At first, Isaac was mostly worried about getting away from the log house quietly, as far away and as quickly as possible. But after a while of nothing coming crashing out of the undergrowth behind him, he slowed down and realized that he had no idea where he was.
He was lost in the middle of a potted plant forest in a hotel lobby at the bottom of a cave in the middle of the woods next to Jimmy’s house.
When he thought about it like that, it sounded like nonsense. He stopped and looked around. How could all of this be inside the potted plant? Just then, he heard music. There was a violin playing a cheerful tune somewhere nearby.
Perhaps the musician would be able to give him directions. Cautiously, Isaac followed the music. He didn’t want to be too loud, just in case it was the ants again.
He peeked through some bushes into a clearing and was relieved to see that there weren’t any ants there. Instead, a grasshopper was playing a violin and humming, while several fuzzy caterpillars danced in circles and laughed.
The grasshopper stopped playing. “Are you having fun yet?” he asked.
“Yes,” the caterpillars responded in unison.
“Good,” the grasshopper said. “If you’re not having fun, then it’s not worth doing. Next song!” And he started playing again.
The caterpillars started dancing again. It wasn’t an organized sort of dance at all. Each was running around the clearing randomly or spinning in circles or stomping their feet in time with the music.
Two of the caterpillars raced towards each other coming from opposite directions. Both were laughing and neither was looking where they were going. “Watch out,” Isaac yelled.
The caterpillars looked in Isaac’s direction and continued running. A second later, they ran into each other and began to cry. “Now look what you’ve done,” the grasshopper said. “The dancing isn’t fun any more. You might as well come out of the bushes and tell us a joke or a story to make up for it.”
Isaac pushed the branches aside and walked into the clearing. “Hi, I’m Isaac,” he began.
“Introductions are boring,” the grasshopper said. “Skip to the joke.”
“After I tell you a joke, would you help me..” Isaac began.
“I’m always very helpful,” the grasshopper interrupted.
“Well that’s good,” Isaac began.
“What is?” the grasshopper asked.
“What is what?”
“What is good?” the grasshopper asked.
“Helping,” Isaac said.
“Of course it is,” the grasshopper said. “If it wasn’t good, it wouldn’t be helping, would it?”
“I don’t think so,” Isaac said, feeling a little confused. “Would you like me to tell a joke now?”
“Yes, pleasure before business,” the grasshopper said.
“Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?” Isaac asked.
“Of course not,” the grasshopper said. “If you work first, you might not have time for play. So you must play first. That’s the good part.”
“But then you might not get your work done,” Isaac said.
“Even better,” the grasshopper said. “It’s like eating your dessert first. If you’re lucky, maybe you can only eat dessert all the time and be too full to eat anything else.”
“I don’t think that’s very healthy,” Isaac said.
“Who wants to be healthy?” the grasshopper asked. “Now tell us a joke.”
“A joke!” “A joke!” “Tell us a joke!” the caterpillars said. They stomped on the ground with their feet until it sounded like thunder. Isaac cleared his throat and suddenly everything was silent.
And Isaac couldn’t think of any jokes at all. After what felt like a very long time, he remembered one. He smiled. “I think I know one about a zebra with a sunburn. Or was it a penguin? No, I think it was a newspaper.”
“You are terrible at telling jokes,” the grasshopper said. “I will tell a story.”
“First could you tell me…” Isaac began.
But the caterpillars began to chant, “A story!” “A story!” and stomp their feet until Isaac couldn’t even hear himself talk. The grasshopper played a few notes and the caterpillars settled down.
Isaac sighed. He could ask for directions after the story. Surely it wouldn’t take all that long. He wrapped his arms around his legs and put his chin on his knees and waited for the story to begin.