Nine-year-old Bobby Belden jumped off the bus and ran up the driveway of Crabapple Farm, not stopping until he reached the side door of the cozy white farmhouse. Letting the door bang shut behind him, he dropped his books onto the hall table.

“Moms! Moms! Where are you?” he shouted, not stopping on his beeline to the cheerful red and white kitchen. However, there was no answer from his mother. She wasn’t even in the kitchen. Where could she be?

The enticing aroma of warm no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies wafted his way from the kitchen table and his steps slowed. A baking sheet on the kitchen table held several dozen cookies, and a note next to the pan invited the Belden children to help themselves. Several cookies appeared to have been taken already, so Bobby scooped up three before continuing out the back door.

“Brian! Mart! Trixie!” he hollered. One of them, at least, must be around. Noticing that the garage/ barn door was open, he trotted over to find Brian bent over the open hood of his car, doing something unknown to its insides. Brian, the future doctor, should have some good ideas for him. Thank goodness he was home from college this week.

“Brian!” he roared as he entered the dim garage. Brian jumped in surprise, hitting his head on the raised hood of the jalopy.

“What, short stuff?” Brian rubbed his head and grimaced, although he looked at his little brother and seemed to be paying attention.

“Everyone in our class is supposed to present a science project before school lets out,” Bobby said. “Don’t you still have that swamp plant project you did a couple of years ago? Can I use it?”

Brian frowned. “I still have it,” he said slowly. “But it wouldn’t be right for you to present someone else’s work. You need to come up with your own project. I’ll help you, but I won’t let you use my project.”

“Okay. Maybe Mart can give me an idea.” Bobby turned around, and slowly walked back to the house.

Mart sat at the kitchen table, eating cookies. He poured himself a large glass of milk and plucked a smaller glass from the cupboard for Bobby. “What gives, little bro?” he asked, filling the glass and handing it to his brother.

“Everyone in the class has to do a science project and present it to the class before school lets out,” Bobby told him. “I can’t think of anything to do, and Brian won’t let me use his swamp plant thing.”

“Well, that would be cheating,” Mart said reasonably. At Bobby’s sigh, he suggested, “What about a volcano? That’s always impressive.”

“I wanted to do a volcano, but Terry and Larry are doing it. We can have teams, but no more than two to a team, and Miss Phillips said we can’t have two of the same project.”

“Dad helped Trixie build a Rube Goldberg contraption one year. He or Trixie might be able to help you with something like that.”

“I don’t know. Wouldn’t that be just copying someone else’s project?”

“You’re right, buddy.” Mart rubbed the top of Bobby’s head. “Let’s keep thinking about it; I’m sure you’ll come up with an idea.”

Bobby finished his glass of milk and set the empty glass in the sink. Trixie was spending the weekend at the Manor House. He wandered outside again, walking to the driveway where his parents had planted several milkweed bushes back in the spring. He had wondered at the time: Why are they purposely planting weeds? Don’t enough weeds grow without anyone trying to grow more? As he got closer though, he noticed several bright-colored orange and black butterflies fluttering around the pinkish-purple clusters of tiny flowers.

Just then, his mother’s car pulled into the drive. “Moms!” he called, as she emerged from the vehicle. “I need some help figuring out a science project!”

“What have you thought about so far?” she asked.

“I have to do a science project and present it to the class before school lets out for the summer,” he explained. “I wanted to do a volcano, but Larry and Terry are doing that. Brian said it would be cheating to use his old swamp plant project. I can’t think of anything else.”

“Have you thought of doing something with insects?” his mother asked. “I think you could do an interesting project with insects.”

“Well… I don’t want to kill any bugs and stick them onto a poster or something.” Bobby frowned. “What else can I do with bugs?”

“We’re getting a lot of Monarch butterflies since we planted the milkweed bushes last year,” Moms replied, waving toward the shrub in question. “I think there’s probably about the right amount of time to collect a butterfly chrysalis and take pictures each day until the butterfly is ready to emerge.” She smiled at him. “There are plenty of butterflies around this bush and I bet we can find a chrysalis now.”

“What is a chrysalis?” Bobby perked up a little. This might be interesting.

“Some people call them cocoons.” Mrs. Belden carefully inspected several branches on the shrub and pointed to something Bobby didn’t think he would have noticed. Something that looked like an elongated acorn of bright green was suspended from one of the bush’s branches. It even had a line of golden beading around the bottom of the acorn’s “cap.” “Remember where that is,” she told him. “We’ll go to the library tomorrow and look for a book that tells how to move the chrysalis safely and care for it until the butterfly is ready to emerge.”

“It’ll be the coolest project in the class!” Bobby exclaimed. “Thanks, Moms!”

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Author’s Notes

952 words

Many thanks to Trish, who gave me a great and thoughtful edit even though her plate was full.

Inspired by prompt #29 of the January prompt challenge and submitted as an entry for Unfinished Trixie Business, CWE #20, to satisfy requirements of CWE #25.

Images from, and manipulated by Mary N. in Photoshop Elements.

I hope someone will decide to finish this story—I really want to know how it turns out! If anyone does, I’m leaving some informational sites on Monarch butterflies and their life cycle (below). Not posted as active links in case the urls change in the future, but in 2022 you should definitely be able to copy and paste into the search bar to connect to the sites.

Thank you for reading!

Image of Monarch chrysalis photo credit: Wikipedia: User: Umbris, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Images of Monarch butterfly, caterpillar, and milkweed from pixabay; Monarch chrysalis from Wikimedia Commons, and used in accordance with stated terms. Graphics on these pages copyright 2022 by Mary N.

Copyright by Mary N, 2022

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