Location: marengo, il, United States

Saturday, July 08, 2006

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.

“You did?”

“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.


Blogger Gone Away said...

Of all insects, I like the praying mantis best. It's to do with their eyes, you see - they are not compound like the eyes of a fly but have a clearly visible pupil. This enables us to watch as they turn their vision from us to something else and we can feel some kinship (distant but there somehow) with a creature that sees as we do.

I, too, hope for Charlie's survival.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Oh, and the long-promised fireworks post is up at last.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I still say poor poor Charlie... I pray for better days for him and hope for his survival as well... But with him at the mercy of younger son the future for Charlie looks bleak... haha! Tell him to be gentle and admire then let him go! Sighs...

2:28 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Me too, Gone. A manti is not only an intelligent creature, but listens well and deserves a better fate than the rest.

(gone to sit and watch far works)

2:28 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Rest easy, Erin my dear. Charlie has his own place now, which is much larger than mine is. And he has fresh leaves for a carpet too.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Ned said...

We used to catch grasshoppers and keep them in jars. Bugs were endlessly fascinating back then. I sometimes think maybe there aren't as many interesting bugs around now, but I realize that it's been a long time since I spent an afternoon under an oak tree watching a walking stick. I doubt I would even notice that twig moving now, my world rotates faster now and is full of greater distractions.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Get thee to a tree, Ned!

1:01 PM  
Blogger James said...

Uncle Hes,
Interesting to read we are both buggie...check out my latest blog

1:51 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I be right there, NefJes

3:42 PM  

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