Calvin on the Strings

A short story about a little bug on the road, sharing his music with the worldInspired by the artwork of Dale Anderson!

Amongst the wet leaves, soft grass and bulbous raindrops, Calvin is small. He doesn’t feel small, though – he feels calm, present, and quietly confident. Although Calvin is just a small bug who has existed for solely one year, to a bug that’s like being 60 years old in human years. Or something. That’s what he reckons, anyway. He prides himself on being a traveling bard of sorts – traversing rapid-flowing estuaries, floating across ponds by frog, getting lost in the constant tall reeds of grassland he sifts through – all to deliver music to whoever wants to listen. Sometimes, no one listens. There’s no other bugs, birds, beings or anything living to appreciate his music, and that’s okay. Calvin is often happy to play a riff or two to no one, and sometimes, you never know who’s quietly listening, appreciating, but they’re too nervous to show their face.

Calvin understands that feeling. He’s a shy guy, a solo fella. But his love for music supersedes his shyness, as he comes out of his shell to play heart-tingling medleys, boppy blues, or calming riffs that loop and loop and loop until the cicadas stop their chirping and fall asleep.

Sometimes, all sorts of new friends come out of the trees, creeks and mangroves to greet Calvin. They sit around him on nearby pebbles or patches of moss and sway to the soothing serenade of his trusty guitar. After a little show, the audience will offer him food, great conversation, and a dry place to sleep. 

Today, Calvin is passing through a small, enclosed forest deep in the Dandenongs. The leaves around him glow an almost fluorescent green from all the rain, the puddles on the track pose a high-risk drowning scenario, but Calvin hops along pebbles and grassy roots to stay on top of it all. He spots a common grass blue, a type of butterfly he’s seen countless times on his travels. 

“Hiyo, name’s Calvin. How’s goin?”

The butterfly slowed its wings to a graceful landing and sidled up next to Calvin.

“I’m Ziz. Nice to meet ya. Nice guitar you got there” Ziz nods towards Calvin’s backpack.
“We haven’t had music in ages. Everyone’s a bit gloom and doom around here at the moment, must be the winter chill, I guess” continued Ziz.
“Oh yeah, that’s going on everywhere around these parts,” replied Calvin. “How about I change that?” 

Calvin spots a tall pebble in the distance, and climbs to the top of it. He pulls out his guitar and starts playing a sweet little melody. With each string pluck, a new friend emerges from hidey holes, reeds of grass and from the soil to sway to his music. Ziz slowly flaps their wings in time to the music next to a whole family of common grass blue butterflies. A gaggle of ladybugs jitter with glee at the exciting new fella in town. Slugs and snails slide over to the small amphitheatre Calvin has manifested and they bob up and down to the beat. Calvin rarely sings – he prefers letting his guitar do the talking for him. But he had felt more lonely than usual lately, and was quietly moved by this showing of community. He couldn’t really believe it himself, but he opened his mouth to bring some words to his music.

It can’t be summer every day,
Spring can’t last all the long way.
You need a bit of rain, some chill in the air,
To appreciate the small rays of sun glare.

Calvin blushed a bit, realising the simple lyrics had left his lips and were now hanging in the icy breeze. But when he finally strummed his last chord and lifted his gaze, he saw a bunch of smiles beaming back at him. Some eyes a little misty – maybe from the rain, maybe from something else. Seeing the teary eyes of all these folks around him, his eyes welled up a bit too. He shifted his gaze down towards his guitar and smiled. 

“Thanks all, hope ya liked it,” he said softly, still staring at his guitar.

There was silence for a moment, save for one blowfly that didn’t know when to shush up. And then, his audience clapped and cheered so hard the leaves around them shook, droplets of water splashed on the ground and the smaller bugs lost their footing a bit.

“Another one!” cheered Ziz, and their family echoed those sentiments.
“Another one! Another one!” the crowd cheered.
“Alright, just for you fine folk,” Calvin teased, and played another little ditty for the nice crowd.

As the sun lowered its gaze, a pink and purple sky enveloped the small amphitheatre. Flecks of light shone through shaky leaves like a disco ball slowly spinning round and round. The air got a little crisper, as some bugs bundled together and others moved on the spot to keep the heat going. As Calvin played his tunes, the audience were mesmerised as they broke off into groups of two, three, or families and friends dancing together to Calvin’s encore. For a second time, his lips parted against his will and the words started flowing.

This old bug’s travelled far and wide,
Front and back, side to side.
A sweet old town just like this,
Is one pitstop I’ll surely miss.

After a night of cheer, sweet music and great food, Calvin retreated to a nearby hole in a tree to rest his eyes. The wood was still warm from the sun’s rays that day, and he wrapped himself up in his doona (a big hankie he’d found). He felt as snug as a…well… a bug in a rug. He smiled to himself, dreaming of the evening he’d just had – a beautiful crowd, lovely new friends, and now, some peace and quiet. While he loved this new little community he’d discovered today, he was excited to venture off alone at sunrise tomorrow to have some time to himself – well, along with his trusty guitar, of course.