Friday, December 1, 2006

A Story for Children and Adults

A children's story to brighten the day.



Fleming Lee

Early one spring, late one morning, a firefly was born.

The sun shone brightly all around the tiny firefly. But the firefly did not know what the sun was because he had never seen sunshine before. He did not even know that he was a firefly. He just knew that he was here.

He did not know that he was sitting on a leaf on a bush by a lake because he had never seen a leaf or water before. He did not know what anything was, because he had never seen anything before. There was no one to tell him or teach him. He found himself all alone in a place he knew nothing about.

He stood on his leaf for a long time, looking around, wondering. He had wings, and he moved them slowly up and down, but at first he did not know what they were for. Then, when he moved them faster, he rose above the bush and flew into the air.
"This is fun," he thought, "but where am I supposed to fly? What am I supposed to do?"

Soon he saw that he was not the only creature flying around. He saw lots of birds, but he did not know what a bird was. Some were large and some were small, but none were as little as he was. He was no bigger than a grain of rice.

Some ducks flew over the lake. The firefly tried to catch up with them so he could find out if he was also a bird, but they were much too fast. A family of cranes flew over with loud, rattling cries. They did not fly as fast as the ducks, but they were much too big and noisy.

Then the firefly saw a robin hopping around on the ground looking for food. The firefly landed on the ground in front of the bird.

"Please, what are you?" the firefly asked.

"I'm a bird, of course," the robin replied.

"Am I a bird?" the firefly asked.

The robin thought that was funny.

"Of course you aren't a bird. You look like a beetle to me."

"What's a beetle?"

"It's a little bug, like you. Often very tasty."


The robin hopped closer to the firefly and said, "Yes, tasty. Delicious, in fact. Do you know what 'delicious' means?"

"I don't know what anything means. I was just born."

"'Delicious' means 'very good to eat'," the robin said.

The firefly did not like the way the robin turned its head to one side and stared at him with a big bright eye. The firefly decided to fly away. He left the ground just as the robin's beak pecked into the spot where the firefly had been sitting. The robin got a beak full of dirt instead of a beak full of firefly.

When the firefly flew back to his bush he saw two young rabbits eating sweet grass. They had very nice, furry faces. The firefly flew over and said to the little rabbits, "Excuse me, but may I ask you two questions?"

"Yes," one of the rabbits said, "but I may as well tell you that we don't know the answers to much of anything."

"Well," said the firefly, keeping a safe distance, "the first question is, do you think I look delicious?"

Both rabbits wrinkled their noses and laughed.

"Not at all!" they answered.

The firefly moved a little closer to the small rabbits.

"The second question is, do you know what I am?"

The young rabbits wiggled their whiskers while they thought about the question.

"I'm pretty sure you're not an alligator," one said. "Your nose isn't long enough and you don’t have wrinkly skin. Or a snake. Definitely not a snake. You aren’t long enough."

"Of course he isn't a snake or an alligator!" the little rabbit’s sister said. "You don't have any idea what he is, and I don't either. Daddy would know. He's very old. He has been alive for a whole year."

"What's a Daddy?" the firefly asked.

The little rabbits laughed again.

"Daddy is our father. Don't you have a father?"

"I don't have anything," the firefly replied. "Can we ask Daddy?"

"Yes, when he comes this way."

"When will that be?" asked the firefly.

"Sometimes he comes out late in the afternoon, and sometimes early in the morning. Just watch for a big brown rabbit and ask him your question."

The firefly sat on his bush and watched for the big rabbit until the sun was low in the sky, but Daddy Rabbit did not come.

The little firefly watched the daylight shrink into an orange ball which sank slowly into the earth. The earth swallowed the orange ball and drank up the light. The grass and trees and water which the firefly had seen around him disappeared with the sun.

Somehow the firefly felt better at night than in the sunshine. Then, as he sat there enjoying the darkness, he discovered something wonderful. Out of his own body came light. He glowed, and then he did not glow, and then he glowed again. He was like a tiny sun throwing light on the leaves around him. It was like breathing. When he pulled air in, the lower part of his body glowed brightly. When he pushed the air out he stopped glowing.

