The City Under the Back Steps, by Evelyn Sibley Lampman
Since there was nothing to scout for in the tunnel, Nosy did not make side excursions, and she reached the Great Hall far ahead of Craig. He was a little afraid that he might be challenged by the sentinels at the door, but they let him pass into the vanilla-scented room. Immediately Nosy was at his side.
“This way,” she told him. “I’ve already notified the undertakers, and they’re on their way. So that’s been taken care of. Now the masseurs are waiting for us.”
“Certainly. I’m a little stiff from all that jumping I did to avoid the ant lion, and you must be tired, too. Besides, we’re both dirty. A bath and a good massage, and I promise we’ll feel better. After that I must see the queen about your appointment.” Nosy hurried him to a corner where four ants were waiting. As soon as they arrived, two of them grasped Craig with strong forelegs, threw him to the floor, and began to pound and massage his back. They caught him unaware, and for a moment he tried to fight back. Then he saw that Nosy was being treated in a similar fashion by the other two ants, and didn’t appear to resent it at all. Craig decided that he was expected to lie still, and after a moment the rubbing and massaging on his tired muscles began to feel very relaxing.
“Who are you?” he gasped, addressing one of the ants. By this time he had been flipped over on his back, and they were kneading the upper parts of his arms.
“I am Rubber,” the ant told him briefly.
“Do you do this all the time?”
“It’s my job,” said Rubber. “I do other things as they are required, but this is my specialty. I must say, you have a peculiar kind of skin. It doesn’t stick to you.”
She lifted a fold of Craig’s tee-shirt and held it out disapprovingly.
“That’s not my skin. It’s my clothes,” explained Craig. “I can take them off.”
“Ah,” said Rubber with understanding. “You’re one of those insects which sheds its skin. I wonder what you’ll be when you discard this one.”
“I’ll be the same as I am now,” insisted Craig. “I won’t change.” “Of course you’ll change,” said Rubber. “You never know, poor things, what you’ll be next. It’s always a great surprise to you.”