© Copyright 2022 by Wanda Nelson
Photo by Boris Smokrovic on Unsplash
I discovered him gnawing on a bright green blade of grass underneath Mama’s white rose bush. Mama’s rose bush was my very own special retreat from the scorching sun of sizzling summer days and the place I carried my library books selected from the Bookmobile. Sometimes I carried the paper dolls Mama cut from the grocery paper sacks or I wore the nurses cap she made for me out of leftover school notebook paper. Whether I became a princess from one of my library books or pretended to be a nurse to my paper dolls given names and colored hurriedly with broken crayons; this place was my domain.
I was lying flat on my stomach as my blonde hair cascaded across my freckled cheeks. Immediately, I became quite still as I had never been this close to a grasshopper. My attempts to catch one in the past always ended with the grasshopper quickly escaping my hands. Something in my senses directed me to not make yet another failed attempt at catching this grasshopper for he was quite spectacular. The green of his body was rich and clean with no imperfections. I studied the color knowing I had not seen this exact shade anywhere else in my mountain home. There was a quiver and a pulsating of his body as he devoured his meal. I remembered teacher had told us at school that insects had three body parts.
Wrinkling my brow, I recalled the words “head, thorax, abdomen.” This is what makes an insect different from me. Watching him eat I wondered why my textbook at school did not have a better picture. This real grasshopper was truly more beautiful and interesting than the one captured on the same page with ants under a log. His eyes bulged with a brightness like the diamond in Mama’s wedding ring. I realized he must be very smart to find my hideaway. It was always cool and shady here, nothing to bother you, and a secret place. I had always thought it only belonged to me.
The shape of Grasshopper’s head remined me of the green mask my brother wore for Halloween. It was long with two antennae pointing upward like arms reaching toward the sky. The eyes on each side were snails suspended above the grasshopper’s cheek. As he opened his mouth to chew, I witnessed a stream of brown slime flowing from his mouth. It had the appearance of snuff as it oozed like lava onto the ground below. My nose was so close I could smell the stale odor. He used his front legs to steady the grass he devoured, a lion holding its prey. Would he eat at Mama’s brilliant white roses too? I remembered teacher talking about camouflage and realized this Grasshopper was hidden from intruders in the grass below the magnificent white roses.
Studying him I realized my head was much different. My eyes were in front rather than along the side of my face. In fact, my ears were on the side of my head. How remarkably interesting Grasshopper could see to his left and right side. He had no eyelashes like me. I wondered how he kept out dust when the wind blew in the spring and summer. I watched carefully to see if he might take a nap. Did he sleep with his eyes closed like me?
I began to study the thorax of Grasshopper my brow squinting across my forehead, creases of interest. Teacher told us the thorax was the middle of the body and it attached the legs and wings. Up close this appeared an oddity to me. My middle was my tummy with a belly button in the center. Of course, I did not have wings unless Mama pinned on handmade ones for the Christmas play at church. But even when she pinned them on, I could still not fly like a real angel. On closer inspection I saw the holes we learned insects used for breathing. Inside me were two pink balloons called lungs where my oxygen came and went. I wondered why God decided to make Grasshopper with holes instead of balloon lungs. Could it be it would have looked silly if the lungs were on the outside? The tall blades of grass might become knives that pierced the soft tissue of the lungs. I was sure God had a reason.
The last part of Grasshopper called abdomen was most unusual to me. Grasshopper’s abdomen was for his digestion. I counted to make certain there were eleven sections on Grasshopper’s abdomen. I wondered how the grass felt both while Grasshopper ate it and how it felt inside his body. Grass did not seem like something I would want for a meal. Yet, I realized there was plenty of grass everywhere I looked, a meadow of food for every smart and hungry hopper. In my Laura Ingalls Wilder book Laura wrote about how the grasshoppers came once and destroyed the crops. They descended upon the land with a fierce rage and ate with no mercy. I tried to imagine such a sight. This Grasshopper was small and did not look dangerous at all. I wondered what it must have looked like to see the sky filled with the green insects moving closer and closer to eat the farmer’s crops.
I decided to break my silence and speak to Grasshopper. Softly, I spoke so as not to frighten him away. “Would you like to be king of my castle? I am a princess, and this is my castle. I need a king to rule our land. You look brave and you found this special place all by yourself.”
The offer of becoming king of the white rosebush land must have appealed to Grasshopper as he gazed at me with his sideways eyes. I remained a still statue of persuasion giving Grasshopper time to consider my plea. I believed after some study of Grasshopper that he seemed open to becoming my King. He would certainly need some type of crown to wear. I quietly pulled a blade of grass from the ground and began to shape it into a tiny circle. Tying the grass into a knot I gently crowned Grasshopper King of the White Rosebush Land. Grasshopper continued to eat greedily unaware of his new glory and adornment.
Bravely, I began to converse with King Grasshopper. “Oh, King we must protect our kingdom from invaders who mean to harm us. We need an army to protect the palace.” I wondered if the ants I often saw marching like soldiers after the spring rain could be our army. Later I could talk to them. The grass crown tumbled from King’s head as he took another bite of grass. I realized all Kings of territories need a Queen. King Grasshopper had a wife somewhere he could bring here to help rule our new kingdom.
I began to tell King Grasshopper about my paper dolls and the floral names I had given them. There was Rose, Daisy, Violet, Hyacinth, Iris, and Myrtle. My last batch of paper dolls I named after months of the year, April, May, June, July, and August. I put my chin on my hands as I lay next to King Grasshopper and spoke softly, “When I grow up and am no longer Princess of the Rosebush Land, I want to be a teacher or some other kind of helper.” I did not know what other kinds of helper jobs there were, but I liked it when someone helped me.
our privacy was interrupted by Mama’s voice calling to me. Her
voice startled King Grasshopper as he started jumping. I watched him
hop away outside Rose Bush Land. Obediently, I gathered my paper
dolls and white paper nurse’s hat. I called out, “Coming
Mama.” Tomorrow I would return. King Grasshopper and I would
make plans for our kingdom.
I am looking forward to the time I now have to improve my writing. I hope in some way what I write will resonant with others causing them some personal reflection in their own life journeys. I have been happily married to the same wonderful guy for 32 years and we have three fantastic grown children. We are eagerly anticipating our daughter’s upcoming wedding and the knowledge we are just a little closer to grandchildren. My hobbies include traveling, knitting, reading, hiking, and am hopeful my hobby of writing will evolve into a new vocation.