The Brown Bottle by Penny Jones

Once there was a caterpillar named Charlie who lived in the Valley of Promises.

Gypsy moth caterpillar Category:Lepidoptera

Gypsy moth caterpillar Category:Lepidoptera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was nothing observably special about Charlie. He was an average looking caterpillar amidst thousands of others. Like them, he spent the majority of his time crawling from leaf to leaf, eating as much as he pleased, & dozing in the warm sunlight. Life was good & Charlie was happy.

As you know, there is something very special about caterpillars. From the time they are born, they are aware that something beautiful beyond imagination will one day occur. It is called The Promise.

Charlie was a believer. For as long as he could remember, he had loved The Promise. Its mystery filled his days & nights with dreams of anticipation.

In this way, Charlie was special, for his love of The Promise by far exceeded that of any normal caterpillar. He grew more & more impatient in his intense desire to receive its gift.

One day, as Charlie was exploring the valley, he was attracted by a bright, shiny object lying in the meadow. It was a brown bottle. The sun’s rays danced on the glass & gave it an aura of golden splendour. It seemed to beckon Charlie. Filled with excitement, he hurried as fast as he could go.

Charlie was a bit scared when he reached the bottle, for it was something entirely new & frightening. As he explored it, curiosity soon overcame his fear. He traveled its surface from end to end & top to bottom.

When Charlie entered the bottle, something magical seemed to happen. A soft mellow glow enveloped him in the warmth of a false utopia. After a time, he was lulled to sleep by the gentle voice of the bottle whispering pleasures yet to come.

At first, Charlie spent most of his time leading the normal life of a caterpillar with only occasional trips into the brown bottle. But as the days passed, he longed more & more for the mellow glow it offered & his trips became frequent. He began to venture deeper & deeper into the bottle to find the utopia he sought.

bubble of beer on a bottle Bierblase auf einer...

bubble of beer on a bottle Bierblase auf einer Flasche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes, Charlie’s friends came to visit while he was in the bottle. As he moved about within its glass walls, he appeared to be different than he really was. Pleased with all of the attention he received, he would do silly things to make his friends laugh. Charlie loved being the centre of attention & his friends’ laughter made him feel important. Then, the bottle seemed to whisper, “Charlie, when you are with me, you are a very, very special caterpillar.” And Charlie felt, that indeed, what the bottle had said was true.

By the end of the summer, Charlie seldom left the bottle. It had become more important to him than the warmth of the sunlight, more important than the companionship of his friends, even more important than the Valley of Promises itself. He began to depend on the bottle for all of his needs. It had become his home.

With the coming of fall, the world outside the bottle began to change. Cold winds swept down from the north. Green plants turned brown & died. There was a rush of activity among the caterpillars for they knew that they, too, must change with the seasons & prepare for the winter to come.

On the final day of preparation, Charlie’s friends went to the bottle & called to him, “Charlie, please come out before it is too late. We must get ready to receive The Promise.”

Surrounded by the warm glow, Charlie gazed out upon the barren valley. “I would be foolish to leave this warm, safe place & go out into the cold with you. I could leave if I wanted to, but I would rather stay here.” Laden with sorrow, Charlie’s friends turned away from him in hopelessness & returned to their tasks.

One day, as Charlie gazed out upon the snow covered valley, the bottle again spoke to him, “Charlie, you have seen your friends suffer from the cold in their quest for The Promise while you have remained here, warm & safe, with me. Surely by now, you know that I am better for you than an empty promise.”

And Charlie knew, that indeed, what the bottle had said was true. On that day, Charlie deserted his belief in The Promise, & surrendered his dreams to the control of the brown bottle.

Winter passed slowly & Charlie lived in a hazy world within his glass confines. During his long stay, he had not eaten or taken care of himself. He began to grow frail & thin. The warm glow was slowly fading. The bottle’s walls were becoming cold & uncaring.

On occasion, Charlie tried to reach the bottle’s opening in an attempt to again find the outside world. But now the voice of the bottle was cruel & commanding, “Charlie, you cannot leave!” Weak from hunger & filled with despair, Charlie would slide feebly back into the depths of the bottle. At these times, he would utter quietly to himself, “I could leave if I wanted to, but I would rather stay here.”

The mellow glow was completely gone now & there was nothing special about Charlie any more. His good feelings about himself had gradually been replaced with guilt & hatred. He had become nothing more than a sad, frightened little caterpillar, trapped in a brown bottle.

Spring came. The valley was filled with beauty beyond compare. The sky was a rainbow of color as thousands of butterflies tested their wings for the first time in a never ending flight of freedom.


On the day of The Promise,
Charlie died.
in silent desperation.
No one knew,
no one cared.
Least of all, the brown bottle.


Alcoholism, if not controlled, is a deadly illness. It is the silent thief of hopes & dreams, the destroyer of families & love. It robs its victim of pride & dignity, offering guilt & self-hatred in return.

Hope does exist for the alcoholic. With proper treatment & sobriety, alcoholism can be controlled. The alcoholic is then free to live a rich & rewarding life. Achievement of one’s greatest potential is once again possible … The Promise can be fulfilled.