THE VERY DIFFERENT CATERPILLARS

Once there were three caterpillars, who were very different. Nigel was a very thoughtful and introspective type. Gwen was reckless and excitable. And there were no words for Shane.

One day at Insect School, they were told by their teacher Mr. Mantis that they would one day go through a metamorphosis and become butterflies. “Butterflies!” they scoffed, “who wants to be a butterfly.”

“But that is what you’ll be. When the time is right, you will enter your cocoon, transform and exit your cocoon a beautiful butterfly. Doesn’t that sound just too, too nice?” Mr. Mantis said, clasping his forelegs together. “Not everyone gets to go through such a magnificent metamorphosis. Gregor the cockroach, for example, will remain a monstrous insect. You know, not to play favorites.”

“Butterflies are such flighty creatures,” Nigel said. “I’d much rather transform into a great philosopher, like Socrates. I’ve always wanted to contemplate the great mysteries of the universe, and I’d look good with a receding hairline.”

“No, no, no!” Gwen exclaimed. “I want to be fast and furious, flying crazy through life in a whirlwind. I’m going to transform into a 1972 El Camino. Vroom, vroom, I’ll speed down the highway like a coupe possessed! Whoo-hoo!”

“You guys are nutty,” Shane said. “Clearly, if you get to choose what you metamorphosizize into, the greatest and best and only decision would be as the greatest hot dish known to man, woman and insect, the Green Bean Casserole. But, to make yourself even greater than great, you should swap out the green beans for gummy worms. And while you’re at it, swap out the onions for back issues of Gumby comics. And the cream of mushroom soup could be easily swapped out for the isolated bass track from the Beatles song, “Something.” Everybody talks about the guitar solo in that song, but to my finely tuned caterpillar ears the bass line is far more interesting. And I mean, while we’re swapping out and adding ingredients, we may as well include the Elephant in My Pajamas speech from Animal Crackers, some chunky peanut butter, the Nefarious Dr. Wilhelm Skreem’s evil laugh, the cha-cha, argyle socks to taste and a kiss on the cheek from Mommy.”

Mr. Mantis stared at the Very Different Caterpillars. “No, no, metamorphosis doesn’t work that way. You will all become beautiful butterflies. You won’t become Greek philosophers, you won’t become classic cars, and you won’t become… whatever Shane said. You become butterflies, that’s it. You have no choice in the matter.”

“Agree to disagree,” Shane said.

“Go to the Principal’s office,” Mr. Mantis said. And he did. But was he right? Would the Very Different Caterpillars become beautiful but boring butterflies or would they transform into their most desired forms?

Happily, they all became the objects they most desired! Gwen sped down the highway as an el Camino, while Nigel expounded on ethics as Socrates. All except Shane, who had to compromise as the rights to Beatles music is astronomically high. He was able to substitute the drum part from the Honeycomb’s “Have I the Right,” which is almost as good.

But how, you may ask yourself, was this possible? Weren’t these caterpillars fated to become butterflies? To which I say, yeah, sure, but if you accept the premise that all the insects can talk and go to school and stuff, why can’t they become whatever they want?

Got you there, didn’t I?

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