As he turned his light on and off, he felt that he was supposed to fly up into the air. Sometimes he flew as high as the treetops, sometimes low enough for his legs to brush the grass. It felt wonderful to sail above the dark earth. He knew that this was the right thing for him to do – to fly through the air while his body glowed with a flashing light.

But before long the firefly felt that something was missing. What was it? He looked at the ground below, looking for something that he felt should be there. But what?

Then he flew out over the marshy lake for the first time. The water was smooth and still. Looking down, the firefly was so surprised that he almost forgot to keep flying. He saw what he had been missing. Below him on the glassy dark water were many little lights. They were like the light of his own body. He felt very happy.

"I am not alone!" he thought.

He wanted to be with the lights on the lake. He flew down toward them. As he slowed his wings so he could land by one of the lights his legs felt cold. He was in the water! What he had thought were other fireflies became swirls of sparkles. He had broken the lights into tiny pieces when he hit the water.

Frightened, he moved his wings as fast as he could and zoomed above the water just as a big fish with a wide open mouth broke through the surface of the lake and tried to eat him.

The firefly sped once more up into the air, racing to get as far above the lake as he could. He was flying almost straight up when he saw that the dark sky above him was filled with the very same lights that he had seen on the lake. He was seeing the stars in the sky. The water had been like a big mirror which made him believe that the stars were on the lake.

He felt hope again. He thought the lights up in the sky there might be fireflies, like him. He decided to fly up to meet them.

Up and up he went, excited, flying as fast as he could. The lake became a small mirror below him, but still he had not reached the stars. No matter how high he flew he never seemed to get any closer to the lights. He began to wonder if they were really fireflies. They did not flash on and off like he did. Instead they gave off a cold light which never blinked. If they were fireflies, they were not very friendly.

The brave flyer was getting very tired. He began to dip and slip back toward the earth. Finally he had to give up. He had just enough strength to get safely back to the ground, where he fell into a bush and turned off his light and went to sleep.

When he woke up it was even darker than before. He could no longer see the stars because clouds had covered the sky. Wind shook his bed of leaves. Looking out through the trembling bush, the he saw a big light far away in the distance. The light flashed brightly and went out. There was a deep, rumbling sound. Then the light flashed again, and there was another rumbling sound.

To the firefly a flashing light meant one thing -- another firefly. He flew toward the light. Sometimes it would not be there for awhile, and the firefly would worry that it had gone away. Then it would flash again, and the firefly would flash an answer. The wind grew stronger. He could see that the flashes of light were much, much bigger than he was.

Then it began to rain. Big drops of water hit him. They were so heavy that they almost knocked him out of the air, but he kept on flying.

Suddenly there was a flash of light brighter than the daylight. A nearby tree split in half as a great crash of thunder roared through the night.

The firefly had flown into a thunderstorm. When the storm had been far away he had thought that the flashes of lightning were made by fireflies. Now that he was close to the lightning and thunder he knew that nothing so bright and loud could be part of his family.

He was very frightened. He turned and flew away as fast as he could, but the wind blew so hard that he had to hide in thick grass until the rain and lightning finally went away. Then he slowly made his way back to his bush beside the marshy lake where he had been born. There he lay down among the soft leaves and went to sleep.

When the firefly woke up, morning had come and the world was once more bright with sunlight. The dew made everything sparkle. Spider webs which the firefly had not seen before were now glistening with dew. So many spider webs everywhere – in the grass, in bushes, in trees! So many spiders, each in its own web!

"I do not even need to ask if I'm one of those," the firefly thought. "I don't have a web, and I have no idea how to make one."

The firefly looked around for Daddy Rabbit and did not see him.

He heard strange sounds from the marsh and wondered what they were. He drank some water from inside a red flower and listened to the sounds. Sometimes they were so soft that he could hardly hear them. Sometimes the sounds piled up like an ocean wave and made a loud noise that hurt his head. The firefly could tell that the noise came from many small sounds in many different places all around the side of the lake. When all the little sounds were put together, they made one giant sound.

