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  • Writer's pictureLee Erickson, MA, LPCC

Monarchs

By Lee Erickson



Steven Bruns spent all morning

of the mid-summer day of my tenth year,

 

his eleventh year

(although he was a grade behind me),

capturing Monarch butterflies as they took turns landing

on his mother’s zinnias.

 

His “ma” appeared occasionally

at the back screen door

in her bathrobe, sagging

breasts nestled into her

see through bright orange nightgown.

 

It was almost noon.

 

“What are you god damn

kids doing out there?” she’d yell

her words landing around me

like firecrackers, startling me

out of my comfort.

 

Before Steven could even answer,

she’d slung back the juice glass filled

Crown Royal she’d used to wash down

the last bit of Pop Tart she’d

nibbled and then she disappeared

back into the shadow of the kitchen.

 

Steven persisted in stalking and capturing

the monarchs with an old fishing net he’d found in his garage rafters, undaunted

by his mother’s appearance or words.

 

When the mason jar was

filled with orange and brown insects,

flitting against one another, he screwed the lid on tight, set the jar down and

disappeared into the garage.

 

I picked up the jar and turned it in my hands

imagining no air

as the monarch butterflies and

the one white moth

he’d mistakenly captured and decided to keep,

struggled in their captivity.

 

Steven returned,

raised his hand high over his head

and pounded the glass jar from

my hands with a rusty hammer

 

 

 

he’d found in the garage,

sending shards of glass

crashing against the sidewalk path

leading from the house to the garage.

 

Butterfly pieces were mixed with shock

which were mixed with shiny shards of glass pieces which were mixed with sadness.

 

“They were all gonna die

anyway,” he said as if he felt he had no choice in the matter.

He continued pounding the

hammer into his fist as he looked for

something else to break.

 

His mother returned again to the

back door, smiling,

approving of the chaos.

 

There was a gash in my index finger

dripping bright red blood on the sidewalk and

onto the monarchs and the one white moth

smashed among the ruin.

 

The tears welled up in my

eyes at the sight of death

and the blood

and I knew he’d

make fun of me

if I cried

 

so I left,

pressing my fingers together

to stop the bleeding.

 

I walked the three

blocks or so back to my house

where there would be grilled

cheese on the stove and a band-aid.

 

I stepped carefully on the sidewalks

trying to avoid

breaking

my mother’s

back.

 

 

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