I wrote my husband a story for his birthday. He was my inspiration for this one. Since he’s into Japanese stories I gave this one a bit o’ Asian flare.
The Way of the Beetle
From the day Dilly started to see the Japanese beetle outside his window a curiosity and interest moved him to ask the red and black spotted insect his name. It seemed that the beetle was no ordinary beetle. With it’s red back and black spots the beetle seemed to watch Dilly from outside the kitchen window each morning during breakfast. On a sunny day, in the garden Dilly asked the beetle why he had been following him and what his name might be, if he indeed had one.
The beetle replied, “Yes, boy. I have been following you. You move fast and think many thoughts. I would like to show you the ways of the Japanese beetle-man. My name is Makoto which means sincere. Your name is ‘boy’ but soon it shall be ‘man’.”
Dilly, who was firstly very shocked to be talking to a Japanese beetle, seeing that they usually bite and Dilly likes to have nothing to do with biting insects; he often can be seen sprinting down the street on a hot summer evening, batting the mosquitoes away as he flees for the indoors. Yet Dilly, for interest’s sake, replied, “My name is not boy, it’s Dilly. And again, why are you following me?”
Makoto replied, “Do you remember the movie The Karate Kid?”
“Yes”, Dilly answered.
“Well, I saw it too and thought it was silly. Pat Morita was raised in Ohio and sounds nothing like a Japanese martial arts master. Plus, his stunt double was terrible. But I digress. One thing your life has in common at this moment is that there is a teacher that is near who wants to show you how to dig into all that life has. I shall teach you the way of the beetle. You will call me Master Makoto and I will call you, ‘boy’. For now, that is.”
Dilly, still troubled to be speaking to a Japanese beetle in broad daylight asked, “So what do I need to do?”
“You must do as I say. That is all. Can you do this, boy?”
To humor the old, red and black beetle Dilly smiled condescendingly and said, “Surely”
“Surely? Well then. Go and get your shovel and we will work until dawn.”
Confused, Dilly grabbed his chipped and worn work shovel. Usually the shovel was used to dig piles of snow out of the walk way in the winter but today Makoto ordered Dilly to dig one small, tiny hole in the back yard near the apple tree. Dilly snickered and rolled his eyes as he grabbed his shovel and made the small and easy hole into the ground. The crunch of the separated earth was short and quick. In a flash Dilly was finished with his days work. “This will be the easiest lesson I’ve ever had to learn” the boy thought to himself.
The next day Dilly found Makoto waiting outside the kitchen window as Dilly finished eating his egg on toast sandwich with a cup of fresh coffee. Makoto reminded Dilly that the day would be full of hard work. Again, Dilly snickered as he remembered yesterday’s ‘hard work’. He sipped his coffee from his small mug and walked to the back yard with his new Master, friend. Makoto was hovering next to the shovel and ordered Dilly to breath the sweet, summer air and remember a thankful heart as he looked up at the perfectly blue sky. There was a pause from the old beetle as he did likewise. He spoke to Dilly. “Boy, always remember thankfulness.”
“Um, ok.” Was the silly boy’s reply. Makoto ordered Dilly to dig five holes that were six feet wide and three feet deep. These holes were to be next to the apple tree alongside Dilly’s small hole from his first day’s lesson. Shocked and wide eyed Dilly only mumbled, “What? That will take me all day!!!”
“Well then, you better get started”, said Makoto the beetle.
Dilly dug and dug. His shirt became doused in sweat and stink. His jeans clung to his legs with moisture and as the day grew longer his hands erupted with blisters from the wooden handle of the shovel. Makoto said nothing as he watched the boy dig well into the dusk. Finally as Dilly finished his fifth hole he sat next to them as he looked confusingly into each pit. Makoto told him to get some sleep and they would meet again in the morning. To which Dilly shouted, “Wait! This is JUST like the Karate Kid. Listen, I want to learn about life, not how to kick Cobra Kai butt. I’m not even interested in Karate, or Elizabeth Shue for that matter. I have my own family!!!” But Makoto had already flown away into the apple tree blossoms.
The next morning at breakfast Makoto the beetle summoned Dilly the boy from the kitchen and ordered him to take up his familiar shovel. “This time” announced Makoto “you will dig a moat around your entire house and when you are finished you will fill it with hose water. It should take you the entire day.
At this Dilly could see only nonsense since he knew that property value and resale were huge components of keeping your property in tact. “I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. It’ll send my house-value straight into the crapper. Plus, it’ll look really stupid. I won’t do it!”
Makoto sighed…. “Boy, you will. I know you will. You desire manhood and this will step you further into that world. Now take your shovel!!!” Dilly, paused. Then he did as he was told. The moat took him the entire day. Again, the heat was painful on his body. His sweat caked his essence and the day was filled with hard work and loneliness. But he continued until the moat was dug and his hands were blistered. Again, he took his tired body to bed and work early in the morning to learn the ways of the Japanese beetle.
The next morning Makoto did not greet him kindly. Instead he ordered Dilly to work harder than ever. “Today there is no water for your thirst. You will dig until you find it!” He then flew away from sight and left Dilly to the task of digging for water. Dilly took his shovel into the ground near the apple tree and heard the familiar crunch of the earth under foot. He must have dug 18 feet deep before he saw even a trace of water. But the sight of a cool drink after an entire day of back-breaking work, without a drink to quench his thirst brought a resolve and excitement that was intoxicating to Dilly. He dug faster yet and finally cool, fresh water began to slowly bubble to the surface. With a drunken smile Dilly bent over to drink deep of the freshness. The sensation of gratification was unlike any moment in his lifetime, other than when he married his lovely and amazing wife.
Dilly drank his fill as the sun fell into the horizon. Makoto returned from his absence and sat on the cool end of the battered shovel. He spoke sternly to Dilly. “Our lessons are done. I shall now call you, Man”
Confused Dilly asked, “Why? What have I actually learned about life and becoming a man? You haven’t taught me anything. Wow, this really is like the Karate Kid. What the….?”
Makoto said, “Man, what have you learned from digging these holes?”
“Nothing!” shouted Dilly.
“Nonsense!!! You’ve learned a great deal. Please do not make me explain your lessons to you. THINK! What have you learned from digging for water”
“Um, that I was thirsty all along?” asked Dilly with nervous uncertainty.
“No” replied Makoto. “You have learned determination in pursuing what your heart desires. What have you learned from digging the moat around your house?” he then asked.
For a moment Dilly paused to reflect on the lesson of determination. He would agree that this was a hard and painful lesson but one he would always remember as he pursued dreams in later life. Yet, he needed to answer Master Makoto’s question.
“I honestly don’t know. Through digging this moat I guess I learned how to not care about the property value of my home and not be materialistic?” he said again, in the form of an uncertain question.
Makoto rolled his eyes and sighed.
“No! You have learned that it is your joy to protect your home and family; to build a safe place for them. Come now, what have you learned from digging the five holes near the apple tree?”
Now Dilly was beginning to see what Makoto had been teaching him. Yet as much as he thought he still did not understand what Master Makoto was teaching him. “I’m sorry, I don’t know”
“You have learned perseverance in the face of confusion. You will never know what those holes are for, until the end of days But at times you must yet persevere. Now, please… tell me what you have learned from digging your first, small hole near the apple tree. Think, Man”
Dilly thought and paused. Then he paused and thought some more. Finally he turned his glance up towards Makoto and smiled softly. “I have learned that great accomplishments always start with small and seemingly insignificant tasks”
“Yes, Man. You have learned this”
Makoto smiled his first and with a short glance flew away from the Man never to be seen again.