By Jenny Kalahar
A bright red and black dotted ladybug shyly waved her feelers from her perch atop a tall blade of grass in the yard of an abandoned house. A brown rabbit, fully-grown but still as curious about the world as a bunny, sat close to the beetle to find out if it had any particular scent. Try as her wriggling nose might, all she could smell was the green, succulent grass, the weeds, and nearby wildflowers. She was tempted to chew the blade right out from under the ladybug, but found that she was too polite to be that rude. Instead, Pluffer absentmindedly nibbled on some shorter grass, and then struck up a conversation.
“Do ladybugs have names?”
The ladybug was a little startled to find that a great, brown rabbit was talking to her. “Why, of course. I am a Coccinella magnifica.”
Pluffer stopped chewing. “You’re named what?”
The ladybug paused to listen as a sudden rise in the wind swept across the yard. Her feelers luxuriated in the sensations for a moment, and then, when the wind had passed on to the baseball field across the street, she clarified, “I’m a Coccinella magnifica. Or, do you mean to ask if I have a name like Red or Spot or something?”
“Yes. I’m called Pluffer.”
The ladybug opened and shut her wing coverings, their bright red color a cheerful contrast to the greenness of the grass despite her sad words. “I have no one to give me a name. I have no friends at all. No family that I’ve ever seen.”
Pluffer swallowed, her nostrils slightly flaring in sympathy as she squarely faced the beetle again. “I can’t imagine living that way.”
The wind picked up again and sighed over them, causing the ladybug’s blade of grass to bow closer to the rabbit for a second before righting itself again. In that brief close-up encounter, Pluffer could better see the beetle’s delicate black legs and red wing coverings. “I think you’re beautiful! Would you mind very much if I gave you a name?”
“I wouldn’t mind at all. But, once you’ve hopped away to graze or to go to your home, no one will ever call me that name again.”
Pluffer breathed in deeply, realizing that she was probably right. Still, she said, “I think I’ll name you … Flight.”
The ladybug, now named Flight, spread her wing coverings and wings to celebrate. Her feelers arced away from her head in a sort of smile, each feeler making one half of the smile. She crawled another inch toward the very top of her blade, and it nodded under her weight so that she was brought closer to the rabbit’s own smile.
“Thank you, Pluffer. I like it.”
“So, Flight, how long have you lived in this yard? I’ve never seen you here before. At least I don’t think so.”
“I’m not good at measuring time, sorry. I’ve been here since the sun awoke. I’ll be here until it slumbers. And I’ll be here until I fly or crawl away. That is all I know. When you live a life fully aware that no one will ever ask you about yourself or ask you where you’ve been, you tend not to think about such things.”
Pluffer heard a strange noise in the distance, so she rose up on her hind legs to search above the tall grasses. A boy in the park across the street was running, dropping a wooden bat at his side as he went.
“I have a warren at the center of this yard. I think it’s pretty safe. No man has mown here since last year, when I was still a bunny. I’m alone there. Would you … would you like to come home with me? That way I won’t be alone, and you won’t be alone, and you can keep your name.”
Flight flew to light on a small fallen branch nearby, considering Pluffer’s offer. “I have to lay my eggs soon. Lead me to your warren, and I’ll join you there when I can. And thank you.”
She made that same smile with her feelers again, but she was too far away for Pluffer to see it. The rabbit could barely hear her answer, but she did.
A few days later, when Pluffer was taking a late-morning snooze, Flight zoomed over the grass and weeds, fallen branches, around two maple trees, over an old tractor tire, and then to the warren that she’d been invited to live near. She had laid her eggs a few hours before, rested, had breakfast, and then found her new friend.
The brown rabbit slept on and on, unaware of her company, but when late afternoon arrived, Pluffer yawned and stretched and emerged for an evening of hopping and munching in her yard and those of the neighbors.
“Hello, Pluffer. My, you sleep forever when you sleep!” said Flight from her seat on top of a yellow dandelion. “Well, I’m here.”
Pluffer twitched her nose and blinked a greeting. She yawned again. “Oh, excuse me for leaving you so long alone! I didn’t know you’d come. You could have said a hum of something in my ear, and then we could have talked. So. Have you done your laying, then?”
Flight knew that the rabbit couldn’t possibly see her nodding, so she said, “Yes. All finished. I didn’t count, but there were many eggs, and I must admit that I feel so much lighter now without them.”
The two fell silent then, listening to distant traffic on the county road a block away, and to the children playing in the park. Birds called, a lawnmower purred in the cool of the early evening’s light, and a basketball bounced on and on.
“I don’t have anything to say to a rabbit, I think,” said Flight. “I don’t know anything that we have in common.”
Pluffer hopped a bit closer to Flight and then sat, her cottony tail comfortably beneath her and her eyes looking over the grass and weeds for something to reply. “I think you’re right, friend. I don’t know anything that we have in common, either.”
“Are you sorry you invited me to live near your nest?”
Pluffer took a deep breath in and then out again. She thought about life with her mother and sisters and brothers when she was just a tiny bunny. She thought of her first adventures on her own, and about making a few rabbit friends in Mrs. Sturnbrigger’s lettuce garden. She thought about her run-ins with cats and dogs, her fears, and the things she loved. Finally, she said, “No, no, no. I’ve been thinking, though, and here’s what I think: I think a rabbit and a ladybug can each be a ladybug and a rabbit and still be the best of friends. I can tell you all about what it’s like to be me, and you can tell me all about what it’s like to be you. I’ll tell you about thumping, about having long ears, and about wearing fur, and you can tell me about flying and living with feelers on your head.”
Flight flew closer still to Pluffer and made her feelers smile again. “So, we don’t have to be the same to be friends?”
“No, of course not!” Pluffer said. She tried very hard to make her long, floppy ears smile, but found that it was impossible. “The world would be a mighty boring place indeed if every pair or group of friends was just exactly the same as each other.”
Pluffer hopped off in search of supper, and Flight flew along beside her, landing on grass blades, weed leaves, wildflower petals, and branches as they went. Flight made sure that when she wanted to tell something to her friend that she was very, very close to the rabbit, and Pluffer made certain to eat as quietly as possible so that she wouldn’t miss a single word.
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
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