the little feller out so we can all get some sleep!”

But like I say, it is not him. I’ve not heard this sound before.


What is it about it that bothers me so? I don’t know. It is not a cry for food, sex or territory.  Just one annoying…


…after another.

By now I am hopelessly awake.

“Whassat?” mumbles my wife.

“I dunno,” I tell her.

She returns to sleep.

I lay there anticipating the next chirp, but it doesn’t come…..


Then it does.

I go to the window to listen. I hear nature’s heartbeat under the breath of the wind. It is the rhythmic strumming of crickets. A sound I have always found soothing.


Unlike that.

But whoa! Wait a minute.   The sound is not coming from the woods, it is coming from behind me – in the house.  Suddenly, I know what it is. It is a smoke alarm complaining about a low battery.

I listen for the next chirp.

And listen…

And listen…

Still listening…

Until finally…


It seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. I have no idea which alarm is bad, so I go into the hall to stand under the alarm there.



Nope. Not that one.  I move to the living room and wait.

And wait…


It is not the living room alarm either. More like in the dining room. So I stand on my tiptoes and try to twist that dining room alarm out of its bracket.

It won’t budge.

By this time, I’ve lost my temper. I give the whole assembly a hard counter-clockwise twist, ripping the bracket from the ceiling.



This time the sound comes from the living room. I go back there to wait.


That one comes off the ceiling too.

But a few moments later…


I can’t stand the chirping anymore. I rampage through the kitchen and into the laundry room, ripping down detectors as I go.  I pile them on the living room table.


Thank God, the sound finally comes from the pile, but now what do I do? I have no batteries.

Believe me, I get it. I understand the necessity of smoke detectors. I also understand that procrastinators like me must be nagged into action but even procrastinators need sleep.

I resolve to replace the detectors in the morning but when I do that, I’m getting good ones with brackets that work – but what to do with the old ones?

I get an idea.

I step out on the porch and cradle an alarm in the curve of my hand. I take a few practice swings then I wind up and fling it like a Frisbee far out into the woods. The little white disk arcs gracefully into trees.


It hits an oak tree. Now there is a satisfying sound. Then one after another its little brothers follow it into the woods.



Finally it is quiet…. too quiet.

My tantrum has upset the crickets. They have all fallen silent. So silent that way out there in the woods, I hear a faint…


Now, I’ll never get to sleep.

Author: Almost Iowa

22 thoughts on “Chirp!”

  1. Brilliant, Greg. So well written and so funny. It happened to me too, exactly as you describe it, you don’t know where the chirp is coming from. I also ripped them off the wall one by one.

  2. I have heard of an anarchist and antiterrorist but this is the first time I have heard of anti-chirpism. Congratulations. You have created a new career field. Can you let us know where to go to sign up for training.

    1. Anti-Chipist, that’s me in a nut-shell. Sorry, I took so long to respond. Julie has been sick so I had to remain off-line in Almost Iowa for close to two weeks. My only access to the internet is a coffee shop in town when I can slip away to visit it.

      1. No problem about replying. I have other things to keep me entertained. Lately I have been counted the few hairs left on my bald head. Hope Julie is feeling better. (I assume Julie is your significant other.) 🙂

        1. Julie is my significant other but we have long loud arguments about whether her significance entitles her to the last of the rhubarb pie. 😦

          As you may suspect, I am still bitter about that one.

    1. Far, far underground.

      I can just imagine one Japanese seismologist asking another, “What is this strange squiggle on the graph? It is not any earth tremor I have seen, it looks more like a chirp!”

  3. We have one, here, which won’t help us at all if there’s a fire in the bedroom, as there’s nothing in there — and — ours is wired into………somewhere. We’d kill it if we knew how. *sigh*

  4. We had to install them when we built our house, but we didn’t have to turn them on. I do most of the chirping around the house.

    Hope in your half sleep you didn’t accidentally step in the litter box.

  5. Yup. It happens. I’ve had similarly poor luck at installing a battery and reassembling smoke alarms. Always seem to have to buy a new one.

  6. I had a similar experience right here at home, up and down the stairs, one room after another, the “chirp” seeming to come from one direction, then another. I agree: it’s better to nourish them twice a year.

  7. True story. I once ripped them all off the ceiling to silence them in a sleepy stupor. Still chirping, went and turned the breaker to them off. Still chirping. Destroyed them all, still chirping. Only after being fully awakened did I realize it was the stupid CO2 detector, not the pieces of smoke detectors in my garage. I can so relate to this.

  8. You are a firecracker! Love this!

    A million years ago, when I worked for Bell, they sent me to work in another city to help out with the work load. Set me up in my own apartment with an expense account and everything. It was my first time living on my own – I was maybe 23? A very young 23.

    One night I was awakened by the sounds of alien space craft signalling the mother ship… I was frozen in terror of the dang-blang, unrelenting *beep* that emanated from the vacant apartment above me. It took me a while to snap out of it. I had never encountered a dead battery in a smoke detector before.

    Of course, since I was also frozen in terror of kindly by scary landlord, I said nothing, and spent several sleepless nights until the battery finally died but good.

    Ah, youth. Or as My Cousin Vinny says, “Ah, yute!”

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