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Finding Inspiration (Debra Black)


Puss Caterpillar, Cute and Fuzzy



I wasn’t expecting to be thrust into the heat of an adventure or become some embattled heroine struggling to persevere. I just happened to find a really strange THING stuck to the door of my friend’s apartment, right under the door lock. It had adhered itself to the dirt brown paint and was doing a very good impression of a furry booger. Teardrop shaped and motionless, it had what appeared to be gray fur with a brown stripe that led to what could be a tail on the end. Other than the hair I was at a loss to identify it as a living creature, much less a caterpillar.

I had already knocked on the door to see if my friend had noticed it there when he got home, but less than a minute later he walked up to the bottom of the stairs and I had my answer. It was hard to notice something on your door if you hadn’t arrived yet. I asked him if he knew what it was when he finished his ascent to the second floor and he stepped slightly back with key in hand as I brought the puff of misplaced fur to his attention.

Cluelessness abounded and we both stared at it for a few seconds before I got the bright idea to bring out my pocket knife and pry ever so gently at the bottom of the unidentified object to see if I could at least detach it from his door. It twitched.

There is something you have to know about me. I am not at all fond of bugs. Most of them scare me. A wave your hands around in a panic, scream, and run in pointless circles or rapidly off into the distance, kind of scared. Yes, I know… not exactly dignified and definitely wimpy. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a total coward. I can handle reptiles, rodents, amphibians, and various other animal life forms that would leave a stereotypical female standing on the nearest table. There is just something about most insects that engenders complete terror in me.

This fluffy-looking ball of cute, however, had yet to bring forth my usual abhorrence of creepy crawly things. I persisted in my attempt to pry the now slightly less motionless bug off of the door and get it to land in my hand so that I could take a closer look at it. The lighting was horrible as it was night and the complex managers obviously had a typical lack of concern that poor lighting was conducive to higher crime rates.

Suddenly the caterpillar decided that letting go of the less than tasty surface it was stuck to was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for the sudden transformation from suctioned spot to rolling fluffy donut. It bounced off the side of my cupped palm and fell several feet to careen to a stop in the slight gap between two planks of the weather-beaten wooden landing. I’m not sure if it would have fallen had I not scooped it back into my hand, but I couldn’t let it unintentionally suicide by uncoiling only to find the gap led to a rather impressive fall (for an insect with no wings).

My friend unlocked and opened his door and I requested access to come inside and get a good look at what I was now mostly sure was a caterpillar, although the coat of hairs was making it hard for me to tell. I was met with an immediate and resounding no. I understand the lack of enthusiasm to invite insects into one’s house, so I told him I would be back in a minute and headed down the stairs to place the now uncoiled and slightly more active bug on a less inhospitable location.

It occurred to me in a vague fashion that some caterpillars were known to sting and that I might be courting a sustained fear of all future caterpillars. I quietly whispered a request that it not do so and continued on my mission to rescue this helpless little creature. I will refrain from snorting at my own naiveté for now.

I positioned it on the patio wall of the downstairs neighbor and proceeded to take several pictures of it for future reference… and because it was so darn cute. Now it didn’t occur to me at the time that I was using a flash to take pictures of a bug on a balcony in some other person’s apartment space. I took several. The couple who lives there must have thought I was some sort of stalker or pervert now that I think back on it. Whoops.

I proceeded to climb back up the stairs and knock for admittance feeling that I had saved the day for at least one living soul. Then it occurred to me that I had just left that innocent, adorable little guy crawling toward the inside of a patio that houses a couple with a small child. It struck me that the likelihood of something as squishy and slow as a caterpillar to survive the ravages of a curious toddler was not very high.

My friend opened the door and I looked at him and said, “I think I have to move it again, I left it on the patio wall and it might be in danger there. I’ll be right back.”

This earned me a puzzled look and a shrug. I proceeded to tromp back down the stairs and scoop up the hapless insect, who responded to this fresh assault by coiling back up into a ball again. I placed it in a nearby holly bush, where it promptly fell between the leaves. I’d have to guess being coiled into a ball makes it harder to get a grip on a bush, and it disappeared into the darkness between the foliage. I could only hope it wouldn’t be found by fire ants and devoured before it could recover itself and continue on its way.

I spent the rest of the evening relaxing with my friend and the night passed uneventfully other than some zombies startling me at random points in the game he was playing. This was to be expected.

The next evening I finally got around to looking up the strange and wonderful new friend I had made the previous day. I traced the name of this mystery bug down. It was a …. puss caterpillar? How could something so cute have such a gross name? I continued searching to satisfy my curiosity and found a menacing fact. It sure looked cute, but this bug had a reputation for being venomous to a painful extreme. So much so, that the spines hidden in its fur could raise blisters that would fill with puss. Eeeew.

Suddenly I felt like I had battled adversity and triumphed. I had not only relocated and possibly saved the life of an insect; I had also overcome my fear of bugs while somehow miraculously avoiding being traumatized and poisoned, and possibly even kept a child from being stung by this adorable but not-so-harmless caterpillar.

Sometimes you become the hero in your own story. It doesn’t matter if you don’t happen to be famous or have a following for all of your valiant moments in life. Share a moment where the ordinary turned extraordinary for you! You never know what might turn out to be a really interesting story to share later.



Debra Black



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