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 days passed and the earth spun, the larvae grew bigger and bigger, shedding their skin several times in the process.
Finally they each become a pupa, round and spotted, and attached themselves to the leaf like a cocoon. They slept for days and days as the world spun and life went on. Finally they began to feel itchy and restless. One by one, the ladybugs emerged into the dazzling sunlight.
All except for one. His name was Byron, and he heard the commotion outside as the other ladybugs explored and chatted with each other. He wished he could stay tucked away where it was safe, but he was getting hungry. He finally wriggled out of his old skin and onto the leaf.
The plant was crawling with ladybugs. They laughed and talked about their new wings and how they couldn’t wait to try them out.
Byron looked around for food, but alas he was so late in coming out, the other ladybugs had gobbled up all the aphids. He felt like exploring but he didn’t know where to go, so he just sat there in the middle of the leaf.
Suddenly one of them shouted, “Bye everyone, I’m off to try my wings and see the world!” He crawled to the edge of the leaf, opened his wings with a buzz, and jumped off.
Another ladybug said, “Me too! This has been a fine home, but food is getting scarce and it’s time to move on. Goodbye!” She scurried to the edge of the leaf and jumped over the side.
Byron crept up to the edge and peered over. The drop to the ground was so great he couldn’t even see what was below. Stretched out before him was a shining lake, thousands of trees, and miles of unknown. It was wonderous and magical and terrifying.
What if his wings didn’t work and he fell? His shell was still soft and didn’t have spots like the others. He didn’t realize that all ladybugs are like that when they first emerge.
A big ladybug jumped down from another leaf and said, “Well, what are you waiting for?”
“Nothing,” said Byron. “I’m just not ready.”
“Not ready?” The other ladybug laughed and laughed, almost rolling off the leaf. “What do you mean you’re not ready?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” said Byron. “I just need a little more time.”
“I think you’re just scared!” said the other in a mean voice.
Byron was so shocked at this, 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 leaves and sailed into the unknown. A few of them stopped beside Byron to say, “Aren’t you jumping?”
But each time he would simply reply, “I’m not ready.”
Finally Byron 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, Byron could hear crickets chirping. And best of all, in the still peacefulness of the evening, he could hear himself think.
As the sun lowered close to the horizon, Byron crawled up to the edge of the leaf and smiled.
Then he opened his wings and flew up into the sky like the lightest breeze imaginable.