Friday Fiction - "Gimpy, the Caterpillar"

I'm hosting Fiction Friday today!
(Sorry I'm late setting up Mr. Linky...
I forgot it was my turn.)

This is another sneaky peek at my NaNo story,
"Going Home with Phoebe"
I hope you enjoy it.


Phoebe waited for Dellie to catch up. It was quicker to cross over Synders Hill than to go by way of the road, plus it was always more interesting.

As they passed the place where they picked strawberries last summer, Phoebe noticed some plump caterpillars on the milkweed plants. She couldn’t wait for the pods to dry and crack open, so the fluffy seeds could float away on the breeze like snowflakes. She picked up one caterpillar and let him hump up her arm. Dellie found one too.

“Hee, hee… he tickles!” Dellie moved her caterpillar back down to her palm where it wasn’t so ticklish.

“Don’t you love their yellow and blacked striped pajamas?” Phoebe held hers up to eye level. “I think I will name you Gimpy.”

“Gimpy? That’s a funny name.”

“He’s a funny caterpillar. Besides, I think something’s wrong with one of his feet. He wobbles when he crawls, like one isn’t working right.”

“We better get going.” Dellie put her caterpillar back on a milkweed plant. Phoebe put hers in her pocket and picked a few leaves and added them to her pocket too.

“You’re not going to keep him, are you?”

“Why not? Besides, I think he needs me.”

Dellie shook her head. “We’re going to be late for school. Come on!”

Phoebe added a few more leaves and followed Dellie.

“You’re silly. How are you going to keep him at school?”

“He’ll be fine in my pocket. He’s all curled up in a ball. He’ll probably stay that way all day.”

They had to run the rest of the way. It was hard for Phoebe to run with her hand in her pocket.

Miss Edgecomb was just shooing the last of the boys who had been playing Red Rover into the building when they reached the school. “Come, girls. Hurry up!” They quickly hung up their coats and bonnets and found their places. Phoebe peeked in her pocket. Gimpy was still curled up.

After the morning routine, Miss Edgecomb passed out some papers. The history test! She had forgotten all about it! There were five questions on the chalkboard.

1. List three explorers. Tell what country they came from. Tell when they lived and what land they discovered.
2. Describe the Plymouth Plantation. Name two of its leaders. Tell of its struggles.
3. Describe George Washington. Write five of his Rules of Conduct.

Phoebe groaned. She had paid attention in class, but she should have studied last night. She hunched over her paper and began writing. The other older students were already writing. Pens scratched on the papers. The first class was standing near Miss Edgecomb’s desk reciting their spelling lesson. It made it hard to concentrate.

Seth and Dellie brought their papers to Miss Edgecomb. Phoebe glanced up, but kept writing. She closed her eyes and tried to remember Washington’s Rule of Conduct.

1.When a man does all that he can, though it succeeds not well, blame him not.
2.Be not forward, but friendly and courteous.
3.Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.
4.When you speak of God or His attributes, let it be seriously, in reverence.

She only needed one more. She looked out the window. A robin was tugging at a worm. That made her think of Gimpy. She peeked in her pocket and could see him nibbling the leaves. She closed her eyes to think of one more rule.

5.Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.

She skimmed over the page to see if she forgot anything and took her paper up to the desk. She happened to see the minister’s buggy coming up the road. “Today is Friday!” She had forgotten about French class! She scooted into her seat and took out a book to read while she waited for the others to finish. She felt Gimpy moving in her pocket and peeked at him again.

Miss Gwendolyn smiled at her when she entered the back door and sat in a back seat. Miss Edgecomb looked up from her work and nodded to her. She sent the little children back to their seats and clapped her hands. “Class, those who are still working on their history tests, put them upside down on your desks and you can finish them later. Right now, Madame Thompson has come to give us another French class.

Everyone squirmed around to look at Madame Thompson walk to the front of the room.

“Bonjour, Classe!”

“Bong joor, Madame Thompson.” Phoebe grinned. She liked the way Miss Gwendolyn said it better. They all sounded like bullfrogs!

“Today we are going to learn some colors.” She pointed to her ruffled blouse.
“C’est blanc. Repetez – blanc.”


“Tres bien!” She pointed to a book.
“C’est bleu….bleu.”

