A children’s story for Adult Children who don’t fear odd, non-human little beings
Lizzie reached for the strange, wounded creature, her mouth shaped like an “o”, when she caught it. The long, sleepy journey she’d had to endure, in her parents’ old, rusty Volvo, quickly faded from memory. This was fascinating!
It was a perfect summer’s day, an innocent blue sky. The birchs seemed to compete in a contest of who could display the most intense green shade, only to be beaten by the grass in the meadow where Lizzie was playing. The grass reached up to her shoulders. Lizzie, so proud that she was almost six years old, pressed forward, pretending it was a jungle in need of taming. She had once sneeked a forbidden peek of a movie where someone called Indiana was really strong and tough. Lizzie could be Indiana sometimes. When tough became boring, she switched to being a princess in a castle. Mother did not like it when Lizzie wanted to wear pink from head to toe. For some reason, it wasn’t “modern” for girls anymore. Lizzie always shrugged when mother said that. Adults were strange.
Lizzie ran back to her parents, who were standing outside the little countryside grocery store, the one that Cra.. (Lizzie stopped herself) that Uncle Bill, owned. Lizzie could never understand, why no one was allowed to call him “Crazy Uncle Bill” in front of him. Everyone still said it whenever he wasn’t around. And he was crazy. Lizzie always shuddered a bit when she saw the two different persons that Crazy Uncle Bill could be. With her, he was always kind, giving her candy, even when it wasn’t Saturday. Bill sure understood children’s rules. But she had seen when he became the other person. His mood could alter in a second. He’d be as sunny as this summer’s day, and suddenly get dark storm clouds in his face, and yell at other adults. Right now, Uncle Bill seemed to be his crazy self, as he was grunting something at her parents.
Lizzie pulled some grass from her golden curls and called out: “Look!”, with a smile that covered her face, ear to ear. She carefully opened her hands, just enough, so that her new friend wouldn’t escape. He peeked out with little black peppercorn eyes, curious and perhaps anxious to escape his prison.
Her mom and dad laughed and said: “What you got there, girl?”, “Can’t take that thing back to the city, it belongs out here, in the countryside”. Lizzie’s heart skipped a beat. She had to make them understand. “No! See, he’s hurt! He could die, I must take care of him”! Her large blue eyes, almost in tears now, begged them again, silently. They examined the little creature more closely and saw that yes, the poor thing had actually lost a leg!
Crazy Uncle Bill understood. He grunted again: “Let the girl keep her friend!” Lizzie’s parents sighed quietly and said: “Alright. But he will be your responsibility”. Like they had to tell Lizzie that!
Crazy Uncle Bill had a soft expression on his face, when he came out from his grocery store again, carrying an empty cookie jar. It was not a real cookie jar like at home, this was a large plastic one, that you could see through. It was perfect! Lizzies friend wouldn’t have to live in the dark. Bill had brought a knife too, and quickly made a few air holes in the lid. Lizzie put some grass in the jar. She asked Bill if he had some cookies to spare? Bill mumbled something and went to fetch some cookies. Lizzie sprinkled some tiny crumbs into the jar. Now it was a complete home!
Gently, she put mr. Grasshopper in there and quickly closed the lid. Pity made her heart swell, when she saw how he couldn’t walk properly, much less jump. He was extraordinary: so beautiful in his bright, green color. But he could no longer be with his kin, all his pride must be gone, now that he couldn’t jump. A pang of sadness hit Lizzie when she saw how mr. Grasshopper cautiously felt his way around his new home, with his little antennae. She was overjoyed when he found his lunch for the day; the cookie crumbs. He seemed to love them; he ate every last one. Then he became still, as though he was tired from eating too much, and had to rest.
Lizzie had made her first friend. Not like the friends in pre-school, this was different. Mr. Grasshopper came home with her and lived at her house. She found a little cap from an old bottle and the cap became mr. Grasshopper’s water bowl. She didn’t know what he liked to eat, besides cookies. But she knew that adults always said: “You could never survive on only cookies and candy!” So she gave mr. Grasshopper a bit of everything; vegetables, bread, whatever she could find, that he might like. He ate most things, more of some and less of other things. Lizzie was euphoric; she had saved a life! Mr. Grasshopper would surely have died out there, in that merciless grass jungle. Lizzie may not have had many years on Earth, but she understood that much. Now mr. Grasshopper would live, and be her friend always!
Lizzie told mr. Grasshopper all about her days; small miracles she had seen, if someone had been mean to her, if she had gotten praise from mrs. Larsen, her teacher. When she had drawn an especially beautiful picture she showed it to mr. Grasshopper. Even if she thought: “With his little eyes, the picture might be too big for him”! Lizzie would pet mr. Grasshopper with a touch as light as a feather, so as not to frighten or hurt him. Oddly enough, he seemed to like it. He sat completely still and didn’t move an inch when Lizzie let her finger slide along his back. Although his eyes were so tiny and char coal black, Lizzie found his shy gaze kind. A few days went by and Lizzie was so grateful for her friend. She had been lonely, sometimes. She wasn’t, anymore.
The day of the long awaited party arrived. A girl in the neighborhood was having a birthday party. Lizzie decided to bring mr. Grasshopper. Ah, to see the other children’s faces! Lizzie was certain everyone else would want a grasshopper for a pet, too. Lizzie knew the other children to be greedy; something she had been taught not to be.
At her friend’s house, Lizzie put mr. Grasshopper on the kitchen counter, so he would have a good view of what was going on. All the children admired him. With a stern face, Lizzie explained that no one could let him out, cause he might get lost. And they all forgot him the next minute, as the games started. Lizzie got lost in the fun too. After a while, her conscience stung her; she had to check on her friend!
She ran out into the kitchen but came to a sudden halt. She saw the roof of mr. Grasshopper’s house had come off. Panic filled her heart when she realized he was gone! She let out a little shriek of fear. Tears started running uncontrollably down Lizzie’s cheeks.
The great hunt began. All the children helped. But he was nowhere to be found. Lizzie’s parents came and tried to console her, but she was inconsolable. And she also saw on their faces that they didn’t quite understand, what he meant to her. Still, they called her friend’s house to inquire yet again, if anyone had seen mr. Grasshopper? But no, he was, and remained, lost.
However peculiar and unusal a friend, decades later, Lizzie still remembers him and all he meant to that little girl. And how, without a single word, he told her so much about who she would always be.
(Thank you Laurel, for inspiration on writing about a child’s story).