Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Twenty-three

The queen pointed to a hole in the ground. “They’re in there.”

“Um, thank you,” Isaac said.

“Come back and teach us a new game,” she said.

“I’ll do my best.” Isaac bowed, and the queen walked away, over another hill and out of sight.

Isaac looked back at the entrance to the mole cricket burrow. There wasn’t a door. Wouldn’t it be rude to just walk in? But, what if he yelled to let him know that he was here and woke them up? He was pretty sure that some bugs are nocturnal.

But how would they know if it’s night when they’re underground?   Wouldn’t it be like the dark forest all over again? It should be fine to yell. “Hello?” he called. “Anybody home? Can I come in?”

Nobody answered. Isaac tried again. Well, there was no door, so surely they couldn’t mind visitors all that much. He started to walk down the tunnel. It quickly grew dark. He kept a hand on the wall, so that he didn’t get lost.

There was a dim light up ahead. He hurried forward. There was a tiny light above a closed black curtain blocking the tunnel ahead. A shiny green beetle leaning against the wall looked up as Isaac approached.

“Are you a mole cricket?” Isaac asked.

“Do I look like a mole cricket?”

Isaac had no idea what a mole cricket looked like. “Yes?”

The beetle laughed. Then he stood up straight. “I’m not a mole cricket, but I am a scarab.”

“From Egypt?” Isaac asked, impressed.

“Well, no. But I have cousins there,” the beetle said.

“Okay,” Isaac said. The mole crickets must be further down the tunnel. He reached for the curtain so that he could slip through and keep looking.

“Wait,” the beetle said. “You can’t go in there, they’re rehearsing.”

“For a play?”

“For the dance. They perform nightly this time of year, and everybody comes. Even the pill bugs, no matter how often they get thrown out.”

Isaac let go of the curtain and turned to face the green beetle. “Why aren’t pill bugs allowed in the dances? They seem pretty harmless.”

The beetle laughed. “You’d think so, but they roll into a ball whenever they get startled. So, if there’s a key change in the song, or someone next to them starts to sing along, or someone across the room coughs, they roll into a ball and start bumping into people and knocking them over and tripping them up. It’s chaos. So, we throw them out and they come running back in.”

“Without saying sorry?”

“They think that if they didn’t see it happen, it didn’t really happen. And they can’t see anything when they’re rolled up in a ball like that.”

“That’s terrible.” Isaac frowned. “Why don’t they have their own dances?”

“Pill bugs can’t make music,” the beetle said. “Not many can. Not like the mole crickets do.”

“I heard that mole crickets know all about the underground,” Isaac said.

“Yes, they spend most of their time underground. They dug this tunnel, you know, and the dance hall. They’re great diggers.”

Isaac looked back at the curtain. “Will they be done soon? I need to ask a question.”

“Wait here, and I’ll go check,” the beetle said. He disappeared behind the curtain. Isaac sat on the floor and waited for him to return.