Because the firefly did not know what anything was, how could he know that he was hearing the songs of thousands of frogs? Some sounded like spoons tapping on glass. Some made a sucking noise like a rubber boot being pulled out of wet mud. Some sounded like balloons being rubbed together. Some were like tiny tinkling bells, some like the plucking of stretched rubber bands, and some like the thumping of small drums. Underneath all the other sounds were the croaks of bullfrogs, as deep as big bass horns.

After a long time had passed and the rabbit did not appear, the firefly went to find out what was making the noise in the marsh. Flying low, he saw frogs, frogs, frogs, and more frogs – some big, some little, some with stripes, some with spots, all singing.

"How different from me!" the firefly thought. "There's only one of me, but there are is no end of frogs."

He flew down next to a very large frog which had a very deep voice.

"Good morning," the firefly said to the frog. "I would introduce myself, but I don't have a name. I don't even know what I am."

The frog turned opened his wide mouth and said, "You look like some kind of bug to me."

"Are you a bug?" the firefly asked.

"Of course not! I am a frog." The frog moved closer to the firefly and blinked. "I like bugs, though."

The firefly was glad he had found this friendly frog. He flashed his light.

"Can you light up your tail like this?"

"Of course I can't light up my tail!" the frog croaked. "I haven't even had a tail since I was a tadpole. In all the hundred days of my life I have never heard of anybody lighting up."

"Do you like my light?"

The frog sounded less friendly now.

"Last night I watched you flashing that light all over the place while I sat in the mud the way a normal person is supposed to, and I thought, 'What a show off!' And to make it worse, you fly around like a bird. I don't like birds. Birds eat frogs, you know."

"I don't think I'm a bird," the firefly said , "because you definitely do not look delicious to me. Besides, birds are much bigger than me, and they don't have lights."

"Well," the frog said, " for a bug with such a tiny brain you know a lot, don’t you?"

The firefly decided he did not like this frog, and he said proudly, “My head may be tiny, but my thoughts are just as big as yours."

"Well, know-it-all, I have a surprise for you." The frog slowly moved closer and closer to the firefly, until his wide mouth looked as big as a door. "Here’s something you don’t know. Frogs eat bugs!"

The frog's long tongue suddenly shot out at the firefly, who barely had time to zoom away before it hit him.

"That's the way I catch my food!" the frog laughed in his rough voice. "Come back here, you fire bug, and I'll give you a fast ride on my tongue. A fast ride to my stomach! Ha, ha, ha!"

The firefly was very glad to get away from the big mouthed frog and the loud froggy laugh that followed the firefly up into the air.

After awhile the firefly decided to fly all the way around the lake and see what he could see. He watched schools of fish swimming, and rows of turtles sleeping on logs, and yellow butterflies dancing by the edge of the water, and lines of ants carrying bits of food. Of all the creatures he saw, he was the only one who was alone. That could not be right. Where would he find others like himself?
He spent the whole day flying exploring the countryside, looking everywhere for others like himself, but he found none. He saw squirrels and horses and cows and pigs and sheep and cats and dogs and chickens and goats, but he did not see anything like himself.

At last, when the sun was not far from setting, the little firefly returned to his bush by the lake. There he saw something that made him happy. A large brown rabbit was sitting in the grass not far from the bush. The rabbit had the stem of a yellow flower in his mouth, and as he chewed on the stem the flower moved closer and closer to his mouth until it finally disappeared inside.

"Oh, please," the firefly called from the top of the busy, "are you Daddy Rabbit?"

"Yes, I am."

"I met your children," the firefly said, "and they told me that you are very old and know a lot. Would you answer a question for me?"

"I will be glad to answer if I can," the rabbit said. "But you're so little I can hardly see you."

"I'm just as big as you are, inside," the firefly said.

"What are you?" the rabbit asked.

"That's the question I want to ask you," the firefly said. "What am I?"

"Come over here so I can see you better," the rabbit replied.

The firefly started to leave his bush, then stopped.

"Do I by any chance look delicious to you?”

"Absolutely not!" the rabbit answered. "I think you would taste terrible."

"Good!" said the firefly.

He sailed over and landed right under the rabbit's soft nose.

