Braking For Butterflies

Submitted into Contest #164 in response to: Write a story in which someone returns to their hometown.... view prompt


Inspirational Sad Drama


I can finally speak

of our parting:

for the Tears You

Gifted me,

unwrapped in

Treasured Sobs

dripped Golden over a

dry, heedless Heart,

bending my Rushing River


‘It’s like there’s two fields,’ began Halo, ‘both Beautiful but one way more Beautiful than the other. In the first the colours are nice but a little faded and sad and in the other they're always Happy with Golden Flowers and Trees made of Light and butterflies so pretty it makes your Tummy Sing. The Fields are so close to each other, too, their Grass and Trees and Sky are touching, one Field on top of the other. Or maybe one Field pretends to be next to the other instead of inside it so when the time comes we’re surprised and can be...So...Happy! Anyway, mummy, the more Beautiful Field is singing to the other like a Gospel Choir, like its singing its praises so it remembers how much it Belongs and how Beautiful it really is.’

  ‘Sweetheart, that’s so…amazing’, I said, the oncoming lights so hyper-bright I had to shield my eyes whilst restraining the urge to lean on the horn and go postal with a wild, manic glee. 

It’s funny how the mind works…and chuck into the mix six hours of night driving and you can start imagining things, wispy phantoms leering out from the road’s vague, haunted verge; jumpy shadows serving as reminders of the uncertainties lying in wait at your destination.  

  The whole trip we’d been gabbing about the usual topics: who or what was God, the quantum field, black holes, Angels, ghosts and fairies and a lot of other, way out stuff Halo was interested in. We were keeping it upbeat as we drove the six hundred k'licks to our new place in my old, home town. The closer we got the more excited Halo grew and the more anxious I become. It was twenty years since I’d left, humbled by an unrequited infatuation which was the last straw braking a weary, dispirited camel's back.

I often wondered if the guy regretted not taking the not-so-subtle-hints I was feeding him. I knew he was single and felt, as I did, the delicious magnetism that flowed between us whenever we talked. When I left had he come to the store with the intention of slipping his phone number into my pocket, only to find me gone? Did he intend, finally, despite his terror of rejection to stand sweating puddles before me and ask me out?

Was he shattered? Did he learn anything from it: grow through the pain of what could have been to a place of resolve, peace and understanding? Did he write himself a note saying, 'Life can't be danced from the balcony' and stick it on the fridge as a reminder that to play it safe was to die in tiny, defeated increments. How different things could have been; yet I have to remember and acknowledge had I ended up with him I may have never encountered Halo.

Life's outrageously Generous Gift to me.

Also, as time went on I saw how I was projecting my own fear of rejection on to him, owning that I could have simply asked the man to dinner and be done with years of tormented wondering. In the end I quit my job at the convenience store, said a few teary goodbyes, then left the camel to die twitching and kicking its last as I sped away vowing never to return.

But young, broken hearts say such things and it doesn’t count for much, as the years have a way of slowly turning it around and pointing you back to where it all began.

  As it happened, Grandma Fisher up and died aged ninety six leaving me her old, somewhat ramshackle house two streets from where I was raised. I loved Granny Fish as we kids called her. She kept herself wild and raised her finger to the insults of time and those fools who dared try and cage her. She never took shit from anybody-especially men-yet somehow never kept anything or anybody out of her Magnificent Heart.

So, yes I said, it would be an honour to tennant the house Dear Granny Fish had lived in most of her long, amazing life.

The decision made, I didn't waste time giving notice at both my work and apartment rental and start preparing for the biggest move of my life. What was in store, I wondered; unfinished business, perhaps? Would he still be there; fat, drunk and fifty and burning down two packs a day? Or, was I lured back to face up to some issues of which this tantalising attraction was a mere banner leading a long parade of old, unmet childhood trauma? 

  But then I glimpsed a rare chance to redeem some long held guilt, shame and enmity. After all, I was a grown woman with a wonderful kid and a genius one at that. These were game-changers, I thought: they just had to be! 

  I’m sure you’ve heard of this batch of Old Souls streaming down to earth-Star Children or Indigo Kids they're sometimes called. They've apparently been lately born in sweeping, generational waves in answer to the human population's dire lack of Insight, Wisdom and Love.

I knew early on there was something special about Halo; it was obvious he was different and in such a good way, too. He lit up a room with his bright, blue eyes and the barrage of intelligent questions he had about a life already too small and contained for him. I often wondered why we’d been paired up at all…a petite, bird-haired divorcee with an average intellect and an obviously precocious, otherworldly being. It was like, though we were bonded and related as mother and son, we lived in different worlds; me in my perceptive rut of life as one long, arduous trial and Halo, wide eyed and marvelling within his, always just out of view and a step or two beyond my reach.

As a single, working mum I often didn’t have the time or energy to give him the attention he needed or deserved. Yet somehow Halo made it all ok. From the time he could walk he was like a little, independent Buddha and didn’t get upset by the usual scrapes, falls and mini-tragedies that befall all toddlers. Sure, he cried and I held and soothed him the best I could…but there was a hypnotic sparkle to his eyes: a deep calm that sat aloof to the tempests of his developing body and mind. He even told me, at six years of age, he didn’t want to be called Cielo anymore; that it was a nice name but his forever name was Halo. 

