Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum
This is the first of a three part narrative by Emile Joseph, who describes it as a story which “contains principles in today’s gratuitous age, where instant self-gratification, inane social isolation through ‘social’ media, and the avoidance of hard work reign supreme.” Contributions of fiction, news and opinion to SydneyTrads are welcome, and should be directed to the Editors. Fiction, when available for publication, will ordinarily be published on Sunday mornings.
Once upon a time, in a small section of a city park, there lived a caterpillar who was lonely.
Since he did not have many friends of his own kind, or perhaps because he did not feel that he belonged to the caterpillar community, he resorted to socialising with cockroaches, mosquitoes and beetles. Their regular meeting place was an old abandoned spider web which hung from the branch of a tree. This meeting place was affectionately named the Web by all those who frequented it.
This caterpillar, whose name was Joe, spent a lot of time on The Web, with all his insect acquaintances, chatting about the meaning of life and about anything else that crossed their minds.
Joe did not realise how depressed he was becoming, and how anti-social he had become with members of his own species, until his caterpillar friend Georgina pointed it out to him.
“Joe, what’s wrong with you?” asked Georgina in earnest. “You shouldn’t be so sad. Life is beautiful! There are leaves to eat and so many new places to explore, the sun is shining. Enjoy it!”
“How can I enjoy life when I am just a fat, ugly caterpillar who isn’t good for anything?”
“Who told you that you were fat or ugly or useless?” asked Georgina.
“Why can’t I be a mosquito or a cockroach? They are such attractive creatures. They really enjoy life. Mosquitoes tell me that they drink rich, red liquid that makes them excited and lively. They are such daring and adventurous insects. Insects come from miles around to visit the Web just to hear the mosquitoes and cockroaches recount their tales of bravery in the animal and the human world. Every insect on the Web admires them, but no one will ever admire me!”
“I think that you spend too much time on the Web. I don’t think that it is healthy for you at all. You and I are destined for something greater than all of that.”
“What would that be, pray tell?” replied Joe with a hint of sarcasm. “Don’t criticise the Web until you’ve tried it!”
“Our parents are butterflies, aren’t they? We shall be like them one day, I know it.”
“Not necessarily,” answered Joe. “They were lucky to have been born at a different era, when becoming a butterfly was easy. Now it is too difficult to become a butterfly, and also very risky and unreliable. Besides, no one has told us how to become one, so I gather that caterpillars don’t just become butterflies as easily as they used to.”
With those words, and still unconvinced and pessimistic about his future, Joe returned to the Web for his daily dose of excitement. While he was there, he made the acquaintance of a certain Don Mosquito, a dashing, tall and very assertive insect. Day after day, he tried to convince Joe that the only way to become more seductive and attract pretty bugs as to watch him in action. Joe did not need much to convince him!
Don Mosquito illustrated the power of his charms on an attractive female and managed to seduce her in seconds. Joe looked on with admiration and envy, and wished that he too could be as suave and as sophisticated as Don Mosquito. Don Mosquito was thin and he had wings. When Joe looked at himself, all that he could see was a fat, unattractive caterpillar. He remembered his parents, and all the lectures that they gave him, about working hard, about achieving results with blood, sweat and tears, and being ready for his Calling- whatever that was. He never really listened to them. It was easy for them to give lectures. They were already born beautiful, whereas he was ugly.
One day, Georgina came to see Joe as he was chatting idly on the Web. She seemed very excited and was eager to tell him something.
“Joe, you have to hear this! I was on my way to the Florum yesterday….”
“You know, that new public domain a metre away from our neighbourhood, the new and improved central business district. Anyway, I came across a gathering of butterflies and caterpillars there. Butterflies mixing with caterpillars, how strange, I thought. So, driven by curiosity more than anything, I blended in with the crowd and listened to what the butterflies were saying. They were talking about a seminar, a course on how to find your inner butterfly and how to grow and become like them. I’ve always wanted to learn more about butterflies, they are such beautiful creatures!”
All the insects on the Web who overheard her laughed in unison.
“Inner butterfly!” they scoffed. “What a joke!”
“Don’t dream too much, kid!” laughed another condescendingly.
“What would you insects know?” retorted Georgina defiantly. “Anyway, Joe, I signed up straight away. I think you should too!”
Joe was only half listening as he was ogling a sassy little mosquito nearby, and preparing a witty line of approach to attract her. All the other cockroaches, mosquitoes, fleas and beetles laughed at Georgina’s news and went back to their idle chatter. But Don Mosquito, afraid that Joe might consider the caterpillar’s words and slip away from his influence, listened carefully to what Georgina was proposing.
“Listen to me, Joe!” pleaded Georgina. “Both you and I have it in us to become butterflies one day! But we shan’t become butterflies just like that, by sheer goodwill. We need to learn about making cocoons and metamorphosis. That is what they told me.”
“Memator… metaphor… mephator… what?” stammered Joe. “Will that hurt?”
“More than likely, I’m afraid. But as they say, ‘No pain, no gain’!”
“Isn’t there any other way?” asked Joe, fearfully.
“I’m afraid not. But if you come with me to the seminar, they are offering a course on butterfly development. Please come with me!”
Don Mosquito felt it necessary to interfere at this point, in order to dissuade Joe from leaving him.
“Don’t waste your time with that nonsense!” he interjected. “Metaphormosis indeed!”
“Metamorphosis, actually,” corrected Georgina.
“Whatever! Cocoons! Hogwash! You don’t need all that pain and isolation, do you, Joe? Stick around with me and I’ll show you an easier and better way to get by in life. I have great contacts and I can make you go places!”
“Joe, please!” begged Georgina. “Do you want to be a caterpillar all your life? Wouldn’t that be tragic when instead, you can become a beautiful butterfly delivering pollen from flower to flower in the midday sun?”
“Don’t listen to her, Joe!” urged Don Mosquito. “If you do, you’ll end up like a moth wandering around at night like a lost soul. No flowers, no midday sun. If you want to be rich and popular and successful like me, just stick around here. All your true friends are here. We all care about you. We want what’s best for you. We want you to have fun in life. Life is short. Who wants to go through all that pain and suffering just to flutter about delivering pollen? How boring is that?”
“You’re right, Don Mosquito,” conceded Joe. “What’s wrong with enjoying life right here and now? I’m learning so much from you and all these other insects around here.”
“Joe,” pleaded Georgina one more time, “if you don’t listen to me, you’ll miss your calling and it will be too late.”
“Don’t you see that Joe’s not interested?” retorted Don Mosquito. “So go away and leave us alone!”
Georgina went away sadly. How could she convince her friend Joe to come with her? How could she rescue him from the destructive influence of Don Mosquito and his gang?
– Emile N Joseph
The author teaches the English language to adult migrants and is passionate about all things linguistic. He is also a serious conservative at heart, who treasures the beauty, the poetry and the gallantry of yesteryear. He is happily married with two young children in Sydney.