“Bluh.” Phoebe giggled.

Madame Thompson walked over to chalkboard.
“C’est noir…noir.”


“Tres bien!” She picked up an apple.
“C’est rouge…rouge.”


She touched the leaf on the apple
“C’est verte….verte.”


Sometimes Phoebe had to stand up to see what Madame Thompson was touching. She tried to say it just like her, but her mouth and tongue didn’t seem to be able to make the sounds.

Priscilla jumped up on to her desk and pointed to the floor. “EWWW! There’s a worm on the floor!”

Phoebe looked into her pocket… nothing… not even any leaves! Seth scrambled beneath the desk. He picked up the caterpillar by two fingers and dangled it in front of Priscilla. She pulled up her hands in front of her, as if she needed to push some danger away.

“EWWWW… Get it away from me! Throw it outside!”

“Don’t hurt him! He’s mine!” Phoebe snatched him from Seth and rubbed her finger over Gimpy's striped skin to see if he was fine. She carefully slipped him back in her pocket.

Miss Edgecomb helped Priscilla down from the desk. “Phoebe, may I see that caterpillar? I think it may be a monarch. Where did you find it?”

Phoebe placed the yellow and black curled up ball in Miss Edgecomb’s palm. “I found it on some milkweed plants on Synders Hill. I think something’s wrong with his foot. He crawls funny. I named him Gimpy.”

All the children giggled.

Madame Thompson stood back a little and peered cautiously at it. But, as it uncurled, she could see its colors. “Ooooo…c’est interestante! C’est jaune et noire. Il est un papillion.”

Miss Edgecomb set the caterpillar on her desk and found the M volume of the encyclopedias. “Monarch” She set the open book on the front desk and every one gathered around. “It says here that they only eat milkweed. They make their chrysalis in September and in about two weeks will hatch into a butterfly. They migrate thousands of miles to warmer climates for the winter.”

Miss Edgecomb looked at Phoebe. “We could put your caterpillar in something and let it makes its chrysalis. It would very interesting to observe it hatch and fly away. Do you mind if we share the experience with you?”

Phoebe looked down at Gimpy crawling on her arm.
“Sure! That would be fun. What are we going to put him in?”

Everyone had a suggestion.

“A bucket?”

“A basket?”

“A crate?”

Miss Edgecomb’s face lit up. “There’s an old window pane behind the schoolhouse, with one broken pane. We could patch that with a piece of paper. If we put the whole thing over a basket, we could observe him without him crawling away.” She looked at the caterpillar again. “What did you say you named him?”

“Gimpy because he has a hurt leg.”

Dellie raised her hand.
“Should we get more milkweed leaves?”

“Yes. Dellie, would you like to do that?”

With the big basket set on the top shelf near the window and the broken pane on top, they had a nice home for Gimpy. Dellie returned with a few milkweed stalks. He started munching right away.

Madame Thompson smiled at Miss Edgecomb. “I think it is time for me to leave. I came to teach French, but I learned about butterflies. Au revoir, classe.” She waved as she left.

“O Revore, Madame Thompson.”

Everyone returned to their desks and books. All was quiet as they worked out their arithmetic on slates or paper or the chalkboard for those who needed help.

Priscilla raised her hand. “Miss Edgecomb? May I sit somewhere else? I can’t think with that worm right next to me.”

“Yes, Priscilla. Why don’t you change places with Phoebe. I’m sure she’d rather be near her caterpillar anyway.”

They gathered their things and exchanged places. Dellie gave Phoebe a pitiful look, but knew better than to ask to change places too. Mary scooted over to let Phoebe in Prissy’s place. Phoebe peered in the basket to see Gimpy. He was happily munching away on his leaves.

Every day when they returned to school, Phoebe had more milk weed leaves for Gimpy. One morning, he didn’t need them any more. He had attached himself to the top of the basket cage and made a smooth green chrysalis. It had a line of gold around it. Phoebe thought it looked very elegant.

She didn’t want to leave the basket there on Friday, for fear Gimpy would emerge over the weekend. Miss Edgecomb didn’t think he would, since it had only been four days. Phoebe whispered, “Wait for me to come back, Gimpy.”