  After a brief discussion (well, more of a monologue where he cited past lives and the etymology of the word ‘Halo’…Greek for Devine Light), I agreed to fill in the necessary papers and from that moment call him by his preferred name. 

  Halo, in fact, turned out to be a perfect moniker for him. He was a beaming ray of elucidation and de-light with the things he said and did; things which pointed to greater truths than was commonly known or understood. He radiated Light and was attracted to it-both terrestrial and celestial-swam within and drank of it like a Fish in Golden Water.

He had, however, stretched and challenged my patience and capabilities as well as every belief I held about life, the multiverse, God, Heaven and that whole restless, wriggling bag of cats.

I know it's a cliche but he truly was my Best Friend and Greatest Teacher. His sparkling fascination with nature and life in general was such a contrast to my own, benighted tolerance of life's daily grind. I did though, at some point, start to pay attention and little rays of his brilliance began to pierce my habitual armour and I was lifted up to see things in a different, more enthusiastic light.

  ‘Don’t you remember, mummy?’ Halo'd asked that night as we sped towards our new life in my old home town. He went on to tell me about the ‘Two Fields’ which I later realised represented Earth and the Astral Paradise which he said is our True, Forever Home. He said everyone was welcomed back after a sojourn on earth and couldn’t understand all this talk of an eternal hell where all the bad people went. He often spoke like this, so casually yet authoritatively about such mysteries as if not being able to recall past lives on Pleiades was a puzzling thing indeed.

  This gift of his could not, despite its multitude of sublime compensations, spare Halo from a world yet too myopic and cruel to treat him with the wonder and respect he deserved. Halo, you see, was born with a severe cleft along the maxillary alveolar ridge-the edge along where the upper jaw meets the teeth. His sweet little face had the distinctive scar running from the nose to his gently partitioned top lip. He had two operations before he turned four but still found it difficult to pronounce words with the ‘s’ or ‘p’ sounds...and other kids taunted him because of it.

  And if this wasn’t enough, Halo was blessed (some say cursed) with the kind of raw sensitivity usually reserved for poets, artists and those old souls given to Sacrifice and Service in the cause of a free and happy Humanity/Animal Kingdom/Ecosystem. He loved animals and nature and was happiest when strolling around our large apartment garden, inspecting the earth for some crawling, buzzing or wriggling treasure which he could observe and study. He treated all living things with a deep reverance, saving even little ants and beetles from drowning in the cat’s outside water bowl.

...he came to me last night, a large Golden Dragonfly with Shimmering, Gossamer Wings. He hovered sweetly before my eyes allowing me to feast on every little detail as if through a large, ethereal magnifying glass. The hairs on his legs were helixes spiralling out in waves of infinite bliss and Freedom. His lucid, bulbous eyes contained the Stillness and Mercy of an Eternal, Unconditional Love. When I awoke I felt lighter, as if a thick layer of darkness had been stripped, bandaid like, from the centre of my chest.

The Ephemeral Life of Butterflies...

 And so I can tell now of that third, temperate spring when the butterflies hatched and Halo, big enough to sit in the front seat and poised upon a large cushion, watch them fluttering in delicate waves across the road before straying into the car’s, hurtling path.

On this occasion, the day was turning dusky as we headed home after collecting supplies including some choc, coated ice-creams. 

  ‘Mummy, mummy, stop your’e hurting them!’ Halo lowered his ice-cream to get a better view through the windscreen. I reacted instinctively, pulling the car to a sliding halt onto the road's, gravelly shoulder. 

  ‘What’s wrong, sweetheart? Who am I hurting?’ I was rendered a little breathless by his outburst, thinking maybe I’d hit an unseen rabbit, fox or cat. Halo gave me a look before climbing awkwardly out of the car. I leapt out too, making sure he didn’t stray out from the headlight's beam and onto the darkening highway. I watched as he shuffled, bowed of head along the road’s ill lit verge. He then knelt down before turning around and walking back to where I was standing. 

  ‘Look’, he said sadly, ‘LOOK!’ Tears fell gently from his cheeks and plopped onto the ground. 

   In his cupped hands were two beautiful, dying butterflies, their wings coming together then slowly apart again as the life force ebbed from their bodies. As he showed them to me, it was like he were offering them up as a Sacrament within the Holiest of Houses.

There are volumes written about Love, God and all the rest and most of it doesn't come close to a little boy tending reverently to the last moments of two small, colourful bugs, their beauty held aloft in Glorious Testimony by a car’s, Radiant Lights.

And then, as the faceless drunk careened off the road and skidded towards us, time slowed then vanished into a Dazzling Revelation; Darkness cleaved aside by Bright, Warm Light as Halo turned and took one small, yet faithful step beyond my screaming reach, butterflies soft and warm within his small, folded hands.    

September 23, 2022 11:44

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.