Roger Mantis: The Remarkable Metamorphosis of Roger McGillicutty
April 2, 2019
Blurb: Baseball is Roger McGillicutty’s whole life. That is until he wakes one Saturday to find he is no longer a normal eleven-year-old boy. He’s a five-foot-tall praying mantis. Roger has school on Monday, the carnival comes to town next week, and his baseball team is poised to play their biggest rival in one week. Being a giant bug will seriously cramp Roger’s style! To Roger’s surprise, his parents and friends are supportive. Even his dog isn’t much spooked. But not everyone’s thrilled about Roger’s change. Some people are frightened and others would like nothing more than to squash him into the ground like the bug he is.And when Little League officials oust Roger from baseball, his world collapses.When a reporter from the city comes snooping around rumors of a man-sized baseball-playing praying mantis, Roger must choose between hiding his true self or being the hero he’s always wanted to be.
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Slowly, carefully, and as quietly as possible, Roger staggered across the room to the mirror over his dresser.
As prepared as he was, it was still a shock. A triangular emerald-green head looked back at him, with two enormously round green compound eyes on either side. Two long, thin antennae stuck out of the top of his head. He could move them around if he tried, kind of like wiggling his ears (which he didn’t have anymore and couldn’t wiggle when he did). His mouth was … he didn’t know what the heck his mouth was. It was a weird mess of powerful-looking cutting and crunching things and some even weirder tentacle things. Roger wiggled the many separate bits around and then quickly stopped, deciding it wasn’t quite as gross if he wasn’t moving it.
He folded his arms tightly together in front of him, side by side. He had done it without really thinking about it, but his odd posture suddenly made him realize what he had become.
“I’m a praying mantis,” he said in his new buzzy voice. “A big, frigging praying mantis.”
Marlene figured out how to attach Roger’s old baseball glove to the end of his left claw. “Your forearm part is called a ‘femur,’” she said, pointing to Roger’s arm. “The sharp claw part that pinches against the femur is called the ‘tibia.’ This finger-thing coming out the end is called a ‘tarsus.’ Two of them are called ‘tarsi.’”
Roger wiggled his tarsi. “They still feel like fingers to me.”
“This is all so fascinating,” said Jerry, yawning deliberately.
“The important thing here,” said Mr. Horowitz firmly, “is that we are told by many people and traditions that we respect that what is inside a person is much more important than what they look like. My own experience has only reinforced this idea. Whatever Roger’s appearance, he is still Roger, and needs to be treated like it.”
The team members nodded, but most looked confused, looking around at each other to see if everyone else was getting something they were missing.
“Excuse me, Coach,” said Jerry. “Can I put in a few more words here?”
“By all means,” said Mr. Horowitz, looking a bit relieved.
Jerry turned to the team. “Look,” he said. “It’s probably some kind of mutation thing, like in the comic books. Remember the Thing? Normal guy, hit by cosmic rays, turns into this big rock monster? But he’s still a normal guy inside?”
The nodding from some team members got more enthusiastic. This was more familiar territory.
“That’s Roger now,” said Jerry. “He’s a big green bug, but he’s still Roger! And that’s the important part. Oh, and he’s also gotten even better at hitting a baseball. Which is even more important, since Centerville’s waxed us three games in a row.”
A few team members looked interested at this sudden turn in the conversation. Beating Centerville was an important priority. Most of the rest looked like the sudden turn had put them in the ditch.
Without further incident, Roger managed to arrive before too much of the lunch period had passed. After yesterday’s Mystery Meat fiasco, his mother let him take a lunch to school now instead of eating cafeteria food—another point to chalk up on the positive side of his transformation. Cafeteria lunches just didn’t have enough meat in them, so his mother packed him large portions of bologna, sausage, ham, and other deli meats that didn’t need much refrigeration.
“After all,” Jerry had pointed out, “the last thing the school wants is a hungry mantis running around.”
“Well, come on,” said Marlene. “If you’re going to cause a panic, you might as well get started.” She looked at Roger, tilting her head thoughtfully. “Wait a minute, I’ve got an idea.” She took her baseball cap off and stuck it firmly on Roger’s triangular head, jamming it between his wiry antennae so it wouldn’t fall off.
“Ack! Cooties!” said Roger.
“I cannot believe you just said that,” laughed Marlene. “You are a cootie!” She stepped back and appraised Roger’s new headwear. “Yep. It works. Anything in the world looks friendlier if it’s wearing a baseball cap. You know, from now on, we can call that ‘Marlene’s Law.’ Let’s go.”
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About the Author:
Tom Alan Brosz actually is a rocket scientist (sort of), having done design and engineering work in the private space industry back before the private space industry was cool. His qualifications for writing this book are that he has experience in raising children who like bugs, and raising pet mantises for those children. Normal-sized mantises, of course.