After the last of the ticker tape and confetti had been swept from the streets; after the last sticky bits of juice had been cleaned off the enormous peach stone, and it had been moved to a specially built platform in Central Park; after James and his friends had toured uptown and downtown and midtown and everywhere in between, (including a place called Flushing, which the Centipede thought was hilarious in concept but quite boring in reality), they began to settle down in their new home.
This wasn't without its difficulties, of course. One of them was currently sitting in a chair across from James and his friends, who were all squished into her rather small office. Her name was Miss Brown, and she was trying to tell him something very important. "James, honey, we can't have you living by yourself in that peach stone. You need someone to take care of you."
"The mayor said it would be all right," James pointed out.
"Yes, well," said Miss Brown, pushing up her glasses and looking very much as though she'd like to say something about the mayor besides, "Yes, well." What she said instead was, "That may be so, but the law says that you need a legal guardian, and since your aunts, who had been your guardians, are, er…"
"Squashed," the Centipede helpfully supplied.
"Flat," added the Earthworm.
Miss Brown blinked and then continued, "Since your aunts, who had been your guardians, are, as you so helpfully put it, 'squashed flat,'" she looked from the Centipede to the Earthworm, "you do need someone to take their place. Normally, we'd look for your next of kin, but since you say you have no other living relatives, well, this does pose a problem."
"Wait, now, why is there a problem?" asked the Old-Green-Grasshopper.
"Well," Miss Brown said, "there's no obvious adult who can take care of him, and it will probably have to go before a judge, and…"
"But we're adults," Miss Spider said.
The Ladybug nodded, then added. "And we'd be more than willing to be his…what was that you said again? His leading—"
"Legal guardians," the Earthworm corrected.
"All of you?" Miss Brown asked. She looked very surprised at this turn of events.
They all looked at each other, from the Centipede to the Silkworm, and nodded.
"Really?" James asked. He had been quietly dreading being handed off to some New York version of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker as soon as the subject had been brought up, but this turn of events was more than he had ever imagined.
"Of course, James," the Ladybug said. "If it would be all right with you."
"All right? Of course it'd be all right!"
"Well, that's settled then," the Old-Green-Grasshopper said with an air of finality.
Miss Brown smiled with relief, then pulled her briefcase up onto her lap. She shuffled through some papers. "I don't know how much of a precedent there is for cross-species adoptions, but I think we'll be able to get it to work. From what I know, you all seem to be responsible and mature enough that I can't imagine any judge not agreeing to the guardianship."
"Hear hear! After all," the Centipede pointed out delightedly, "I'm a whole two years old. Plenty old enough to be a legal whosit."
Miss Brown looked up, her smile frozen in place. "How old did you say you were?"
"Two years and three months."
"Isn't that a bit, oh, I don't know, young?"
"Ladybug's less than half as old as I am, and her children are almost grown," the Centipede said.
"My children are grown," the Old-Green-Grasshopper said, "and I am but four months old."
"And you don't look a day over three months," Miss Spider told him.
"Thank you, my dear," he replied.
"I'm three years old," the Earthworm said, trying to be helpful.
Miss Brown looked down at the papers she was holding, then looked back up, smile still locked in place. "I'm sure we'll manage to get this to work."
Of course, Miss Brown did manage to get it to work. James moved into the great peach stone, and thanks to the miraculous powers of the crocodile tongues, his friends enjoyed what was, to them, an extraordinarily long life, much as if you or I were to live to be several hundred years old. To some extent, they all went their separate ways as they all settled down in New York, although James' home was always a sort of gathering place. That isn't to say, however, that they didn't occasionally run into one another here and there, for despite being such a big city, there is always room for some serendipity in New York.
Several years later
"There any extra room on that bench?"
James glanced up from the book he was reading to find the Centipede and the Earthworm, the latter swaying slightly as the subway jerked away from the station. "Guys, hi! Sure, let me scoot over a bit." He put his backpack on his lap and moved up next to the guard rail. The Earthworm slithered onto the seat, and the Centipede plopped down next to James. "Fancy meeting you here," James said, stuffing his book into his backpack.
"Well, I've always found something comforting about traveling underground, you know?" the Earthworm said. "Those turnstiles are beastly to get through, though. There's just no thought put into properly designing facilities for Annelid-Americans, you know?"
The Centipede shook his head. "Ignore him. He's been going on about this 'Annelid-American'
thing since last Tuesday."
"It's disgraceful!" the Earthworm continued, paying no attention to the Centipede. "Just plain discrimination, that's what it is."
"You know," said James thoughtfully, "you're the only Annelid-American that I know of. Can't you use those gate things instead?"
"Those are even worse!"
James shook his head and rolled his eyes, well used to the Earthworm's love of complaining by now. "Are those new boots?" he asked the Centipede.
"Yes, they are," the Centipede said, kicking several of his feet, which clanked slightly with the hardware on his boots. "They're all the rage over in Europe right now. I don't know if I like them, though. They're pretty heavy, and they scuff if you so much as look at them wrong."
"They're very stylish," James said. "I like the buckles."
"Hm," the Centipede said, giving his feet an appraising look. "So how're things going with that girl, Violet was it?"
James didn't say anything for awhile. Then, tersely, "We broke up."
"Oh. Sorry to hear that. Did you, or did she…" the Earthworm trailed off.
"It was kind of mutual. I probably should've seen it coming, but she sort of flipped out when I took her to the symphony and then tried to introduce her to Old-Green-Grasshopper afterward."
"She didn't like classical music?" asked the Centipede.
"No, she loves classical music. You should've heard her going on about Mozart. She just didn't like Grasshopper."
"Why ever not?" the Earthworm asked. "He's such a charming old fellow."
James gripped the straps of his backpack tightly. "She said he was a disgusting bug and she couldn't understand why I would be friends with such a 'creature.'"
"Hey, now, I'm a disgusting bug. Old-Green-Grasshopper is not," the Centipede said.
"That's right," the Earthworm agreed.
"So we got into a big fight," James continued. "And I told her that she couldn't insult my friends like that, and she said that — well, basically she said that bugs were gross — and that was that."
Silence. Then the Centipede said, "She seemed like kind of a stick-in-the-mud anyway."
"Certainly not someone who you would want to maintain a relationship with," the Earthworm said.
"Yeah, James, I'm sure you'll meet a nice entomologist one day and settle down."
James looked over at the Centipede. "An entomologist?"
"Or just someone who like bugs. Hey, you're young yet. Give it time."
"You guys…thanks," James said. The car slowed as it approached the station and he got up. "This is my stop here. You know, if you guys want to drop by later, you're always welcome."
"Sure thing, James," the Centipede said.
"See you later," the Earthworm called out the closing doors as James waved good-bye.