Caterpillar was crawling across a big rock. He reached forward as far as he could with his front legs. Then he pulled his back legs up behind him, bending his back like a bow. Then he stretched forward his front legs, again, and dragged the rest behind him… again and again… across the big rock that never seemed to end.
Sparrow watched Caterpillar struggle with amusement. When Caterpillar finally reached the far end of the rock, Sparrow hopped down in front of him. Caterpillar looked up, was exhausted, but nevertheless turned around to slowly make his escape. Sparrow hopped in front of Caterpillar, again, and asked him, “Where do you think you are going? There’s no way you can outrun me”. Caterpillar said, “I’ve only got one life and I’m going to give it all I got. I’m no Possum”. Sparrow laughed, but then became disturbed, for Possum had eaten one of her eggs that spring, and she also- for a moment- lost her appetite.
“Tell me”, said Sparrow, “What would you do if you had more than one life?” Caterpillar looked at Sparrow’s wings for a long time. “I would fly”, said Caterpillar. Sparrow laughed and said, “You would fly! You are not a bird! You’re almost a maggot. You would fly. Ha!” Caterpillar, becoming angry, rose up on his tail and shouted, “I did not say I wanted to be a bird! I said I would fly. I don’t know how, exactly….” His voice broke off, and he fell back to the ground.
“O!” said Sparrow “you would be like Bee or Cicada, or one of the other bugs with wings. “Maybe” said Caterpillar “I do not know what I would become” Sparrow thought about this for an instant, then began thinking about eating Caterpillar, again. She said “Well, you know, there might be a way your dream could come true.” “How?” asked Caterpillar “Simple” said Sparrow “all you have to do is let me eat you- I won’t eat you all the way, just enough so I can regurgitate you into the mouths of my babies. Then, when they fly, you will be inside them, and you will be flying, too!” Caterpillar looked horrified. Sparrow licked her beak. “Wait, wait” pleaded Caterpillar “I see that you want to eat me. And I haven’t much chance to get away. But you’ve given me an idea. Let me ask you something: do you still have that egg?” Sparrow hopped back away, composed herself, and asked “how do you know about the egg?”
Caterpillar said “I know that Possum does not eat eggshells- only what’s inside of them. And I know you collect all sorts of things. So I imagined that you held on to the broken egg your unborn chick was in”. “Okay” said Sparrow “maybe I still have this egg. What then!” Sparrow was sad at thinking about her unborn child, and then angry at Caterpillar for bringing it up. She said “Tell me now why I should not eat you”. “I won’t. Eat me.” said Caterpillar “But I only ask you for one thing: don’t regurgitate me to your chicks. Swallow me whole. Let me go through your belly. And, when it’s time, you know, to let me go, I want you to do it inside the egg. And then sit on that egg and protect that egg, with me inside it.”
“You!?” said Sparrow “That won’t be you! You’ll be nothing but- poop!” “I know” said Caterpillar “but I want another life and I want to fly and this might be the only way. Will you do it?” Sparrow, unable to speak, promptly ate Caterpillar. She flew back to her nest where her little babies, and her empty, broken egg, were waiting. They clamored to be fed. She had a lump in her throat, both literally and from the emotions wrought by her conversation with Caterpillar.
Later that night, when Sparrow had to relieve herself, she lighted upon the empty egg exactly how we humans sit down on a toilet, and did the one thing Caterpillar asked her to do.
The next day, and the days after that, she sat on that egg and kept it warm. All the other birds, her children included, thought she had gone Cuckoo. Cuckoo did not appreciate the comparison whatsoever. But Sparrow stayed true to her word. She left the nest only to get food for her chicks. Otherwise, she was planted on top the egg containing the material that was Caterpillar.
As she sat there, contemplating, she began to experience the emotions of losing her child to Possum- emotions she had kept locked inside until now- and she cried and she cried, and she cried. Sparrow thought of the name she was going to name her child: Butter. This went on for forty days. During that time all her chicks became big enough to leave the nest and did.
On the forty-first day, she began to hear the egg shell crack. First, just a little, then an entire section broke apart as two antennae probed the outside air. Sparrow was startled- transfixed. She backed away from the egg, in awe. Slowly, something came out of the egg. It had long spindly legs. Its eyes and nose were huge compared to its worm-like body. But most of all, the most terrific aspect of this thing were its wings: bright, magnificent, patterned like the bark of Old Tree, or the face of Pond when Wind blows across. And on those wings were two, black, and brilliant eyes staring back at Sparrow. Sparrow would have shrieked if she didn’t have a lump in her throat, this time quite figuratively, for the eyes she stared at were- her own.
The wings began to flap, first slowly, weakly, and with great effort. It waddled to the edge of the nest, looked down, then turned around and walked toward Sparrow. However, its wings were no longer damp, but dry and pumping broadly the air around it. Sparrow pushed it back toward the edge of the nest and at the right moment shoved it out shouting, “Fly, Butter! Butter, fly!”