Meet My Friend, Charlie
The younger son came to me recently with a most serious question.
“Dad, can I go to the park so I can catch some grasshoppers?”
Hoohooville features a park like most any small town. Our official version lays far from here on the western edge of this fair city, surrounded by a row of well-kept apartments, several blocks of houses of different shapes and sizes, plus an expansive, private lawn where many mobile homes have gathered to form an orderly-looking outfit. To get there from here, one would rather drive a car unless one wants to hike for an hour.
“Do you have a driver’s license by now, son?”
The small boy can produce wonderful baleful looks. One showed up on his face, which he offered to me for free.
I smiled back at his expression but nodded my permission, and as he rushed for the front door, I thought to holler after him.
“Take a big jar along!”
A half-hour later he returned from the ballpark down the street with a smile and some good news.
“I found me a new friend, dad.”
The boy entered the room walking slow and cautiously.
“And I named him Charlie.”
He had one of his arms out in front, level with the floor. Its steadily-held hand pointed toward me.
“Want to see?”
He paced each step carefully while staring down at his extended index finger. Then he stopped a few feet away from my chair. There, dangling from the tip of his small finger, I saw a frail, green thing hanging on for dear life. The boy had caught a tiny praying mantis.
As a boy, I took control over the lives of various types of unfortunate bugs, and pretty much had my way with the wide range of the ones I came across. It is a normal rite of passage most of us young males take to readily. Even a few braver girls I have known claimed they experienced the thrill of the heated chase, the mad capture, the daring experiment, and the eventual death.
Poor bugs. Poor, wonderful bugs. What would we ever do without them? I remember trying to pull arms and legs off my two sisters several times, but bugs never seemed to mind as much.
Charlie swiveled his tiny upside-down head, and he looked me in my eyes as I leaned in close.
“I had one of these guys before.”
The boy gave a slow twist to his wrist, and the half-inch-long creature scrambled to get topside.
“Yeah, but mine was huge. Almost three inches long.”
That impressed him well-enough, so we lingered together for awhile, watching and studying Charlie as my mind wandered back to another age in another era.
That vicious insect I caught gave me a mean bite once. This poor, poor innocent thing will probably never stand a chance around here, not around us two.
But only time will tell, you know, for hope does spring eternal.