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The Potyl
by Jerry Guarino

Little Anthony, three years old, sat in his backyard playing with a ball. An only child, he found ways to amuse himself. In the late 1950s, you didn’t have to worry as much about your child’s safety. About the worst that could happen is that a toddler would eat dirt. But Anthony already had a vivid imagination. He watched the bugs and birds, picking up a caterpillar and laying it on a plant leaf.

“There you go fuzzy. Enjoy the leaf.”

Squirrels chased each other around the yard. Anthony wondered why.

“Where are you going squirrel? Are you looking for food?”

A baby squirrel paused to look at Anthony. He crept closer to the toddler. Each new life wondering what the other was doing.

“I don’t have any food, just my ball.” Anthony rolled the ball slowly to the squirrel, startling the rodent, who ran away to a tree.

Anthony retrieved his ball and decided to explore the garden. He saw bugs and caterpillars. Then he saw a praying mantis.

“You look scary. What are you?”

The praying mantis sat silently on a leaf. Anthony was afraid to touch it.

Finally, a softer animal wandered in, the neighbor’s black cat. He rubbed himself against Anthony, who replied by petting the feline.

“Hi cat. What are you up to today?”

Anthony reached down to pick up the Potyl, thinking it might be magical.

“Eeek..,’ he screamed. It was actually a praying mantis. Once he realized what the scratchy legs and wriggling body were in his hand, he threw it away and began crying.

His mom came out to comfort him.

“What’s wrong Anthony?”

“I picked up a Potyl.”

Seeing the praying mantis, his mom realized how scary it must have been.

“That’s all right. It’s a praying mantis. They are good for the garden. It can’t hurt you.”

That night Anthony dreamt of being in the garden and he saw the Potyl again. He reached to pick it up. The Potyl made a chime sound and flew up into the room.

“Come back.”

Anthony saw the Potyl regularly in his dreams, but he watched out for bugs in the garden. He grew up with a fascination for insects and nature, often spending his free time exploring the outdoors. He even studied entomology in college, becoming an expert in the field. He often thought about the Potyl, the praying mantis that had scared him as a child. He realized that it was not a monster, but a beautiful and important part of the ecosystem.

Years later, Anthony became a science teacher and used his love for insects to inspire and educate his students. He would tell them the story of the Potyl, and how it taught him to appreciate and respect all living things, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may be.

One day, while on a nature walk with his class, Anthony came across a praying mantis and his students all crowded around him to take a look. Anthony smiled, knowing that he had passed on his appreciation of the Potyl and all of nature to the next generation.

Copyright January, 2023 – All Rights Reserved