“Is that story really true?” Little Beetle asked.
“Of course it is,” Grandpa Beetle said.
“So, if I climb to the top of the big pine tree, I could get a rainbow coat to wear too?”
“If you’re there at just the right time,” Grandpa Beetle said. “But the journey is very dangerous.”
“I’m going to go tomorrow,” Little Beetle said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Grandpa Beetle said.
Little Beetle straightened his antennas. “I’m going anyways.”
Grandpa Beetle sighed.
The next morning, when it was neither light nor dark, Little Beetle left their burrow under the edge of the stone fence. He strode up to the big pine tree and started to climb. At first, it wasn’t so bad. And then, just as he reached the lowest branches, a dark shadow fell across his path. A squirrel scampered towards him.
Quickly, Little Beetle darted in to a crack in the bark. A furry paw reached in after him. Little Beetle leaned back and avoided the paw. He ducked and darted. The paw kept reaching.
Finally, the paw retreated. A dark eye peered into the crack. The paw returned, even more relentless than before. Little Beetle was growing tired when the paw drew back again. The eye returned, and then the other paw.
Just when Little Beetle was sure he couldn’t duck or dodge any longer, the paw disappeared. Little Beetle waited anxiously. There was a chittering sound outside the crack in the bark.
Little Beetle waited and waited. Finally, there was the scratching sound of claws on bark that was initially quite near and loud. The sound grew fainter. Little Beetle waited. He peeked out and looked back and forth. He was alone.
He continued to climb. As he passed a branch, he met a little caterpillar resting in the nook where the branch met the tree. “Hello, friend,” Little Beetle said. “Are you climbing the tree for a rainbow coat too?”
“I don’t think that works for caterpillars,” the little caterpillar said. “I’m eating to prepare for my long sleep.”
“Why do you need to sleep for a long time?” Little Beetle asked. “The weather is still warm.”
“To get my wings,” the little caterpillar said. “It is what caterpillars do. Do all beetles climb for coats?”
“Only the brave ones like me,” Little Beetle said. “Maybe next I’ll try for wings.”
“Good luck,” the little caterpillar said.
“You too,” Little Beetle said. He started to climb again.
He climbed higher and higher. He learned to listen for the scratchy sounds and hide before the squirrels could come close enough to see him. The heat of the day grew and Little Beetle had to pause to eat some pine needles.
While perched on a twig, munching his lunch, Little Beetle spotted the newest danger. A bird landed on a branch nearby, a cricket squirming in her beak. Little Beetle froze. When the bird turned around, Little Beetle crept away.
The trunk was in the shadows cast by the branches. He couldn’t watch for shadows or listen for scratchy sounds. The birds could arrive without warning. Little Beetle started to dart between hiding places, spending as little time out in the open as possible.
He finally reached the top of the big pine tree at sunset. Little Beetle was bathed in the rainbow colors of the sunset. He hoped the colors would stick. The sunset faded. It was neither light nor dark. Little Beetle began to climb down the tree.
He wasn’t sure what dangers were there at night. He continued to dart between hiding places, stopping occasionally to eat or rest. He reached the ground again as morning broke. Grandpa Beetle was waiting.
“Little Beetle,” he said. “You did it! Look at your beautiful shell.”
Little Beetle looked at his legs. They shimmered in all the colors of the rainbow. “I got my rainbow coat!” he said. Then he looked back up at the pine tree and shuddered. “Will that make it easier for the squirrels and birds to find me?” he asked.
“It might,” Grandpa Beetle said. “You do seem to glow a bit.”
“That’s it,” Little Beetle said. “I’m going home right now. I won’t go out again until this has worn off completely.”
“Little Beetle, this is wonderful,” Grandpa Beetle said. “You’ve gained wisdom.”