The Butterfly Effect

by on March 11, 2023 :: 1 comment

photo "What's Outside Isn't Always Inside" by Tyler Malone

Johnny looked at the various cases of our dad’s butterfly collection and said, “Remember that character, Buffalo Bill?”

“Weird,” I replied. “I was just thinking about the same thing. I first saw that movie while on a date with Will Wreck.”

“Will Wreck? You dated him?” he asked, with a hint of incredulousness in the asking.

“I know, right?” I said, “he was a little quirky, generally nice, but obtuse to social graces.”

“But I don’t think Buffalo Bill used butterflies,” said my brother, fixated on the movie. “I think he used some kind of moth, like a sphynx moth. Why do you think we both thought of Buffalo Bill at the same time?”

“That’s a loaded question,” I replied.

I preferred to follow my own mind, and think of Will Wreck. First, what a name, Will Wreck! I hope he changed it. After all, who wants to be going out with a Wreck? Who wants to get married to a Wreck and become a Wreck? Who wants to get married at all?

“Remember how Mom and Dad fought all the time?” Johnny asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Yes, the constant arguing was kind of ironic, given Dad’s interest in transcendental meditation,” I replied. “Oh yeah, and then he became a meditation instructor and met Iris.”

We would be seeing Iris at the funeral today, but I had planned to act a bit cool towards her, because Adam would be there. Adam was still loyal to Mom, even to her grave. He thinks Mom started drinking after the divorce, but Johnny and I knew she was a closet drinker long before that. Adam also never could believe that Dad only hit Mom once, but he couldn’t ever give any specifics about other situations. Johnny is the one who told me the details about Mom brandishing a knife and Dad smacking her to end her hysteria.

Johnny spoke again. “She had wanted Dad to get rid of his butterfly collection, remember? She yelled at him all the time about collecting butterflies. I came home from school one day and found her putting the cases in the attic. When she saw me watch her descend the ladder and grab another case, she said, “It’s weird for a man to have a butterfly collection.”

“I was there, too, remember? We asked Mom why Dad’s things, like his record collection and books, were out by the curb and she told us that she kicked him out.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said, “and then she said, ‘Good riddance!’ like a movie star. But she didn’t look like a movie star. She was wearing an ugly nightgown and her hair was matted down, looking like a lunatic. She even pulled a knife on dad when he came over later, wanting his collection.”

“That’s the night Will took me to the movies,” I said quietly, more to myself, allowing the memory bubble to rise up. Will Wreck had called me in the middle of my mother’s breakdown. Mom yelled at me to get the phone and what to say if it was Dad. But it was Will, who lived on our block and went to our school. He asked me to see a movie with him. I didn’t even ask which one. I just told him that I’d be waiting on the front porch. I was already gone when Dad stopped by, so I missed the commotion with the knife, Dad hitting Mom across the face, and Johnny calling the police.

“Dad never came to the house again,” said Johnny.

Neither did Will, I thought. Probably because I had declined his advances that night. He wanted to kiss me, and I yelled at him, “No, just take me home. This is not the kind of movie you take a girl to on a first date and expect a first kiss.”

No, I thought now, you don’t take a first date to a movie about moths in the throats of dead, fat girls, especially if your date is trying to find the meaning of her mom keeping her dad’s butterfly collection.

“Do you want dad’s collection?” I asked Johnny. I had found them in the attic when I was clearing out Mom’s house a few years ago and brought them to mine.

“What would I do with it?” asked Johnny, and “how would I get the cases home?”

“I could ship them to you,” I replied.

“No, I don’t want them. You should ask Adam,” said Johnny.

“I already did,” I said. I didn’t add that Adam had said ‘yeah, give them to me. I’ll burn all of them.’

“You should keep them,” said Johnny. “You like to meditate, don’t you, like Dad?”

“It’s not about liking it,” I replied, “it’s a necessity for me, to keep my mind still for a little while.”

“Do you think it would’ve helped, Mom?” he asked.

“I don’t know, maybe, maybe a combination of that and medication, instead of alcohol,” I replied.

“Well, thank God Mom won’t be there today,” Johnny said.

I agreed quickly. “She probably would have been drunk and disorderly, especially when Iris releases the butterflies,” I said. “I just hope Adam doesn’t mock the words that Iris picked for the tombstone.”

“What does it say again?” Johnny asks.

“The tombstone reads, Life is not forever. Love is,” I responded.

“Yeah, he won’t like that,” Johnny said, “but it’s because he has no good memories of Dad, like we do. And he never wanted anything to do with Iris. I am really glad I got to know her, before I moved away.”

“But why would he leave us with Mom?” I asked. “He knew she was crazy.”

“That just wasn’t the thinking, back then, you know that, Sis. There were no single dads back then,” he said.

“Just like men weren’t supposed to have butterfly collections,” I added.

“Exactly like that,” Johnny said.

editors note:

The world you leave behind is the world you’ve already created. ~ Tyler Malone

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