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In Search of a Light

The green meadow sparkled in the warm summer sun. Flowers nodded, and butterflies danced through the air. On the ground, hidden by the tall grasses, there was a small brown pebble.

Suddenly the pebble stirred. It was not a pebble at all. It was a cocoon, which a little worm-like creature had made in the spring. Now the cocoon was cracking open, and something was coming out.

Rripp! Out poked a tiny head. A push and a wriggle, and a squeeze or two -- and a little beetle slipped out of the cocoon. His body was soft and wet, but the warm sun quickly dried him.

He stretched his legs and spread his wings. Then he crawled up to the top of a grass stalk and perched there, looking around.

The sun was going down now. As the meadow grew dark, the little beetle launched himself into the air and flew. Soon he saw tiny flashes of light in the air around him. He flew closer to one of them.

It was another beetle, which looked exactly like him. But every few seconds, the end of its abdomen lighted up, just like a light bulb. It was a firefly.

The little beetle tried to light up his abdomen, too. But nothing happened.

Suddenly he noticed some slower flashing lights, down in the meadow. Female fireflies perched on the grasses had seen lights of the males flying through the air. Now they were answering.

One by one, the male fireflies dropped down, to alight beside a female. Each one found a mate, except for the one who could not light up. Without a light to signal with, none of the females knew he was there.

Poor little Nolight. He tried and tried to light up. But nothing happened. He flew down and fluttered excitedly around a female firefly, who was blinking her light down in the grass. But she did not even look at him.

"I must find a light to carry with me," thought Nolight. "Then I can win a mate."

Off he flew, away from the meadow. Soon he was all alone in the night. He looked up into the sky and saw tiny points of twinkling light.

"Perhaps I can catch one of those lights," he thought. He beat his wings as hard as he could. But he could not fly up high enough to catch the stars. Now Nolight was flying above some long rows of lights. It was an airport, with its runways lighted up to guide the planes.

Nolight flew down to look at the lights. But he soon found that they were much too big to carry with him. And they were too hot!

Just then a plane took off. Up and up it flew. "It's going up to those lights in the sky," Nolight thought excitedly.

Another plane was loading. The little firefly who could not light darted in through the open door and hid in a corner behind a seat.

After the plane was in the air, Nolight crawled up onto a window and looked out. There was a magic world of lights outside. Lights from the houses and streets of the city sparkled below.

Then the plane was over the ocean, and moonlight shimmered on the water. Above, the stars twinkled down. But Nolight could not get closer to any of these lights.

At last the plane landed. As the passengers were getting ready to leave, a boy in the seat next to the window noticed Nolight. "Look, Mom, a bug," he exclaimed.

The boy's mother jumped. "Get rid of that thing!" she cried, and swatted at the firefly with a magazine.

Nolight dodged just in time and flew as fast as he could out the open door of the plane.

Soon Nolight was flying toward the forest beyond the airport. He was still searching for a light. He saw the eyes of prowling animals gleaming in the moonlight. He found a dead stump glowing with a strange fiery light. But he did not find any light that he could carry with him.

When the sun came up, Nolight was still searching. He was so tired that he almost didn't see a bird swooping down at him. The bird's beak was wide open to snap at him, when Nolight dove head-first, down into the water of a stream. The little firefly struggled and sputtered. Soon he was back up to the surface, floating along in the water.

Faster and faster the stream carried Nolight. Suddenly a dark hole loomed up in front of him, and the stream plunged into a cave.

Nolight sped through the blackness. Then suddenly there were lights, a blaze of shimmering lights, all over the roof of the cave. Glowworms clinging there were letting down shining threads to catch small flying insects.

Nolight flew up to look at the lights, but the sticky threads caught and held him. He struggled, but he could not get free.

Suddenly someone shouted "Hey!" The glowworm lights winked out instantly, while gentle hands untangled Nolight from the sticky threads. A scientist, out on a field trip, had discovered him.

"What is a North American firefly doing here?" the scientist asked. "And why won't he light? Let's send him back to the lab."

Carefully the scientist placed Nolight in a little bottle and airmailed him back to the lab in America. There the research team discovered that Nolight was missing one of the chemicals that fireflies use to light up. Gently he injected a little bit of the right chemical. And Nolight glowed.

The scientist opened the window, and Nolight leaped from his outstretched hand into the evening air. In a nearby field, fireflies were blinking on and off. Nolight flashed his light too. Soon he saw an answering light in the grass. There was his mate, waiting for him.



©1972, 2013 The Silversteins