A voice wakes me out of a deep sleep.

“Whassat?” it asks.

The voice sounds familiar. Whose could it be?

Oh, it’s mine.

I sit up.

We sleep with the windows open, so we 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, like brawls in the alley and 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.

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


Then it does.

I put my ear to the screen and listen to nature’s heartbeat under the murmur 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 go there and stand on my tiptoes to twist the alarm out of its bracket.

It won’t budge.

By this time, I’ve lost my temper. I wrench the entire assembly with 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 and tossing them into a pile 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 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

47 thoughts on “Chirp!”

  1. One of the benefits of living in a small house is it doesn’t take long to track down the chirper. Probably just as well, if I tossed it as far as you tossed yours I’d be tormenting the neighbors.

  2. A strong write. I felt your smoldering anger turn into a roar as you sped through the house. Good pace and flow, it felt as if it happened … a memory rather than fiction.

  3. Tame compared to the ear-splitting yowl of the carbon monoxide detector that decided to activate itself in the hall outside our bedroom one night. Even pulling the battery didn’t kill it, so I had to.

  4. I stayed a couple of nights with my 90 yo aunt this summer in her two bedroom apartment. We spent both nights trying to identify the chirping fire detector. Here’s my question. Why are we still using batteries in this modern age? Of all the things I thought would be obsolete by now, batteries and fax machines were on the top of my list. I only hope I live long enough to see them both end up as displays in the Smithsonian.

    1. I only hope I live long enough to see them both end up as displays in the Smithsonian.

      The National Museum of American History in Washington DC has a room devoted to the history of computers. As my children and I went through the room, I kept pointing and saying, “I worked on that one, and that, and that, and that…”

  5. I think most of us can relate to this one! Nothing is more annoying than those “low battery” chirps on our smoke alarms. I can only hope you found the one that was still chirping in the woods and managed to toss it into a nearby lake. Fish don’t need much sleep.

    1. I heard that the turkey took care of it. You don’t want to deprive a flock of turkey of a good night’s sleep. They might not be bright or graceful flyers – but they take care of business.

  6. Yes! I have been there. Far too often. Twice, I think. Which was two times too many. And the ceilings are high. That means fetching a ladder from outside in the middle of the night. Possible solution. The loud noise-maker that now lives next to my bed. –Curt

  7. They are diabolical. Reading the comments I see we all experience the chirp in the middle of the night when sound asleep. NEVER in the daytime.

  8. The most annoying sound… ever! Ours are hardwired to the house with a battery back up. Problem is, I never remember to change the batteries so every time the power goes out at night… they chirp, chirp, chirp. It makes me homicidal.

  9. Oh, yes, such an annoyance those middle-of-the-night chirps of the smoke detector. Which one, indeed?

    The local fire station was giving away smoke detectors, and batteries, at the annual open house on Saturday. Pretty sweet, huh?

    1. Believe me, I am not anti-smoke detector. In fact, the first year I spent at the Department of Public Safety was working for the State Fire Marshal. I couldn’t convince him to require smoke detectors to warn about a low battery in a soft soothing, yet insistent voice.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!”

  12. 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*

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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