Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Twenty-five
The mole cricket had disappeared. Instead, ants filled the little room. The queen sat on a throne at one end of the room. At the other end of the room, the grasshopper sat on a chair, guarded by two ants. The chair was too small for him, and he sat at the very edge, with his legs tucked back.
Along one wall, between the queen and the grasshopper, there was a low wall with seats behind it for the jury. There, in the jury, sat the ladybug and her grandmother, the mouse, and a baby bird. The bat was snoring loudly, and everyone around him was scooting their chairs away. Miss Muffet was there, with a wooly aphid in her lap. The rest of the jury were ants, and ants crowded along the opposite wall as well, standing too close to have any room for chairs.
Isaac had jumped into the courtroom between the jury and the grasshopper. The crowd murmured and looked at Isaac until the queen smacked a little wooden hammer on a table next to her throne. “There will be order in my courtroom.” The talking stopped immediately. Not knowing what else to do, Isaac stayed where he was standing.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Grasshopper?” the queen asked.
“I’m available for parties, weddings, picnics, festivals, anything as long as there’s food. Just let me know at least a week in advance.” He winked.
“So you say, but when you agreed to help us with our garden in the spring, you disappeared as soon as the weather was warm.”
The grasshopper smoothed back his antennae and smiled. “Madam, I’m a musician, not a gardener. If you’d like for me to play for you while you work, I suppose I could make an exception. Just for you.”
The queen narrowed her eyes and hit the table with her hammer once again. “That was not the agreement.”
The grasshopper shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Call the first witness,” the queen said.
“Call the first witness,” shouted a guard.
An ant standing by the entrance to a tunnel across the room from Isaac held up a list. “Calling the owl!”
“Wait!” one of the guards said. “An owl? Is that wise?”
The ant looked at her list again. “Well, he’s listed here, isn’t he?”
“But owls can eat ants, and he might be grumpy if we wake him. It is the middle of the day,” the guard said in a quiet voice.
“Oh! Yes, I see. No owls.” She crossed out the owl.
“Call the next witness,” the guard shouted.
“Calling the spider!”
“No!” Miss Muffet shouted from the jury. “If the spider comes, I’m leaving.”
“But he’s on the list.”
The guard leaned over. “Just call the next witness,” she said.
The ant sighed and crossed out the spider. “Fine, fine. Calling the caterpillar!”
The courtroom was silent, waiting. No one objected. Two guards left the room. After a few moments, they came back carrying a large brown cocoon.
The queen hit her hammer on the little table. “What is this?” she asked. “This isn’t a caterpillar.”
“He’s inside,” one of the guards said. “Should we cut it open?”
“Don’t!” Isaac said. “My teacher said that would kill the caterpillar.”
The queen leaned forward. “My guards said that the grasshopper confessed his crime to a group of caterpillars. Someone needs to come testify.”
“But what about the ants that heard him say that he was going to help with the garden?” Isaac asked.
“The queen doesn’t testify in court,” the guard next to Isaac said quietly. “She’s the judge.”
“Oh. Well, I heard him tell the story, too,” Isaac said.
“What’s your name?” the guard asked.
The ant across the room wrote another name on her list. “Calling Isaac!” she yelled.