First-place story by Ruthie Boyd, from the Summit Daily News/Summit County Rotary short story contest
April 9, 2014
Editor’s note: Ruthie Boyd, a Summit High School student, won first place in the annual Summit Daily News/Summit County Rotary short story contest. The second place finisher will run in tomorrow’s paper.
Today was the second day of summer.
I awoke early in the morning to the sound of the chickadees chirping, the wind gently rustling through the pine trees, and the sweet smell of summer drifting into my open bedroom window. The clean Colorado breeze seemed to whisper in my ear, “Wake up, Ruthie! It’s time to come out and play!” The sun, shining brightly, peeked through the gently swaying pine trees.
Excitement washed over my body as I jumped out of bed and thundered down the hallway, my footsteps echoing in the silent house.
“I think the best thing for Quick right now is to let him go so he can grow up into something wonderful.”
In the kitchen, my parents were busy enjoying the peace that my younger brother and I would soon disturb. My dad leafed through pages of the local paper while my mom, listening to the radio, poured herself a cup of tea. Shouting a quick hello, I continued on through the kitchen and out the back door to the porch.
“Ruthie, where are you going?” My dad questioned, setting down his coffee cup and newspaper. “You still haven’t eaten breakfast.”
Too late! I thought to myself as the screen door slammed behind me. I successfully graduated kindergarten just two days ago and I already had a new best friend. His name was Quick, and he was my very own fuzzy green caterpillar! I walked across our back deck, recalling yesterday’s events in my mind.
I had been playing in the yard and skipping rocks in our pond when my mom, who was working in the garden, called my name.
“Ruthie! Come here and see what I found!”
Excited and curious, I ran through the tall grass, oblivious to the morning dew that dampened the hem of my sundress and tickled the soles of my bare feet. Standing on my tiptoes, I peeked down into the glass jar my mom held. Inside, I saw what appeared to be a fuzzy green twig. Confused, I glanced up at my mom.
“It’s a caterpillar,” my mom informed me.
I couldn’t believe it! This was a dream come true. I LOVED caterpillars!
Eagerly, I reached into the jar and picked up the caterpillar. His tiny little body moved really fast as he crawled across my hand. He looked like he was moving a million miles a minute! He was so… Quick! “Can I keep it?” I questioned anxiously.
“Ruthie, you don’t want to upset nature. Caterpillars aren’t meant to be pets.”
“Aw, Mom, please! I promise I’ll take care of him, and I can tell that he already loves me. I even have the perfect name for him—Quick.”
Reluctantly, she agreed. And here I was today, with my favorite little creature in hand.
Quick’s tiny green body tickled my palm as he inched across my hand, eager to discover the breakfast of fresh leaves that he was accustomed to. I descended the deck stairs just in time to hear the screen door slam and my dad’s steady footsteps grow nearer.
“Hey Rue. Don’t forget that today is the big day!”
In all of my excitement, I had forgotten.
We were moving.
Dread washed over me as I remembered that this would be my last day in our Blue River house. I adored my life out here, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Moving from outside of town to just a few blocks away from Main Street would be terrible. It would be so noisy, plus, my new room was in the basement. Everybody knows that’s where the monsters live. Holding back my tears, I reluctantly climbed the stairs.
As soon as I stepped up the final stair, he began to talk a million miles a minute. What was more? He seemed…. Excited.
“We have to leave soon. There’s a lot to do at the new house in Breckenridge and we don’t have any time to waste!” With that, he continued to the driveway to work on what he called New House Preparations.
I glanced down at Quick. How could my dad possibly be so excited? It seemed impossible that he would want to leave our home. Wouldn’t he miss the meadow and the pond? The fresh smell of the pine trees in the mornings, or the wonderful view from our back porch? As I watched him crawl onto the soft, wet leaves that I had gathered, I knew that like me, Quick didn’t want to leave, either.
When I arrived back inside, the smell of homemade pancakes filled the air.
“There you are, Ruthie!”
I looked up to see my mom at the stove, spatula in hand. My little brother, face smeared with syrup, grinned a goofy grin at me from his high chair. Despite my sadness, I couldn’t help but smile.
“Have some breakfast.”
Any other day and I would’ve eaten a dozen of the warm, golden pancakes, but today, I slumped down in my chair and crossed my arms. My stomach twisted up.
