Archive for the 'Shorty Lee + Sarah Kamlet' Category

Paper Wings


This is the year of the butterfly. Once a century, great quivering swarms of them descend upon this region, their blue-winged bodies alighting in trees and on any unoccupied surface. The last time they were here was 1762, and there’s been speculation about whether they would ever come back again. The world has changed so much. Back then this area was mostly open woodland with a few villages sprinkled here and there, like freckles on the giant face of the forest. Now the land has become industrialized, filled in with bigger cities full of stone streets and smoking factories.

To my surprise, the butterflies appear on a Saturday morning in April and the city has transformed overnight from gray stone to sapphire jewel. Thin, lively wings flutter against my bedroom window. It’s a wondrous sight. My younger brother, Thomas, and I have never seen them live. We’ve only studied anatomical illustrations in the yellowed pages of our father’s books.

They hang in clumps off drainpipes and sun themselves on the slate roofs. We see the baker walk passed carrying a tray of bread, butterflies draped round his neck like an azure scarf.

“Let them in!” Thomas says.

I unlatch the window and open it wide. The blue beauties drift into my room and gently dance around our heads, perch in our hair, their wings tickling our ears. We twirl and twirl; we cannot remember a time when we’ve been happier.

Thomas hears the slightest crunch and stops mid-spin. He lifts his foot and we see a butterfly on the wood floor, one of its wings crushed, the other wing thrashing against the ground, trying and failing to take flight. Thomas cries. His face is scrunched up with tears, and I say, “Don’t fret. We can fix him.”

I scoop the tiny insect into my cupped hands and we carry him to our father’s library where we fashion a new wing for him out of paper. When Thomas pins the new paper wing on, the pin punctures its delicate body and it dies.

Consumed by guilt and sadness, we show our father that evening what we’ve done. He pats us on our heads and says, “It’s not your fault. None of them live for long.”

A week later, the streets of town are littered with perished butterflies. People sweep away their gossamer bodies with brooms or grind them into a fine dust under their steps. The city is gray once more. We go about our business like always. I press the butterfly with the paper wing in between the pages of a book, so that my descendents in a century’s time might discover it. I wonder if the butterflies will return in one hundred years and what kind of world will greet them then. I hope they do. Everyone should enjoy beauty while it lasts.

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