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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Joy (05/18/06)

TITLE: The Butterfly
By Maxx .


A butterfly skittered along the living room window, yellow and red, dancing.

I stopped filling a tumbler with too much Jack Daniel’s, my eyes transfixed by the beating wings. They spread and pumped in an irregular, uneven cadence, thrusting the tiny body against the pane.

It seemed to be working hard to get through.

My hand lowered, settling the bottle onto a table piled high with old newspapers. Since Maggie died, nobody remembered to toss them into the bin. “Well, I’ll be…” I stood, my knees stiff from arthritis. That and lack of use.

Maggie had been my bride forty-three years until one morning she didn’t wake up. A broken heart. I’d killed her, sure as if I pulled a trigger.

The sole of my slipper crushed a dropped potato chip as I stepped across the littered floor. Faint knocking whispered as the minute creature scratched and pressed.

“Foolishness.” My voice broke clipped and sour. I waved my hand. “Get out of here, stupid bug.”

Maggie had raised butterflies on the porch, each fall bringing in dozens of cocoons making ready for their spring hatching. They became her passion. She placed an easy chair near the window so she could watch them circle about the garden blossoms. Watch and pray.

Pray for me.

I’d drifted away from Maggie at the end. And God. I’d found more comfort in my bottles, letting alcohol sooth my aches and soften a lifetime of guilty scars.

I retreated from the pest at the glass, looking instead at the amber liquid calling to me.

A shudder ran along my spine and I felt my knees begin to buckle. A voice echoed, grazing the border of consciousness. It called me, spoke my name. Thunder filled my chest and breath abandoned me.

“Maggie?” I turned, my movement crippled and haggard.

The chamber was still, a tomb with me inside. I was alone ...

… save for the butterfly at the window, skittering, flapping, scratching at the glass.

I looked. It wasn’t trying to get in. I moved closer, inched near the feeble efforts of the yellow and red wings. It was trapped like me. I reached. “How’d you get in?”

It launched into the room, fluttering for an instant before my wide eyes, then crossing toward the porch.

“No, wait!” I swore, tracking its path. “I’ll let you out. Get back here.”

It vanished around the corner.

“Dimwit!” I shouted, my fingers trembling as I clutched for the bottle.

“Matson.” The voice again, pricking the borders of my sanity. “Come to me.” It called from her easy chair.

A knot pulled at my stomach as my feet stumbled. “Maggie.” I started for the porch. “Maggie! I’m here!”

Improbability tumbled through my rattled brain. Impossible, but I heard her. I lived with that voice forty-three years. It was as familiar as my own breath. And it was real, calling for me.

I rushed around the corner of the room with the easy chair facing the porch, the garden, the butterflies. “I’m here! … I’m …” Maggie’s room. I hadn’t set foot in there since …

Maggie had come every day to watch and pray. She wept for me, lifting my name up to the God I’d once served alongside her. Begging I be shown the will to finish the course. Addiction and fatigue had ripped me away, but her faith stayed firm.

Even when I’d thrown an empty bottle, cursing her stubbornness, vowing to never speak to God again.

She was called home that night.

A broken heart. Sure as if I pulled a trigger.

Movement graced the casement. Red and yellow wings stretched and preened against the glass.

One faltering step and I passed the threshold. “I’ll let you out.” Another. “You’re trapped.” I placed my hand on Maggie’s chair. It was warm in the afternoon sun, pulsing and alive. “Maggie …”

On the table, her open Bible.

“Make your hope sure.” The voice was inside me. “Release the joy you’ve buried.”

The bottle in my arm slipped to the floor, shattering.

My legs buckled and I fell to my knees, clutching the cushions as tears spilled freely. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Forgive me, Father. Tell Maggie I’ll finish strong.”

A crumbling began inside me, an almost audible crackling as heat radiated through my body. A constricting weight lifted from my chest and I stood, hoisting my open palms toward heaven.

Somewhere within, a smile blossomed.

I strode to the widow and opened it.

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This article has been read 1342 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Crista Darr05/25/06
Who wrote this? It's quite magnificent. Did you notice your mc "strode to the widow." Still, excellent work!
Jessica Schmit05/25/06
wow. So much to this story. I think I could read it fifteen times and uncover another hidden truth weaved meticulously inside this piece. Cleverly crafted. The butterfly was such a beautiful metaphor. Beautiful job with this piece. I think it should do well.
Birdie Courtright05/26/06
Let me add another WOW! So perfectly human in all of the emotions it evoked from me. I could see every bit of it. Very powerful.
Melanie Kerr 05/26/06
Excellent! It is a shame that the word limit is 750 - I could have kept reading!
Lynda Schultz 05/26/06
Super. I especially loved this line: "A crumbling began inside me, an almost audible crackling… " The ice melting from a frozen heart. Nice.
Rita Garcia05/27/06
I agree with Susie, pure magic. Powerful message! Still wiping my tears.
Suzanne R05/27/06
Magnificent! I too love the metaphor of the butterfly being trapped and then freed at the end. Your descriptions are just perfect, even down to the potato chip on the floor.

If it were me (but I recognize I'm writing to a real master here, so take this with a grain of salt!), I'd have left out the line about 'Release the joy you've buried.' It seems to me to be trying a little too hard to fit in with the theme. Your phrase, '... a smile blossomed' says it all.

Quite brilliant.
T. F. Chezum05/27/06
Very well crafted. An excellent portrayal of deep emotion in a mere moment in time. Great job.
Kathlyn Fauchon05/27/06
This is soul stirring stuff.
Becky Depp 05/28/06
I love this story. I was reading this story and I didn't want to stop. Great Story! This one is one of my Favorites.
George Parler 05/28/06
You have truly captured the desolate soul of regret. From the first line I found myself in his shoes. My heart aches. Excellent piece.
Debbie OConnor05/29/06
Awesome. I love the butterfly (once cocooned) trying to get free of the room, just like the man needs to be freed. Everything about this piece is marvelous. I love the potato chip. I wanna grow up and write like you! Oh wait...I am grown up... :-)
Rachel Rudd 05/29/06
Excellent story! I liked the repetition of the line "as if I had pulled the trigger." Wonderful!
dub W05/29/06
Beautiful work, but should I expect less?
Trina Courtenay05/29/06
I agree with this being beautiful work. I could see the whole scene played out before my eyes. Vivid! That's what I like about reading and your writing is worth the read.
Pat Guy 05/29/06
'A constricting weight lifted from my chest and I stood, hoisting my open palms toward heaven.' Good visual of a butterfly - released.

'Somewhere within, a smile blossomed.' Good tie-in and contrast.

A beautiful, beautiful piece.

[size=9]Not sure where the widow fits in though.[/size]

Jan Ackerson 05/29/06
My favorite paragraph is the third from the end, with the crumbling and crackling. A wonderful metaphor which I actually prefer to the butterfly symbolism. As always, written with superb skill.
Joanne Malley05/30/06
I have no words. Everyone else took them! :)
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/30/06
Beautiful story. We just had our Mother's Day Banquet a few weeks ago and our theme was butterflies. What a beautiful instrument you used to bring this man home. God bless.
terri tiffany05/31/06
Beautiful! You portrayed all the emotions perfectly! thank you!!
Linda Watson Owen05/31/06
Exquisite in every way! Thank you again, Maxx, for such powerful beauty from the pen of a true master!