by John Lechner
On the underside of a spring-green leaf, a mother ladybug laid fifteen eggs, then flew away. There was nothing more she could do, the rest was up to them.
After a day of rain, a day of wind, and a day of sunshine, the eggs hatched and the tiny larvae emerged. Their mother had wisely chosen a plant covered with aphids, and the hungry larvae gobbled them up.
As the long days passed, the larvae grew bigger and bigger, shedding their skin several times in the process.
Finally each become a pupa, and attached themselves to the leaf. They slept for days and days, dreaming of a future filled with possibility.
Then they began to feel itchy and restless. One by one, the ladybugs emerged from their cocoons into the morning sunshine.
All except for one. His name was Snug. He wanted to stay tucked away where it was safe, but he was hungry. Finally he wriggled out of his old skin and cautiously stepped onto the leaf.
The world seemed wholly new, brighter and louder than he remembered. It hurt his eyes to look at it. The plant was crawling with ladybugs, laughing and talking about the many adventures awaiting them.
Snug looked around for food, but the other ladybugs had gobbled up most of the aphids, and whenever he spied one, another ladybug would grab it. So he nibbled the bitter leaf instead.
Suddenly one of the ladybugs shouted, “Bye everyone, I’m off to try my wings and see the world!” To Snug’s amazement, the ladybug crawled to the edge of the leaf, opened her wings with a buzz, and jumped off.
Another ladybug said, “Me too! There’s nothing to do here, and it’s time to move on. Farewell!” He too scurried to the edge of the leaf and jumped over the side.
Snug crept to the edge and peered over. The drop was so great he couldn’t even see the ground below. Stretched out before him was a shining river, countless trees, and miles of unknown. It was wondrous and magical and terrifying.
He wanted to fly, but what if his wings didn’t work? There were so many dangers in the world, so many creatures who might want to eat him, he felt very unprotected. His shell was still soft, and didn’t have spots yet. He didn’t realize that all ladybugs are like this at first.
A big ladybug walked up to him and said, “Well, what are you waiting for?”
“Nothing,” said Snug. “I’m just not ready.”
“Not ready? Ha!” The other ladybug laughed, almost rolling off the leaf. “What do you mean you’re not ready?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” said Snug. “I just need a little more time.”
“I think you’re just scared!” said the other in a voice like poison ivy.
Snug was so stunned, he didn’t know what to say. It was true he was nervous, but to admit so would validate the other ladybug’s superior attitude, and concede the notion that there was something inherently wrong with being afraid.
He stood there with his mouth open, trying to think of something to say. The other ladybug said with a smirk, “I thought so!” and flew away.
One by one, the other ladybugs jumped off the leaf and sailed off into the unknown. A few of them stopped beside Snug to say, “Aren’t you coming?”
But each time he would simply reply, “I’m not ready.”
Finally Snug was all by himself on the leaf.
It was quiet now that the other ladybugs had gone. He could hear the breeze as it settled into the trees. He could hear a meadowlark in the distance, and the croaking of a bullfrog.
As the afternoon sun sank towards the hills, Snug could hear crickets chirping. And best of all, in the still peacefulness of the evening, he could finally hear himself think.
As the sun lowered to the horizon, he crawled up to the edge of the leaf and smiled.
Then he opened up his wings…
Story and pictures ©2021 by John Lechner, all rights reserved