Stomach Sank to its Very Pit

The last time a tornado roared by, Mom said to gather my favorite things and take them with me when we went to the basement. This time, my favorite things were sitting alone in our house in my bedroom. With this new tornado, we were standing in Grandpa’s basement. I was the smallest and couldn’t see out no matter how hard I tried to stretch up standing on tippy toes. I gave up and leaned up against the big cement block wall. Grandpa, Mom, Dad and my two brothers could see through the rectangular window to view our neighborhood outside. They stood looking in that direction because that’s the way our house was. I closed my eyes and ears to block out the sounds and said prayers over and over again. I missed our house and all the things inside. I worried about my white blanket with the silky border, my five stuffed animals and favorite feather pillow. My family talked about how the sky was a funny color of green, how it turned black, and how there was a time they couldn’t see our house even though it was only five doors down.

When the storm was over, we walked home to find that the tornado had blown so hard and caused the big tree on our boulevard to lose a branch. The branch crashed through our front window. I went to find my treasures in my room and was glad to see they were all okay just as I had I left them. The only damage was the broken window and wet carpeting.

We lived across the street from The Drive where elm trees lined up in six rows separated by a street. Many of the trees had been blown to the ground. It wasn’t long after the storm hit and the neighborhood kids were climbing the fallen trees and making forts from the branches. It seemed like us kids forgot about being scared to death just several minutes before. My brothers and I went across the street to explore too. As my brothers ventured off with the older kids, I was drawn toward something colorful that was mixed in between green leaves and grass and brown branches.

As I walked closer, I realized I discovered the largest yellow butterfly I had ever seen. Dark streaks of brown made a design on its wings. I carefully held onto its delicate wings and gave it a place to sit on the little index finger of my left hand. The butterfly stood there for a long time as I admired it and tried to figure out where its little mouth was hidden. It felt like a miracle to have it sit on my hand for that long without flying away. Every once in a while the wind blew to move its wings a bit, but I felt it grasp my finger a little tighter each time.  It seemed like the butterfly felt safe with me.

Jack, one of the neighborhood kids, saw me and came over to investigate the butterfly. He was a little bit younger than me and asked if he could have the butterfly. I said no and walked back towards my house and wondered why he thought he should have the butterfly I found. If he really wanted one, he could find his own, I thought.

“Hi, Mr. Dorn,” I said. Our next door neighbor was looking around and inspecting the front of his house. I walked up to him to show him the butterfly.

“What do you have there?” he asked me. He was a small, old man with dark hair.  His skin wrinkled up as he smiled.

“I found this butterfly across the street.” The butterfly still hung tight to my finger. “Do you think I can keep it for a while?”

“Yes, I bet you can. Go ask your mom for an empty mayonnaise jar, and put some sticks and grass inside. Make sure you hammer some holes in the lid so the butterfly can breathe. It seems a little shocked from the storm, but its wings look fine. Maybe it needs to rest for a little while, and then you can set it free.”

“Ok, thanks, Mr. Dorn,” I said. I wanted to help it get better.

I walked to our back door and yelled for Mom through the screen. I knew she wouldn’t want me to bring any insects in the house. Mom must have been making food because she had an apron tied around her waist, and I could smell onions frying. She looked down at me.

“Mom, do you have an empty mayonnaise jar I can have? I found this butterfly across the street. Mr. Dorn said I should give it a home for a little while, and that after it feels better, I can let it go.”

“Ok, just a minute.” Mom quickly handed me a jar through the door. She was in a hurry to get back to cooking.

I found Dad in the garage, and asked him how to pound holes in the top of the lid. He explained how to hold the hammer and nail while he pounded a bunch of holes in the lid. I found some little sticks that had been blown into the yard, and pulled up some pieces of grass to put inside like Mr. Dorn told me to.

Dad brought me the jar, and I put the stuff inside. The butterfly crawled onto a stick, and I put it inside the jar. I sat and watched that butterfly until Mom made me come in for dinner. Just before I went inside, I put the lid on the jar, and placed the jar on the back steps in the shade.

I ate dinner as fast as I could, went back outside, and looked at the steps, but the jar and the butterfly were gone. I looked around our backyard and front yard, and I couldn’t find the butterfly. I was sad because I didn’t even get time to give it a name or help nurse it back to good health.

A couple of weeks later, Mom and I got invited to Jack’s house. I never remembered going inside their house before, but that day we got invited over for lunch. After lunch, Jack showed me three frames that were hung up in their hallway like trophies. Inside each frame were butterflies. I studied the first frame that had five butterflies inside. I remember looking at the butterflies very carefully. There were some types I never saw before.

When I looked at the next frame, my stomach sank to its very pit because I saw the butterfly I found in the broken trees. The one I made a mayonnaise jar home for with sticks and grass. It was in a frame by itself. I knew it was that butterfly when I looked at Jack and saw a mean look in his eyes. I acted like I didn’t recognize the butterfly. Even though I wanted to, I didn’t cry. I knew he was tricking me because he tricked me and made me cry before.

Ever since the day my stomach sank, I never understood why people collect dead things and use them like trophies in their homes, and it was all because of that butterfly.  Maybe if I cried that day, this wouldn’t still bug me, but I didn’t want to give that little kid the satisfaction of seeing me cry again. It was bad enough to see the butterfly trapped behind glass when it could have been flying around outside in our beautiful neighborhood where it belonged.

After that day, I made sure to spend time with my nicer friends in the neighborhood. I didn’t want to get tricked by Jack ever again, and I never did.

No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys. ~Doug Horton

~Writing prompt from Kate Bouska’s blog:  Write about a time you were tricked.

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2 thoughts on “Stomach Sank to its Very Pit

    • Thanks! Writing it brought back some bad memories, but sometimes it’s good to get stuff off your chest and to realize it’s good for us to stand up for ourselves!

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