After breakfast, my mom cleaned up the kitchen and wiped down the counters. Everything looked spick and span. Suddenly, our house looked completely different. I realized with horror that everything we owned was packed. Gone.
I barely noticed my dad when he walked in the front door. “Time to go, everyone!” My dad said. “I just finished packing the last load into the moving truck.”
In the driveway, our car, along with the moving truck, stood running and ready for action. I turned one last time to look at our house. I knew I would miss it terribly. The front windows, with the curtains gone, seemed like two sad eyes looking down on me, wishing we would stay.
Suddenly, I was filled with fear. I just couldn’t bear to leave. I planted my feet firmly on the ground and watched as my parents and brother hopped in the car. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought about leaving my home forever. I looked down at Quick.
“Quick, how can I ever do this?”
I watched him slowly inch across a twig set up in his habitat. No answer. I suppose he couldn’t answer that. Neither could I.
Suddenly, my mom opened the car door.
“Ruthie! It’s time to go! Climb into the car; we have to get on the road!”
No way! I thought. I kept my feet firmly planted on the asphalt driveway. At this point, the tears that had been streaming down my face seemed to create a river. I watched as my mom climbed out of the car, ready to steal me away from the home I loved. Taking my hand gently, she tried to soothe me as she pulled me towards the waiting car. “It’ll be okay, Ruthie. Don’t worry.”
I resisted as best as I could, planting my heels into the ground. “Mom, I don’t want to leave! I love it here! It’s our house.”
“I know, Ruthie. We will all miss it. It’s been a great home! But it’s time to move on. It’ll be fun!”
Through my tears, I took one more look at our house before she slammed the car door on the only life I had ever known.
The car ride to the new house seemed to take forever. Finally, we pulled into our new driveway right behind the truck holding all of our belongings. The gravel sputtered and spun under the weight of the car, and our new brown house stood, like a brick wall, in front of my eyes. Tentatively, I opened the car door and stepped out onto the small, grey rocks that made up the driveway. Right away, I knew something just didn’t feel right. This definitely was not my house. It was too big and too scary. Old and empty, it wasn’t cozy at all. All around me I could hear the excitement of my brother and my parents as they eagerly approached the wooden steps leading to the front door. Paralyzed, I couldn’t move.
“Oh Quick, what should I do? I’ll never be able to live here. It just isn’t home!” Looking down at my friend, I noticed something alarming. Hanging onto the edge of a stick, Quick began wriggling around. He seemed lazy and out of energy, as if every move he made was exhausting. What was happening? What was wrong? I ran to find my mom, who was speaking with the moving truck guy.
“Mom!” I stammered, shaking her arm. “Help! Quick….he…he doesn’t look very good.” I handed her Quick’s habitat for inspection. I felt my eyes fill with tears as I thought about losing my friend. First my house, and now my best friend. Everything was falling apart.
After what felt like hours, my mom, taking a deep breath, began to speak.
“Ruthie, Quick has been a wonderful friend to you, and I know how much you love him. But just like all of us, he must grow up and accept change. Today, Quick begins the process of transforming into a beautiful butterfly. I think the best thing for Quick right now is to let him go so he can grow up into something wonderful.”
I felt my eyes fill with tears, but I knew she was right. I loved Quick so much though! With my mom’s hand interlocked in my own, I carried Quick through the yard as we searched for the perfect new home. As we walked, I looked around. Over to my left I noticed a really cool crevice with a clump of trees and an old stump. That would make the perfect fort! And up ahead, there were two tall trees that would be great to hang a hammock from. Finally, we spotted a lush bush the color of Quick’s fuzzy green body. Holding back my tears, I crouched down and opened Quick’s cage. Gently, I set the stick that he clung to back into the depths of the bush, where I knew he would be safe.
As I watched him wiggle and waggle on the end of the stick, I made a promise. A pinky-promise. At that very moment, I promised Quick that I would never, ever, ever forget him, my best caterpillar friend.
I stayed on a minute, thinking about the events of the day and about my best little friend. Minutes passed as Mom’s words tumbled through my head. As sad as it was to see him go, I was confident that Quick would change into something wonderful. I hoped that some day, I would, too.