A BEETLE'S LIFE EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE HYMENOPTERANS
CHAPTER I: ENCOUNTER WITH ROSIE
Rosie felt a fair bit happier then she had in a while. It hadn't been too bad a day at P.T.'s circus. There had been more customers that day then any of them could have guesses. Even P.T. seemed satisfied with today's takings, mostly because they were all his.
Mere weeks, when Rosie had signed the contract, she hadn't notice the fine print specifying that her payment would consist merely of enough food and drink. By the time she realized, it was too late, as the contract would not expire for several years. The only other way she could leave is if she was fired.
But even so, she didn't want to leave by now. She was great friends with all the others: she didn't know the fireflies, Blip and Flip, or the wolf spider Ymri (his species was very far from hers) well enough to call them true friends (they would all refer to them as acquaintances) but she was true friends with everyone else. Slim the walking stick, Heimlich, the somewhat-obese, German-accented caterpillar, Francis the ladybug (he was anything but!) and Manny the praying mantis.
Right now, she was just taking a brief walk. It was almost evening, and they were about to call it a day and go to sleep. The circus tent, even though it was nomadic, always felt very confined, so she and the rest of them almost always took walks of some sort in their spare moments, of which there were not many nowadays.
She didn't know what she was looking for, really. Anything edible, really (her food wages sometimes weren't enough).
Rosie was just walking, when she came across a vast swamp. It was so huge that she couldn't even see the other side (any of them). Looking around, she saw a hornet's nest way in the distance, hanging from an ugly-looking tree. She had never seen a hornet, but she had heard enough about them from the old fables (like The Beetle and the Hornet) to know that they regarded almost all non-hymenopterans and any crawling insects as enemies right off the batch. She should probably get out of here anyway. After all, as her mother had told her just before she had left her: "It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, Rosie. One of those circle-of-life kind of things... After all, I ate your dad before you were born, just like all black widow spiders must!"
She knew it was very dangerous. That had been one of the main reasons she had joined the circus. Any individual was guaranteed to be safer the more of them there was, and she would rarely be alone for a while.
She turned around to go back to the circus tent, and, without warning, without any warning at all – she tripped over something very solid. Getting up from the ground, she saw that it was a rhino beetle. He looked as though he had collapsed from fatigue. He could have only been here for a couple of hours at most. He looked very young. Yet there was something familiar about him...
'Hey guys,' called Rosie to the others, knowing they were only a couple of feet away, 'could you come over here a sec?'
Rosie instinctively heard the sound of the other circus bugs approaching. Seconds later, Manny flew in with Francis, who was carrying Slim as usual. Heimlich sloshed his way into the clearing in huge leaps like he always did.
'What is it, Rosie?' said Manny, as they all approached.
'He's a rhino beetle, I think,' said Rosie, as she stepped back a pace or two so they could all see him.
'Huh,' said Francis, as he approached the rhino beetle, 'he's not dead, is he?'
'I don't think so...' muttered Rosie. She bent down to check the rhino beetle's pulse. The others waited a second or two.
'No, he's alive,' said Rosie. They all just watched the rhino beetle, hoping that he would wake up. When he didn't, Rosie spoke up again.
'So what do you think we should do guys?' she asked the others.
Manny sighed, as he often did after a disastrous performance.
'Yet again,' he said irritably, 'it is up to me to tell everyone what to do...'
'And what's that?' said Rosie, somewhat agitated. 'Nothing?'
'But... but...,' stammered Rosie. She could not bear leaving this rhino beetle alone – it would be as dishonorable as not eating any of her 9 husbands that she had had so far.
'But we can't just leave him here,' said Rosie. 'He could get attacked by a hornet or something.
While she and Manny had been talking, Francis and Slim were looking at the back of the rhino beetle's shell.
'Uh, I think he already has...' said Slim.
'Wat do u mean?' said Heimlich in his German accent.
'Look,' said Francis. He and Slim pushed the rhino beetle's shell open and held it so. The other three came to look.
''His wings ave holes in em!' exclaimed Heimlich.
'OH REALLY!' yelled Slim sarcastically.
'Only a hympenopteran could have done this,' whispered Manny. 'I can tell by the shape of the hole. Specifically, a hornet; it couldn't have been a bee or a wasp, and of course ants don't have stingers.'
'Poor fellow,' said Slim, 'he's lucky to be alive. Most who encounter a hornet don't live to tell the tale.'
'So what should we do?' asked Francis, clearly determined to further prove his masculinity and that he had no feminine side.
'Let's take him back to the circus tent,' said Rosie. 'He'll be much safer there then he will be here.'
'Rosie!' exclaimed Slim. 'P.T. will never us bring in anyone for free unless he's hiring them. You know that.'
'I know, I know,' said Rosie irritably. 'But maybe he'll make an exception. In any case, he'll be safer it we bring him outside the tent then here.'
'You're probably right,' said Slim. 'Let's go then. The longer he's here, the more chance he has of getting into danger.'
Knowing what they all had to do, Slim, Rosie and Heimlich all readied themselves by the rhino beetle. Rosie waited by his abdomen, Slim by his left side, and Heimlich by his right. Francis and Manny both grabbed a corner of each of his shell plates and readied themselves.
'OK,' whispered Rosie.'
Manny and Francis cooperatively lifted Dim a centimetre off the ground or so. They struggled to keep him airborne. The other three all moved under Dim, holding him by the parts they had placed themselves at.
Francis and Manny lowered him slowly down onto the other three, who supported him fully.
While the other three struggled to keep him from squashing them, Francis and Manny moved under his head and supported him there. Together, the five of them were just about able to keep him off the ground without being squished themselves. They slowly walked back to the circus tent, careful not to damage or wake up the rhino beetle.
All too soon, the circus wagon was in sight. As they approached it, Slim turned to Rosie.
'So Rosie,' he said, 'what should we do when we get there?'
'Let's worry about that when we have to,' said Rosie.
They had put the rhino beetle down by now. They were all backstage in the circus tent. They had asked where P.T. was, and Ymri had said that he was counting his takings. They decided to tell him later, when the rhino beetle would be hopefully awake.
'I'll do it,' said Rosie. She approached the rhino beetle and gently rubbed his face.
'Hey, please wake up.' The rhino beetle didn't move.
'You're doing vit de wrong way, Rosie,' said Heimlich. 'Let mir do it.'
Rosie stepped back. Heimlich moved in front of the rhino beetle.
'Aufwachen!' he yelled slapping the rhino beetle's face with his small and chubby hands. 'Aufwachen!'
'Stop it, Heimlich!' said Rosie irritably. 'He's not going to want to wake up to a caterpillar slapping his face!' Heimlich looked rather guilty.
'Shh!' hissed Francis. I think he's waking up!'
They all stepped back a bit, but made sure that they were all watching him.
Slowly, but surely, the rhino beetle opened his eyes.
Approximate Chapter Running Time: 00:41-00:43
By the way, Aufwachen is German for "wake up!" But you could have probably guessed that.