"See," said the firefly, "I have wings and I light up."

He flew a little way into the air and flashed his light several times.

"Let me think," the rabbit said. He bit off another flower and started chewing his way to the yellow blossom. Then he said, "Yes, yes, I remember very well. It was a long time ago, when I was young, before the cold weather came. There were many like you. I saw them from the time I was born last summer."

"Wonderful!" the firefly cried.

"Oh, yes." The flower wiggled as the rabbit chewed. "They came out at night and flew among the trees and over the grass near the lake, all flashing their lights. There were so many that they looked like the sparks from a great forest fire swirling in the dark sky. Some called them fireflies, some called then lightning bugs. I called them star children. They were beautiful. I was very sorry when the winter came and all of the star children were gone."

"Gone?" the firefly exclaimed.

"Oh, yes, gone. Their lives ended. The lives of many insects ended when winter came. They were here when I was born, but when it was very cold their lives ended. They’ve been gone a long time."

The rabbit looked sad. His ears drooped, but suddenly he looked happy and his ears pointed up again.

"Well, not all gone!" he said. "You are here." Then the rabbit's ears wilted again.

"But you are the last of your kind. The last firefly."

The last firefly.

The words made the little firefly feel sad, but he thanked the rabbit and said, "I am sorry that I'm the last firefly, and all alone, but I'm glad that you could tell me what I am."

"I understand that you must be lonely," the rabbit replied. "You can come and visit me and my family any time."

"Thank you."

The rabbit started to leave, then turned back.

"I am very glad you are here," he told the firefly. "I will be watching for your light in the sky while I lie on my bed tonight.”

"Thank you," the firefly said.

The sun had turned into an orange ball which sank slowly behind the trees. The earth swallowed the orange ball and drank up the light. The rabbit slowly hopped away into the dark shadows of the forest. Night was coming again.

The firefly settled in a leafy bush to watch the golden glow turn into black. Then the stars began to appear – first one, then two, then many, until the sky was filled with twinkling lights.

"The last firefly," he thought. "I am the last firefly. There is nothing else like me except for those stars, and they are not fireflies – unless fireflies go up there when they leave this place."

Then the firefly saw something amazing. He saw one of the stars move. It left the other stars which were low in the night sky and floated through the air above the tall grass by the edge of the lake. The firefly could not believe what he was seeing. Stars did not move.

Then the floating light disappeared.

"Oh, no," the firefly sighed, feeling that he had lost something very important.

But the floating light soon appeared again close to where he had seen it a moment before. Then it disappeared again. Then it came back.

It was like his own light! It glowed, and then it did not glow, and then it glowed again!

The firefly was so excited that he rose slowly up into the air without even realizing that he was flying. Then he suddenly became even more excited because he saw another light moving among the dark trees, and then another. First one, then two, then many, until the air by the lake was as full of softly glowing, floating lights as the sky was filled with stars.

Fireflies! They were fireflies, just like him!

"We are so beautiful!" the firefly thought. He had never been able to think "we" before. If fireflies could sing, he would have been singing with joy.

He flew toward the other lights, and then he saw that they were not only up in the air but also down on the ground in the grass. Here and there, like tiny candles, like coals in a fireplace, they glowed in the grass. Those did not move around like the flying lights. Somehow the firefly knew that they were waiting for something. They were waiting for him.

One of the lights in the grass blinked three times, stopped, and blinked three more times. The firefly flew above it and blinked three times, then blinked three times again. The light in the grass blinked back at him three times, and then the light in the grass and the firefly in the air blinked three times together.

The firefly understood. He flew down to the light in the grass and stood in front of a beautiful female firefly glowing with her message of love.

"I am so happy to see you!" the firefly said. "I was all alone for a long time."

"I am very happy to see you," the female firefly said. "You will never be alone again."

He asked her where she and all the other fireflies had come from.
"We were all born today," she answered. "Except you. You must have been born before the rest of us. You were the very first. Now you can help teach the rest of us."

So, he was not the last firefly. He was the first firefly of the spring. That was much nicer than being the last firefly.

The firefly glowed happily.

The first firefly


© 2006 Fleming Lee

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