By Colleen Chen
Manny Mantis lived in a community with several dozen other praying mantises. He spent his days happily stalking flies and ants and dutifully praying every night before bed. He sometimes played with the other boy praying mantises, and together they’d gather and goggle at the females, who were so gloriously disdainful of the males.
One day, he was practicing his stick camouflage technique when he noticed a mantis couple in the grass. Manny hadn’t paid much attention to adult mantises, but suddenly he was curious when the much smaller male leaped on top of the female. He stayed very still, pretending he was a stick as he saw for the first time what it looked like when mantises mated.
It all looked like fun, and Manny was beginning to wonder which of the mantis girls he could ask out on a date. But then the female mantis suddenly turned and bit off the head of the male mantis. After his body went still, the female shook him off, dismembered him, and ate him.
Manny was horrified. He no longer had to try being as still as a stick, because he was paralyzed in fear and disgust.
When he finally recovered, he went home and found his mom. “Ma,” he asked. “Did you eat Pa when you were making me?”
Ma Mantis shrugged. “I was eating for 200. So I was pretty hungry. Your dad didn’t mind—he knew it was going to happen, but he made a sacrifice for the next generation—for you and all your brothers and sisters.”
That moment, he swore he would never mate, if that was what the price was for a little fun. He never would make such a sacrifice!
But soon enough, as he passed mantis puberty, his libido kicked in as well as his longing for wife and family. He knew he’d have to find a way around it.
He asked out Jenny Mantis on a date, because she seemed like the gentlest and sweetest of the mantis girls. They spent the day together chasing butterflies and smelling flowers.
“You wouldn’t bite my head off if we mated, would you?” Manny asked her at the end of the day.
“I’d never think of it,” said Jenny.
So they began to mate. Manny was getting really into what he was doing when he saw out of the corner of a compound eye Jenny turning her great triangular head.
Jenny struck lightning fast. But just in the nick of time, Manny screamed and jumped off. Jenny was in a crazed state, and she chased him, spikes raised on her upper legs, which flexed menacingly.
“Jenny! I thought you liked me—I thought we had something—“ Manny panted.
“I do like you…and that’s why I must eat you!”
Distraught, Manny fled. But as typical with young mantises, he quickly recovered from his fright and was just left with the irksome problem of his unsatisfied desire for intimacy. He wanted to mate more than just once—he yearned for an ongoing commitment with one mantis, or at least a friends with benefits kind of arrangement.
Not knowing what else to do, Manny decided to pray. “Please, God of the Mantises, tell me what I can do so I can get laid without getting killed by my mate.”
He had never been answered before, so he was surprised when a deep voice boomed out from the grasses around him. “I have heard your prayer, little mantis. Bring your dates to this location and your problem will be solved.”
Manny happily went to obey. He found Jenny, who looked a bit embarrassed when she saw him. “Sorry about last time, Manny. I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s no problem, Jenny. Want to go out again?”
Jenny hopped over and took Manny’s hand.
Manny brought her to the place where he’d heard the voice of the Mantis God. “A romantic little spot for us to be alone,” he said. One thing led to another, and they began to mate again.
Jenny was just starting to get that look in her compound eye. Manny went on, though, trusting that everything would be all right.
An enormous frog hopped out of the bushes and gulped down both mantises. “Problem solved,” boomed the voice of the Mantis God. “Amen.”