His big sister had had enough.
“Caleb! It’s impossible to work on my speech with you looking over my shoulder!”
“I want to help,” Caleb said, but she wasn’t listening.
“Go outside and play. It’s beautiful out!” Shannon shooed him through the back door, across the porch and into the yard.
“But…” It was too late, the wood-framed screen door bounced shut as Shannon headed back inside. Caleb hung his head and scuffed his shoe in the dirt. No one listened to him.
Yesterday, the school librarian had scolded, “What? Speak up, boy! I can’t hear you!”
Caleb became so flustered he forgot what he’d been sent for. He returned to class, empty-handed.
Then he’d gotten his assignment back, Miss Finn had given it an ‘F’. It was supposed to be about his summer. He hadn’t been able to remember anything he’d done so he’d written about what his brother, Todd, had done. Todd could do exciting things, things Caleb was too young to do.
He would have to rewrite the paper.
“Caleb,” Miss Finn said. Glasses slid down her nose and she peered over them, “You need to find your voice, not anyone else’s.”
He’d been thinking about her comment ever since—when the school bully had ripped up his math homework, and when his big brother, Tim, said it was Caleb’s turn to wash dishes—it was the third week in a row…Caleb hadn’t found the words to argue effectively. Tim, like Todd, always knew what to say.
Caleb was suddenly angry. No one ever listened to him! He picked up his foot and was about to stomp a beetle when he heard a scream. It sounded far away…but close too…what in the world?
“Ahhhh! I’m going to die! Ahhhh!” Caleb looked around, foot still midair.
“What? Who’s there?” Caleb said, or tried to say, but his voice was totally gone! Not one sound came out. He heard the voice again, it sobbed.
“Ohhhhh! He’s going to kkkill me! Help! He’s going to squish me!”
No, it couldn’t be…was it? Caleb lowered his foot as the beetle scurried down a little hole. He could hear every movement the bug made! Caleb eyed the beetle home.
The bug was talking to himself.
“Lucky bug! Lucky you! Back to work, now. Make den before winter!”
Caleb could hear every word—clear as a bell, and dirt shifting inside the hole.
An airy voice sing-songed, “Oh, Oh, Oh! Another flower, so pretty, with nectar for me!”
Caleb stared—it was a butterfly hovering over a dandelion!
“Bzzzz, bzzzz, pollen for the queen, the queen!” said the bee that swooped by Caleb’s ear.
A faint voice cried, “Stop, oh, please stop…” Caleb looked around and spied a large spider with a foot on the neck of a little sow bug.
“And why should I stop?” boomed the spider’s voice. Caleb had to lean in to hear the faint voice of the sow bug.
“I…I don’t taste good, and I’m really quite small…”
“Ha!” the spider ridiculed, “You are stupid, you are!”
“I am,” the sow bug sobbed, “but don’t you see…”
“I’m going to eat you now,” the spider rudely interrupted in a bored tone.
The sow bug suddenly shouted—not as loud as a spider’s yell but loud for a sow bug, “Grasshoppers! And…crickets! They are quite tasty! Tastier than me!”
“Indeed,” replied the spider thoughtfully, “but I have caught thee!”
“But there’s a…a…” As if on cue, from the yard came the screech of cricket legs rubbing together, “…cricket over that hill!” exclaimed the sow bug.
“Hmmm, maybe I should go see… ” mused the spider.
Then came the moment the sow bug had been waiting for, the spider lifted his leg to scratch his chin.
Snap! As soon as his neck was free from the spider’s foot, the sow bug curled into a little armored ball.
“Oh,” The spider sighed when he saw the bug’s protective shell, “guess I’ll go over that hill—just to see.”
Caleb could hear the sow bug laughing inside his shell, but the sound faded rapidly.
“Caleb,” Shannon was back, “I’m sorry you couldn’t help, but I had to find my own style.”
Caleb nodded his head slowly, thinking.
“I understand.” Caleb said, “Shannon? Can I ask you something?”
“Did we go fishing in June or July?”
As they walked inside, Shannon talked; and Caleb realized…he had found his own voice, and it was his responsibility to not let anyone drown it out.
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