'Beetle Boy'

STORY TIME

April 25, 2001|By LAWRENCE DAVID

* Editors note: Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' is the inspiriation for this story about a boy shocked to discover he's changed overnight.

Gregory Sampson woke one morning to discover that he had become a giant beetle.

He stared into the mirror on the back of his bedroom door. He had a large, purple-brown beetle body. He had two big, dark beetle eyes. He had two long beetle antennae. And six long, thin, hairy beetle legs. Gregory couldn't remember this ever happening before.

"Gregory, get dressed and come down for breakfast," his dad called.

Gregory had never seen a bug wearing clothes before, but most bugs didn't have to dress for a day at school. He rummaged through his dresser and took out a baggy shirt and pants with an elastic waistband. The pants weren't too much of a problem to pull on, but the shirt had only two armholes. Second-grade boys were not supposed to have six insect legs. Gregory cut two more holes in the shirt for his two new arms. Or were they legs?

No one looked up as Gregory entered the kitchen. Dad stood at the counter packing school lunches for Gregory and his little sister, Caitlin. Mom sat at the table reading the newspaper. Caitlin was drinking a glass of orange juice.

Gregory hoisted himself into his chair and began eating his eggs and bacon. "Mom," he called, "Dad, Caitlin, I'm a bug. Look at me. I'm a giant beetle."

Dad closed the lunch boxes and smiled at Gregory. "And I'm a hippo."

Gregory waved a claw. "But I'm a bug, Dad, don't you see? What should we do?"

Mom answered from behind the paper. "You've always been our little bug-a-boo."

"Do you know how to change me back?" Gregory asked his mother. "Did this ever happen to you when you were a little boy?" he asked his father.

"Can't we discuss this after school?" Mom replied. "You have to get out to the bus."

On the school bus, Gregory walked down the aisle an stood beside the seat where his best friend, Michael, sat. Michael saw Gregory's lunch box in the large beetle's claws. Michael saw Gregory's backpack hanging over the large beetle's thick shell. Tears formed in Michael's eyes. "What have done to Gregory?" he asked in a whisper. "Where's my bestest friend?"

Gregory crept past Michael and sat in the window seat. "It's me," Gregory said quietly. "I woke up like this and no one cares. What can I do?"

The two friends walked into the schoolyard. No one looked at Gregory. No one paid any attention to the fact that he was a bug.

"Do you thing I've always been a bug and no one ever noticed before and I only just found out this morning?"

"I'd have noticed," Michael said.

"Are you sure?" Gregory asked.

During the last class of the day, Mrs. Dobson took all the kids to the library.

Gregory chose the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume B for bugs. Michael chose a book about insects. The friends sat at a table and began paging through the pictures.

On page six was a large illustration that looked like a portrait of Gregory, only without a shirt and pants." `Carabus problematicus,' " Gregory read. " `Or ground beetle.' "

The two friends rode the school bus home. No one mentioned to Gregory that he had become a beetle.

"What does it mean that no one sees I'm a ground beetle?" Gregory asked. "Doesn't it matter whether I'm a little boy or a beetle? Doesn't anyone care?"

"I care," Michael said. "It matters to me. I think people should be people and beetles should be beetles. Not beetles people and people beetles. That's the way things are supposed to be."

Gregory arrived home. Gregory went up to his room and shut the door. He felt like crying, but instead crawled up the wall and across the ceiling. He hung there and stared down at his bedroom below. Hours passed. He watched the sun setting upside down through his bedroom window. It looked as it was rising.

There was a knock at the bedroom door.

"Come in," Gregory said.

Gregory's dad entered. "Dinner's ready. Where are you? I'm not playing games," he said in a stern voice.

"I'm up here," Gregory called.

Dad looked up and saw a large purple-brown beetle peering down at him. "Gregory?" he asked. "Is that a costume?"

"No, it's me. I'm a bug. I've been a bug all day and no one even noticed, except for Michael."

Gregory's mom and Caitlin came into the room. "Is something wrong?" Mom asked.

"Where's Gregory?" Caitlin asked.

"Come down, dear," Mom said.

Gregory crawled into his bed and pulled up the covers with his six arms and legs. "I'm going to sleep. I've been hanging on that ceiling all afternoon and I'm exhausted. It's not as easy being a beetle as you might think."

Mom and Dad each gave him a kiss goodnight.

"Do you still love me now that I'm a beetle?" Gregory asked.

"We'll always love you," Dad replied.

"Be you boy or bug," his mother added.

Gregory's family left the bedroom, and Gregory quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Gregory Sampson awoke the next morning to discover he was no longer a bug. He stretched his arms and legs and climbed out of bed. He dressed and stood before the mirror on the back of his bedroom door.

"Nope, not a beetle."

Gregory smiled. He knew his family would be happy he was a boy again.

From BEETLE BOY by Lawrence David, illustrated by Delphine Durand. Text copyright 1999 by Lawrence David. Illustrations copyright 1999 by Delphine Durand. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc. New York, New York. All rights reserved.

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