On Monday, Phoebe hurried to get ready for school. She wanted to be sure Gimpy hadn’t emerged yet. Matthew and Dellie had a hard time keeping up with her. She ran right into the school room without putting her things away first. He was still in his little green cocoon.

Sometimes as she did her geography or reading an interesting book, she forgot about him. It was only when history got boring or arithmetic got hard did she wish he would wake up.

When Friday came around again, he had been in his chrysalis for eleven days. Phoebe just knew he’d come out while she was gone. She looked in the basket. The color seemed different today. It looked more of a milky white. “Miss Edgecomb, does Gimpy’s chrysalis look different to you?”

Everyone crowded around.

“Yes, I think things are going to happen today.”

Phoebe could hardly concentrate on her school work. She could see the shell becoming more and more transparent, with darker colors showing through. Madame Thompson came again and taught them how to count to ten, but Phoebe hardly listened. Gimpy was moving.

She gasped. “He’s coming out!”

She could hardly move with everyone crowding close and trying to see. Gimpy’s nose slid through a crack in the bottom. Slowly…slowly he pushed through. His belly was really fat and his wings were folded all around it. He hung from the chrysalis with his tiny feet. He seemed to be resting.

Everyone talked at once. “That was spectacular!” “What a show!”

Miss Edgecomb urged everyone back to their seats. “It may take awhile for it to fly. Let’s get back to work.”

But Phoebe couldn’t work. “Hello, Gimpy. You’ve grown up,” she whispered. “I’m going to miss you. You won’t be gimpy anymore. You’ll be able to fly.” Mary looked at her. She raised her eyebrows and shook her head.

Phoebe watched him stretch his orange and black wings wider and wider. He waved them around and walked over to the edge of the basket where a breeze blew in from a crack of the window. As the end of the school day neared, Phoebe raised her hand. “Miss Edgecomb, may we take Gimpy outside to fly away? I think he’s ready.”

Everyone crowded around again. “Ooohh! Look at him!” “He’s beautiful!”

With the teacher’s consent, Phoebe carried the basket outside. She lifted the glass and put her hand near Gimpy. He crawled on to her finger. His little feet felt like the tickle of pine needles.

He waved his wings up and down and walked from one finger to the other. Finally, he caught the breeze and circled above their heads. Phoebe held up her hand and he settled on it again. She brought him down before her face. He seemed to be looking at her and saying “Thank you for all the love.” Then with another gust, he took off higher and higher until they couldn’t see him any more.

Some of the children were jumping up and down and waving. “Good bye, Gimpy! Have a nice trip.”

Phoebe didn’t wave or shout. She wiped a tear.
“Come on, Matthew. It’s time to walk home.”

If you have a story on your blog or website. Leave your name and url in Mr. Linky. Be sure to check out all the great stories and leaves some comments.


Anonymous said...

If God can turn a "Gimpy" into a beatiful Monarch
butterfly, imagine how much more He changes us!
Good lesson in this story. Thanks!

Joanne Sher said...

Lovely, Vonnie - and I love the transliteration" of Phoebe's french words.

Very good characterization too. Looking forward to reading the rest of this!

Sherri Ward said...

Vonnie, this is really wonderful, I loved it!

Catrina Bradley... said...

People ask me how I know so many things - it's because I read fiction like this growing up - a fascinating story, characters I could love, and lessons on things like caterpillars turning into butterflies. I love it, Vonnie!

I pre-posted my Friday Fiction before I knew who the host was, so you being late with MckLinky didn't affect me. :)

Vonnie said...

Thanks, Cat. I'm filling my novel with all kinds of educational information. It must be the teacher in me!

BethL said...

This was beautiful. I loved the French and the class' attempt at pronunciation. Great work, Vonnie!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Such a cute story, Yvonne! Love it!

Dee Yoder said...

Joseph's second grade class had a butterfly lesson where they put their worms in a butterfly house and watched them change--it was SO fun to release all those monarchs in one day. I love the French in this story--even though I didn't get to take French, I've always loved it! Great story.

Anna Kae Jacobs aka Karlene said...

I'm sorry Vonnie for the mix up. Somehow I thought I'd talked with you during the week, but it turns out, it was my imagination playing tricks on me. *blush*

This is a wonderful story. I liked how you carried us through the metamorphisis of the caterpillar into the butterfly.


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