Once upon a time, there were some ants..
"What the..Neal?! Is that you or did I just back into a twig? Antenna check!"
..and a grasshopper.
"Sunshine..on my shoulders..Da da doo doo"
Now the grasshopper wanted nothing more than to play his fiddle, sing his songs, and have fun all day long. He thought working was just a painful waste of a beautiful day, and that the best time to do nothing, was any time at all. (Basically, he was a lazy ass musician.)
"Damn! I sure do love the way my fiddle sounds when the wind comes whistlin' through the tall grass. Those ants don't know what they're missing. Plenty of food and sunshine! Yea, gimme time to think, and play, and sing my songs..THAT's the life for me!"
The ants didn't pay the grasshopper much attention though. They were too busy storing away food to survive the winter months, when there would be none.
"Here it is. 3 leaves, 16 seeds..yep, this is the one alright"
"Ok, I'll pluck. Joe, you and Neal catch and carry."
As the weeks went by, the ants noticed that the grasshopper was just sitting around, singing and playing his fiddle. They worried that perhaps he didn't realize that winter was coming.
"Hey Joe..what's the story with that grasshopper?"
"Dunno man. I guess he just sings and plays that fiddle all day long. Pretty good too. Why? What's it to ya?"
"Well, is he planning on eating snowcones this winter, or is he ten times lazy and twice as stupid?"
"You got me there Neal. Lemme ask him. Hey! Grasshopper! Good afternoon. Watcha doin?"
The grasshopper stopped fiddling and looked down.
"Just singin' and fiddlin'. Why do you ask?"
"Well," said the ant, "It's just that winter's coming and it doesn't look like you're saving any food."
The grasshopper laughed.
"FOOD?! There's PLENTY of food! Why would I need to save any? Here, let me sing you a song about the tasty grass I ate today. WHEN YOU GRAB A BLADE AND START TO MUNCH IT.."
The ants were not impressed.
"That's quite alright. Just so you know, the food will disappear when winter comes. Save now while you can."
"..DOESN'T MATTER HOW YOU CRUNCH IT.."
The grasshopper just ignored the ants' warning, so they moved on.
"Both I think, Neal."
"Both eating snowcones this winter AND twenty times stupid."
The summer days burned the spring into autumn, replacing the leaves' youthful green with the fiery colors of a year's experience. With the change in seasons came the harvest of a year's work, and a year's play.
"Holy crap! Where did all of the good grass go? Everything's all gold and brown and dead. How am I going to sing without the munchy crunchness to inspire me?"
The summer's verdant bounty had given way to slimmer pickings and the reality of it all was beginning to poke the grasshopper in the stomach. Even so, he STILL hadn't realized that pickings were only going to get slimmer, as winter came on.
"Alright, well this cold spell can't last forever. Soon I'll be munchety munching on green tender grass again."
Alas, the cold spell DID go on and the colder it got, the less there was to eat until, finally, the grasshopper had nothing to eat.
"Oh woe is me! Why didn't I listen to those ants? I'm soooo hungry! Ohhh please Mr. Sun! Come out and play...bring me something, ANYTHING to eat!"
With that, the grasshopper, weak with exhaustion and hunger, slumped to the ground.
About that same time, the ants were sealing up the entrance to their nest. The year's work over, they were settling in for another long, boring winter together. There was plenty of food and warmth, this was true, but having worked all year in much the same manner as the previous year, they really didn't have much to talk about, so it was VERY boring. This was what was on an ant named Neal's mind, as he came to the surface for one last look at the sky before returning to the tedious warmth down below.
"Well, I sure am going to miss you this winter, old sky. As much as I love my nest mates, I'm sure not looking forward to another 3 months of parcheesi, stale seeds, and recycled stories. Oh well, I guess it beats freezing my ass off up here. Hey, speaking of freezing..Joe! Do you see that?"
"Huh? See what?"
"Over there, under that dead leaf. Isn't that the grasshopper?"
"I don't see anything. Where? What leaf?"
"Oh yea! Hey it IS the grasshopper! Man did he lose some weight! Guess that'll teach him not to listen."
"Is he still alive? Yea I think he is..he's barely breathing though."
"Heh heh. Sure has come a long way since we saw him fiddling and singing the days away, huh Neal?"
Just then, Neal had an idea. A wonderful, MARVELOUS idea that just might make the winter months pass more quickly.
