Jason met her after the aircraft accident, when he’d moved south to live with his Aunt Sheila. There was little for him to do except recover, but the writing and speech exercises frustrated him, and the intensity of his headaches were frightening. He was ten years old and tired of being kept indoors, so he dragged a chair to a window, pushed his crutches through, and carefully slid out after them.

He was sitting at the lake on a dilapidated wooden pier when Anna found him. He told her, in his broken, halting speech, that he wasn’t crying — he was scratching at his eyes because they itched. She showed him how to fish with a length of nylon and a bent safety-pin.

He never told Aunt Sheila that he was sneaking out of the house. The speech exercises remained frustrating, and the growing number of pills didn’t help with the headaches.

Two weeks later his Aunt told him that they had to move. We need more money, she said. There are better jobs in the City. Better speech therapists. The day before they moved, after most of the packing was done, he saw Anna for the last time. Jason was no longer in a cast, and walked down to the lake without his crutches. Anna grabbed his hand, wouldn’t say where she was taking him, and showed him to a stunted tree covered in colourful butterflies.

They’re not butterflies, she said. They’re moths.

But moths only fly at night.

Some like the day, too!

She held them in her hand, put some in his. Their little feet were ticklish, their wings were warm, and they seemed unafraid. Jason laughed.

He’s thirty-five now. He has friends and has sometimes been in love. Occasionally he has felt loved in return. He remembers her name was Anna, but he can’t remember her face. He still dreams of her hands covered in butterflies.

5 thoughts on “Lepidoptera”

  1. I really like the feel of this, especially the latter half. The only thing I’d change is that the narration sometimes seems to be in the style of the kid and sometimes the adult, though perhaps that’s deliberate. I just think it might work best if the adult voice comes in only right at the end.

    I love the final images of their holding the moths–and it’s a lovely touch that they are day moths, and not butterflies.

  2. This is a beautiful story of a boy who was in an aircraft accident (and probably lost his parents then). He is very injured and needs a lot of therapy. He stays with his aunt somewhere in the countryside, and meets a girl called Anna who becomes his friend. Anna shows him a colony of day-moths and he remembers the feel of the moths on his hands for the rest of his life.

    I loved the story but have some nitpicks over the writing. I think Monty has a good point with the changing voice – that may be part of my unease too.

    The first paragraph does a sort of unexpected slither from the generic to the specific which jarred me a little. The whole paragraph sketches out a generic “where he’s at” but the last sentence is unexpectedly specific with the sneaking. I would add “one day” to that last sentence, if you see what I mean.

    “The intensity of his headaches were frightening” – was frightening?

    The paragraph starting with “He never told” is a little disjointed – I’m not sure it adds to the story?

    “Some like the day, too!” sounds a bit out of place. Can’t say why.

    I love the sentence about ticklish feet. That is exactly what that picture feels like to me!

    thank you, lovely story!

  3. Really enjoyed this – I liked the emotional intensity at the beginning and its slip into fond positive nostalgia by the end. Loved the simple, short (almost terse) sentences but didn’t understand them as childlike, instead I liked the raw directness they bring to the harsh subject matter.

    I found the switch into direct speech very disturbing, specifically: ‘They’re not butterflies, she said. They’re moths.’ Is this direct speech or indirect in the first sentence and direct in the second? Also this whole dialogue seems a bit pointless.

    Final paragraph really works for me and contextualises a very sad little story into a very uplifting moment – I dig!

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