Destroying The Butterfly

I wrote the following short story during my junior year of high school. It was part of an English class assignment wherein we had to do a “Writing Within” another short story we had read in the class. The short story that I was “writing within” was Louise Erdrich’s “American Horse” (1984).

Destroying The Butterfly

Then the world was silent save the whirring motor of the car. Somewhere during the scream, Harmony had pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. Now he, Vicki, and Officer Brackett were staring at Buddy, wondering what had caused him to erupt in such an explosive manner. Buddy sat pinned between Vicki and Officer Brackett, with a look on his face as if he had just seen a ghost. Harmony shook his head, and pulled the car back onto the road.

“No more screamin’, Buddy,” Harmony said as he glanced back at the three in his rearview mirror. No reply came from Buddy; he just sat staring out at the dirt road flying by. Harmony’s eye’s were attracted to a movement behind Buddy’s head, and he mentioned it to Officer Brackett.

“It’s nothin’—just a butterfly. Must’ve gotten in when we left Lawrence’s place. We’ll take care of it when we get to the station.”

“No, kill it now. It’s irritating me. I can’t drive with it fluttering around back there.”

“There’s no need to kill the poor thing,” sighed Vicki Koob. “We’ll help it find the window out when we get there.” By this time, Buddy had turned around to look at the butterfly and was staring at it intently with a look of pity on his face.

“I can’t drive with it there! If you want to keep it alive so badly, you drive and I’ll sit next to the kid.” As Harmony pulled the car over to the side of the road, there was a loud clanging sound.

“Aww, shoot. What’d I run over?” Harmony quickly stopped the vehicle, got out, and walked around to the back of the car, as Office Brackett vacated his seat and moved to take over the driver’s seat. “Dang muffler. I wish people would take care of their cars so things like this wouldn’t be sitting around where other people can get hurt on them.” With that said, Harmony sat down in the seat recently occupied by Officer Brackett.

As Harmony put on his seatbelt, Buddy suddenly lunged at him, grasping Harmony’s neck with his childish hands. Harmony pried him off, fleetingly amazed at the strength in Buddy. Vick held Buddy down as Harmony buckled him in again.

“Do that again and we’ll tie you down to the seat.” Harmony was still a little shaken and was not in any mood to be nice to this kid who had just tried to strangle him. With barely a sound, Buddy again threw himself toward Harmony, stretching his arms as far as they would go around the man’s neck. This time, Harmoney shoved Buddy off and held Buddy’s left wrist down as Office Brackett handed him a pair of handcuffs. Harmony snapped one end of the cuffs around Buddy’s left wrist, then attached the other end to the seat belt. he then handed his handcuffs to Vicki to put on Buddy.

“Can’t we just try one pair? I feel bad enough using handcuffs on a child, but two pairs would be carrying it too far. I won’t put them on him.” Having said this, Vicki pass the handcuffs back to Harmony, who then proceeded to put the handcuffs on Buddy, in no way making easy on the boy.

Buddy now sat with his hands secured at his sides, bound by the metal which he had seen earlier that day.  He could feel it all around him as he sat there between Vicki Koob and Harmony. He could sense it in the car surrounding him and in the barbed-wire of the fields going past in the window. Yet there was a little beacon of light, a wet spot in the fire, that was keeping Buddy from becoming insane. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the little butterfly was still on the back dash, below the window, silently waving its wings, trying to escape from this metallic prison that others called a car. As Buddy turned his head to see the butterfly better, it soundlessly floated into the air and alighted on Harmony’s nose. Harmony reached up, pulled the butterfly off his nose, put it down on the clipboard in his lap, and, with one quick slap of the hand, flattened it.

Buddy stared as tears formed in his eyes. He hated Harmony, hated him more than any thing else in the world. Buddy hated Harmony for hitting his mother, hated him for killing the butterfly. Buddy gazed in silence and mourning at the beautiful wings, now bent and broken, as they gently moved in the breeze created by Harmony’s heavy breathing. Buddy watched as Harmony put his window down, slowly turning the handle in a counterclockwise movement. He watched as Harmony picked up the dead butterfly and dropped it out the window, without even looking at it. Buddy followed the butterfly as it tumbled through the air behind the car until, in a cloud of dust, it was lost to eyesight. In that cloud of dust, in the act of throwing the butterfly out the window like a chewed up apple core, Buddy felt that something had been taken from him. Something important, something that had always been deep inside of his body, resting and never worrying about the outside world. Now, in a matter of seconds, Buddy’s life had lost meaning. He didn’t care where he was going or what was going to happen to him. He thought his mother a lucky woman as the car stopped and he was herded into the station.

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