In the August of my eighth year, I started a business. by Robbi Nester

In the August of my eighth year, I started a business.

I never cared much about money. It was more about
the need to make connections. One year, that led me
to create a caterpillar sitting gig. All the other kids
in the neighborhood had plans to go off on vacation
with their families. Each one brought a shoebox full
of caterpillars, striped or green, occasionally, a fat
black one with bristles and an iridescent purple
belly, all clinging to half-eaten oak leaves. I laid
them in the basement shelter I made out of old
window screens. Some kids came back in a few
days and claimed their caterpillars, handing over
sweaty nickels or slick dimes. But most arrived
too late—after the creatures had pupated in
a corner of the screen, their chrysalises
shiny green or soft and brown as spoiled
bananas, white cocoons bound tightly to
the wire, factories of change no one could
explain. Some of them emerged as moths,
escaping into the basement of our house,
spawning on any surface they could find,
to my mother’s consternation, leaving me
with nothing but the spent cocoons,
like shotgun shells on an abandoned
target range, the flutter of dusty wings.


Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. She is a retired college educator and elected member of the Academy of American Poets. Her website is at