Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Nelson was out collecting butterflies. It must have been obvious because the girl in the bushes asked him just that. "Are you collecting butterflies?" her voice drifted to his ears, permeating his consciousness, leaving a sweet aftertaste like honey yet to be.
"Yes," he answered, his eyes lingering for an awkward moment of silence while the girl simply continued smiling at him. He nervously tugged at his net.
"The butterflies went that way," she said, pointing.
Another awkward silence ensued. Though she never stopped smiling, he felt he had been dismissed, so he turned to continue his hunt. "Bring one back for me," he heard her call after him from behind. She raised her voice slightly to add, "Please?"
Nelson could hardly concentrate on the butterflies. All the while he pondered the girl among the sweet azaleas, a girl whose smile induced a strange intoxication in his brain. He thought he saw her afterimage each time he blinked his eyes in the bright sunlight. The monarchs and the morning cloaks and the red admirals he had come to love appeared especially elusive today, always flitting away when he was ready to pounce. Finally, a vanessa cardui, that species known as the painted lady, fairly flew into his net, as if guided by intellect. Without hesitation he knew he would give it to the girl, certain that his token of chivalry would charm her over to him. And so he returned to her. In an instant the captured creature hopped from the net, arced, wings flapping, into the air. It lit in the girl's cupped hands. She brought it up close to her face and inhaled a deep, savoring breath. Her tongue extended as if to meet the passively waiting creature. Then she turned so he could not see what occurred, yet the slurping sound he perceived was quite distinct. A few moments later she released the butterfly into the air and turned to meet Nelson's horrified gaze.
"It's so nice to be pollinated," she said to him, but he couldn't respond. "You didn't know, did you?" she went on, her smile never waning. "I'm part of the flowers."
Postscript (March 2, 2008):
The Danish artist Tabita has drawn a wonderful illustration for this story.