In my writing class, we were asked to rewrite the fable so the grasshopper looks good, is triumphant, even. As far as I was concerned, there was only one way to do that.
The bugs emerged from the long winter in a state of depression. The butterflies didn’t want to leave the safety of their cocoons. The aroma of thawing feces failed to stimulate the appetites of the dung beetles. Worker bees snuggled up against their queen, having lost all interest in making honey. Even the ants, renowned for their work ethic, were slow to exit their colony.
Grasshopper and Cricket, the most gregarious members of the bug community, worried about their friends over sips of dew one morning in mid-April.
“I don’t understand it,” Cricket said. “Usually everyone is out and about by now. I expected the fleas at least would be in the grass, affixing themselves to the legs of dogs running though the park.”
“We have to do something to cheer everyone up,” Grasshopper said. “Otherwise, they’ll all waste the summer away. Let’s do what we do best.”
“Yes,” Cricket squeaked. “We’ll put on a show!”
The next morning at dawn, Cricket and Grasshopper made the rounds. They sang outside the cocoons, the beetle nests and the beehives. They harmonized atop the anthill.
The butterflies pulled their cocoons over their heads, the dung beetles rolled to their backs and the bees said, “Buzz off!”
For as everyone knows, pulling someone out of a funk takes more than one joyful song.
“We’re too depressed to gather food,” the ants wailed.
But Grasshopper and Cricket did not give up. They woke up every morning and sang to their fellow bugs.
One morning in June, a butterfly finally felt like herself again. She spread her wings and fled the cocoon. The streak of red and yellow across the sky inspired the dung beetles to inhale deeply. The uneaten poop had ripened quite nicely in the summer sun and the beetles got their appetites back.
The hum of activity inspired the bees, the fleas and the ants to resume their neglected duties making honey, bleeding dogs dry and gathering grain for winter.
“We did it!” Cricket said. “We’re heroes.”
“Let’s not get too cocky,” Grasshopper said. “We can’t stop now. You never know when they might get depressed again. We have to sing for them every morning and every night to make sure no one slips back into depression.”
The bugs had to make up for lost time, but Grasshopper and Cricket’s songs kept them active until the first frost that fall. Thanks to Grasshopper’s plan, everyone had gathered enough food to last the winter.
Everyone except Grasshopper and Cricket, that is.
“Surely everyone will share their food with us,” said Cricket. “After all, if it weren’t for us, they’d all have starved to death by May!”
The beetles were happy to share their dung, but neither Grasshopper nor Cricket had a taste for the stuff. They snacked for a while on the bees’ honey, but after weeks of nothing but sugar, Grasshopper craved something a little more substantial.
He saw Ant drying some of the grain he’d collected during the summer.
“That looks really good,” Grasshopper said. “I don’t suppose you’d mind sharing with me and Cricket.”
Ant rolled his eyes. “Really? You guys sang and danced and did your little Vaudeville act all summer, instead of working hard and gathering food like the rest of us, and now you want some of my grain?”
“Forget it, Ant. After all we did for you, if you can’t find it in your heart to share with us, I’m not going to beg. We’ll eat honey all winter, if that’s how you’re going to be. But don’t expect us to sing you out of hibernation again next spring.”