The bulging, pulsating, neon green caterpillar shimmied along the tree in its inimitable plodding way. I stared, transfixed, at the multicoloured globules on its back; at four inches long, and nearly an inch thick, it was easily a hundred times bigger than any caterpillar I'd seen before. Two antennae groped desperately in the air, while hundreds of tiny legs flowed smoothly over the gnarled, warped bark of my grandfather's two hundred-year old maple tree.
At age eight, this was both the coolest and most disgusting thing I'd ever seen. I called my father over, and excitedly asked him about it. He said it was called a tomato caterpillar, because it ate people's tomatoes.
"But isn't it so cool though?"
My father nodded. "It sure is." We both watched, rapt, as the little creature hunted for delectable Solani.
At that moment, my rotund grandfather barged out of his house, rickety homemade screen door banging against the side of the porch. A Players cigarette dangled from his mouth.
"What's all the fuss about?" He growled.
We showed him the caterpillar, glowing translucent chartreuse in the sunlight. Frowning deeply, he looked at my dad. "Kill that thing right now. Goddamn pest eats all my tomaters."
"Kill it with what?" My dad protested.
Grandpa's face reddened with annoyance. "Kill it with your hands, LIKE A MAN!"
Dad recoiled. "I'm not doing that!"
The elder Cube sighed, approached the tree and pressed his giant hand against the caterpillar; mashed guts, bright green, oozed out from between his massive sausage-sized fingers. My mouth was open in pure shock. "What did you do that for?" I cried.
"Because that's what a REAL MAN does." He looked directly at my dad. "Goddamn thing ate my tomaters."
He wiped the mush on his pants, belched, and shuffled back inside.