Chapter 3: The Musician’s Tale

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.

“Listen, children,” the grasshopper said. “I will tell you the story of the musician and the evil critics.”

“Oooooooh,” the caterpillars said together, as though they’d just seen a particularly amazing firework. There weren’t any fireworks, though. Isaac looked up, just to check.

“Once, there was a remarkably brilliant musician. He spent all his time practicing and performing, so you know he had to be quite good. He was also handsome and intelligent, but that goes without saying.” The grasshopper paused. “You’re supposed to ask if the story is about me,” he said.

“Is the story about you?” a caterpillar asked.

“Maybe,” the grasshopper said. He paused again.

“Is the story about you?” another caterpillar asked.

“Well, all right, it is. I shouldn’t have included the handsome and intelligent part. I knew that would give it away,” the grasshopper said. He smoothed back an antenna and winked.

“Tell us more!” a caterpillar said. “I want to hear the story,” another said.

“Very well, very well,” the grasshopper said. “It is a tragic story, but don’t worry, the hero will be just fine. The good guys always win, you know.”

The caterpillars cheered.

“Thank you, thank you. So, where was I? Oh yes. The musician had finally selected a venue for a series of concerts. It was large and flat and filled with free vegetables, sure to draw a crowd. The musician settled in for a sound check. Acoustics are important, and he needed to be certain that everything was just right.”

“And was it?” a caterpillar asked.

“It was. Unfortunately, this is when our hero first met the evil critics. They came crawling out of a hole in the ground and started at once with the complaining. They blabbered away about unimportant things like playing loudly in the middle of the night and trespassing in their gardens, and it was all so tiresome.”   The grasshopper sighed sadly.

“Awwwww,” the caterpillars said.

The grasshopper shook his head. “I know. So, the musician reminded them that he was bigger and they were smaller and really they were lucky to have such good seats for the concerts. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see their good fortune. They insisted on chasing the musician away and telling him he’d do better spending his time growing and storing food for winter. As though he had time for that!”

“What did you do?” a small caterpillar asked.

“I, er, he found somewhere else to play,” the grasshopper said. “My summer concerts were quite a success, of course.   Even the birds swooped down close to listen in.”

“Birds?” a caterpillar asked nervously. Everyone looked up.

“Yes, well, it was just the once, and I’m sure the audience member died happy.   The musician dedicated the next concert to him,” the grasshopper said. “Things were great until the weather turned a little nippy. It was time to find a new venue. Somewhere warmer, with more food. He remembered those critics and their hole in the ground and vegetable garden.”

“That sounds perfect,” a caterpillar squealed.

“I thought so, too. I mean, the musician thought so. So, he offered to play for them for room and board, and those critics said they had their own musicians and didn’t really want to hear the musician play at all hours.”

The caterpillars gasped.

The grasshopper nodded. “They only let the musician stay with them when he promised to help with their garden in the spring to pay them back for his room and board.”

“Was working in the garden terrible?” a caterpillar asked.

“I didn’t do it, of course. The barbarians! I need the time to practice and perform. Besides, I put up with them all winter telling me to not play at night and stop trying to drown out the other musicians at their parties. They just went on and on. The first chance I got, I was out of there. I mean, the musician was. And he lived happily ever after. The end.”

The caterpillars cheered. Just then, the bushes rustled and a mob of ants rushed into the clearing. Isaac stayed curled up and hoped they wouldn’t recognize him. They didn’t even look in his direction.

They surrounded the grasshopper and dragged him away. “Unhand me, you ruffians, you ants, you music critics,” he yelled. His voice grew fainter as he got further away, until Isaac couldn’t understand the words any more.

“Let’s go home,” one of the caterpillars said. And they all wandered away, until Isaac was the only one left in the clearing.

“Now where do I go?” he asked. “He didn’t give me any directions at all.”

Chapter 2                     Chapter 4