"Joe! You've given me a great idea, my friend! Come on, help me bring that grasshopper inside."
"You've lost your mind, right? That grasshopper LAUGHED at us when we tried to tell him that winter was coming. Now you want to SAVE him? Hell no, let him get what's coming to him. That'll teach him!"
"How is he going to learn ANYTHING if he dies out there? Besides, if I'm right, that grasshopper is going to save US from another long, boring winter. Aren't you getting tired of parcheesi? I know I am."
"Grasshopper? Save? Boring? Ooooooh I think I get it! You're BRILLIANT, Neal! Absolutely BRILLIANT!"
"So let's get him in here then!"
"Gotcha! Ok I'll get his legs, you grab his other legs."
And so the ants brought the grasshopper into their nest before sealing up the entrance to keep the cold, late autumn winds out. Finally out of the cold, the grasshopper opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by ants.
"Heaven? Is this heaven? Where are the other grasshoppers? What's with all of the ants? Oh no!! Not that! Was I really THAT bad?! Nooo!" the grasshopper began to sob,"I'm in Hell! Oh noo...now I'll have to dig holes and carry stuff like those poor ants.....(sniff)..."
But the grasshopper wasn't in Hell, no quite far from it. He was surrounded by scores and scores of ants who were more than grateful for the chance to have SOMETHING DIFFERENT to do this winter. What the grasshopper didn't realize was that HE was the key. In fact, he was quickly becoming something of a celebrity, as word spread of Neal's great idea.
"No, wait...stop crying, please! This isn't Hell", said the ant called Joe, "This is our home, and you're welcome to stay here with us all winter, on two conditions."
The grasshopper stopped wimpering and looked up.
"..(sniffle)...This isn't Hell? (snorf) I'm not dead? Oh glory be and halle-friggin-loo-ya!!", the grasshopper shouted, half out of relief, half in celebration, "And I can stay here? You're not going to send me out into the cold again?"
"No. No, we're not. We're going to let you stay with us...IF.."
"If WHAT?", the grasshopper said, suddenly suspicious.
"If you will sing and fiddle for us and tell us stories to keep us entertained. Keep us from getting bored and we will feed you, and give you a place to stay until spring."
The grasshopper was absolutely elated at his sudden stroke of good fortune.
"Now THAT I can do. Not only am I an extraordinary fiddler, singer and story teller, but I'm also an excellent dancer", he said, then broke into a little soft-shoe shuffle, "See?"
The ants applauded and busily set about preparing a welcome feast for their guest. While they were busy making preparations to party hardy, the grasshopper, remembering something, turned back to the ant they called Joe.
"Saaay..you said TWO conditions. What was the other one?"
"Well," Joe replied, "next summer, instead of playing all of the time, try to save up a little food for yourself so that you don't end up in this situation again."
"Nooo problem...I've learned my lesson. I PROMISE!" , the grasshopper assured him.
Then he went back to playing, which ALL of the ants enjoyed very much. They ate well, then skipped parcheesi, enthralled by the many tales of adventure that the grasshopper regaled them with that evening.
All around it was agreed that Neal's idea was a huge success. Until the winter wore on, that was. Then the grasshopper began to wear on everyone's nerves. He was rude, conceited and lazy. The food that he ate would have fed 20 of the largest ants in the colony and since the ants had put away only enough to get through the longest winter, it was fortunate when winter ended sooner, rather than later.
The springtime come, the ants prepared for another year of hunting and gathering food for the following winter. First, however they said their farewells to the grasshopper.
"Well grasshopper, there you are...all of the grass you can eat. Thanks for entertaining us this winter. Take care."
"Yea, goodbye grasshopper. Remember to put away a little for next winter. Don't forget! Good luck!"
However, the grasshopper wasn't listening. He was too busy eyeing all of the lovely, tender young grass that had begun to pop up everywhere.
"Ohhhhh glory be! Gee-flippin-willigers and grass be praised, my beloved munchety munchies are back. Foo..bleh and ptooey", he said, spitting out a seed that he had been munching on, "I don't know HOW I ate this dry, tasteless crap for those three loong months, in that dark, dingy, smelly little hole, with all of those annoying tickly little ants. Always touching and feeling and smelling up the place with their 'scent trail' this and 'gotta mark that'. Yeesh! Ohh thank you blue skies and green fields, for setting me free! Free! Free at last!!"
