“I heard a rumor,” said the caterpillar in his soft, trilling voice in between sinking his face against the milkweed leaf. “Newcomers have arrived. They are currently living in a cage in the corner of the dining room. How lonely they must be! I do think we ought to form a welcoming committee. I was thinking to lead it myself.”
Old Man Dog lifted his head from its place resting elegantly against his front paws, where he had been admiring his well-trimmed nails. A devious curl to one side of his lip showed his canine teeth ominously, but the other animals had nothing to fear—they were all inside cages. He pricked his ear in their direction.
Chirp, squeak, scritch, scratch. Indecipherable sounds came from within the hamster’s cage.
“Pardon?” Said the caterpillar in his pleasant tone.
Squeak, squeak, garble.
“Oh for god’s sake,” groaned Old Man Dog, tossing his ears in a disgusted manner. “Show some basic manners and take that stash of sunflower seeds out of your cheeks, you ridiculous rodent.”
“Sorry, sorry! I was just planning to save those for a proper midnight snack!” Said the hamster in his high-pitched voice. “I was saying how a welcoming committee is a very thoughtful idea. I might join you. I just have to give this wheel a good push to the side, and in a hop, skip, and a jump I will be ready to go! What do we know about the newcomers? Will we be out late, in which case maybe I ought to bring those sunflower seeds?” The hamster rattled all of this off at the same speed as he liked to run on his wheel. In fact, it seemed as though he had only recently gotten off of it, and the world had yet to slow down for him.
“I can’t wait to hear what you know of the newcomers,” said Old Man Dog with a fox-like slyness.
“Well,” said the caterpillar in his most meek voice, feeling a little embarrassed to be put on the spot. “I did hear a rumor that every spring newcomers arrive in a small cage in the corner of the dining room. They sit under a strange red light, and they are very, very active. They are constantly trotting about. What a dream, to just run about speedily, without dragging sixteen legs behind you!” Caterpillar had taken on a wistful look, having seemed to go into a daydream.
“I heard they poop a lot! I mean, really, who poops more than a rodent? I can only imagine how efficient they must be. That is something I truly admire in an animal. Do you think they’d like me? Do you think they would be too far above a pet store raised pooper such as myself? I mean, sure I can dirty bedding in a week, but—,” hamster was chattering away in hyper-mode before Old Dog spoke up again, still eyeing the caterpillar and letting out a low chuckle, which for a dog sounds something like a growl.
“What do you think, caterpillar? Will the newcomers like you?”
“I should hope so,” caterpillar said politely, coming out of his trance. “I am a very likeable fellow. The boy’s mom says that my stripes are quite becoming.”
“Yes,” said Old Man Dog, turning toward his rump to viciously gnaw at a flea. Then he regained his composure, and leveled his jealous eyes at the caterpillar. He was sick and tired of all the “newcomers”. First, there was Big Dog. Then the little humans. Then the hamster. Then the caterpillar. And now, those blasted spring chickens. He couldn’t bear anymore.
“I trust those green stripes will be quite attractive to the newcomers,” Old Man Dog gave the caterpillar a toothy smile.
Just then Big Dog came busting into the room, his wagging tail smacking into the side of the door. His big drooling mouth came charging up to Old Man Dog and gave him a slurp across the face with one long, wide tongue before Old Man Dog could thwart him. He let out a disagreeable growl as he pawed at his wet face with those finely trimmed nails.
“You won’t believe those newcomers! Won’t believe them! Just met one! Colored yellow like puke and brown like a turd!” He said very loudly and very forcefully.
“You met one?!” The hamster and the caterpillar said in unison. Big Dog swung his big friendly head upward to press his big wet nose against both cages, leaving big wet smears.
“Yep I met her! Yellow as puke and brown as a turd!” He sniffed vigorously at the hamster’s cage, and the hamster took on a very proud sort of look, smiling gleefully.
“What was she like?” Urged the caterpillar, a touch of romance in his voice.
“She bit me on the back of the butt! Beastly little thing! She chases after stuff like she’s been raised by a barn cat!”
The hamster’s prideful look faded to uncertainty as he scooted back toward that pile of sunflower seeds. He stuffed his cheeks, then burrowed back down into his bedding, planning to stay in for the night.
“The boy let her out into the grass,” Big Dog continued, “and she chased after a grasshopper with bloodlust. She wanted to tear him to shreds. She chased every insect in sight. I think I heard her hungrily mumbled the word ‘Lepidoptera.’ No idea what that means!”
The caterpillar turned a lighter shade of green, and moved back to his milkweed. He did have a lot of eating to do, after all.