With that, the grasshopper bounded off, offering not even a "Thank you" to the ants for their hospitality. Thus ended one of the strangest episodes in his short life, and definitely THE strangest in the ants' lives.
The spring went by quickly for the ants, as their work kept them very busy. Time flies when you're having fun and busy ants are happy ants, so the summer sped by as well. Soon the fall started to come on once again and the nights grew longer, while the food supply grew shorter. It wasn't long before the cold had killed even the hardiest of plants and it was around this time that WHO should show up at the entrance to the ants' nest, but the grasshopper!
"Well hey there ants! It is I! Your favorite entertainer and houseguest! Are you folks ready for another winter of songs, stories and fiddlin'?"
The two ants guarding the entrance stared at the grasshopper, amused..
"Oh yea, we're looking forward to some entertainment alright", one of them replied.
"Well get out of the way then, I need some muncheties to inspire me", with that the grasshopper started to push the ant out of the way. To his surprise, the ant pushed back and notioned to his nest mate to get the others.
"What the...why you little!", snarled the grasshopper, "Do you know who I AM?! I'm the grasshopper! I am the one that is going to save you from the boredom of winter! I am the one that is going to entertain you! How DARE you try to stop me you impudent little twerp. Just wait until the others hear about this. Boy are YOU going see something, pal!"
"Oh, I KNOW I will, and the others have already heard about it. In fact, the rest of the bunch is on their way up right now", said the ant, just as the other ants were arriving and crowding around the entrance, "Yep, everyone has been waiting for your arrival, just like you say, and they can't WAIT to enjoy your antics again this year."
The grasshopper smiled a smug, conceited smile, a stupid, arrogant smile, as he addressed the crowd of ants that had arrived.
"Do you know what this stupid little fellow here is doing?", the grasshopper sneered, "He is keeping your entertainment away. He has insulted me and refused to let me in out of the cold, refused to let me at the munchety tasties that you have down below. You all know that I have to have munchety snacky snacks to inspire me if I'm going to entertain. You don't want to spend another BOOORING winter playing parcheesi again do you?"
"No", said the ant called Joe,"no..we definitely don't want that."
"And everyone knows how much you need THIS as inspiration if you're going to entertain us", added Neal, holding up a big tasty seed.
The grasshopper's stomach grumbled. He hadn't saved a scrap of food and the grass had long been dead. It was obvious that he hadn't eaten for days, and the sight of that seed momentarily melted the arrogance right off of his face, replacing it for a second, with the desperation that he was TRULY feeling.
"Well, let me in. Let me dine with you and warm my feet so that I can entertain you. Think I'll start with that seed you've got there!", he drooled, reaching for the seed. Neal pulled the seed away before he could take it.
"Not so fast!", said Joe, "Where is the food that you were supposed to save,to get you through this winter?"
The grasshopper stared at him blankly, then remembering his promise, fumbled for an explanation.
"Uhhh...well I didn't have time. Umm er a bird...yea a bird ate it and I...er umm. Gimme the SEED...puuhhhlease!"
The ants were not impressed.
"Not this time grasshopper. This time you're on your own", Joe coolly replied, "We helped you the first time because we didn't think it was fair to be mean to you, just because you didn't know. Now it's obvious that you wasted your summers out of laziness, and that your ignorance was really self-centered stupidity. No, grasshopper, you won't be coming into our nest this winter. You AND your ego must find your OWN accomodations from now on."
"Let me into your warm little nest, and fill me full of tasties so that I can dance for you! I'll be good, I promise", the hungry grasshopper pleaded.
"NO!!", the ants responded in unison.
"You would leave me out here? You would leave me out here to starve to death in the cold?!", the grasshopper asked, now begging.
"Oh no, we wouldn't do that. We enjoy your singing and entertaining too much to let you die. You can be warm this winter, definitely, and you don't have to starve to death either", Joe replied, "In fact, THAT is completely up to you."
"But how? Where will I get food?", the grasshopper asked, "What can I do to keep warm?! Tell me PLEASE!!"
With that, an anticipatory chuckle went through the crowd of ants huddled in the entrance, as a smile spread across Neal's face.
"Simple", he grinned, slowly tossing the big, tasty seed up into the air and catching it again.
what's it to you?