Wednesday, 17 December 2008

SHORT STORY: Caroline's butterflies (Part 1)

Flat on my back, I lie and watch the criss-cross of cobwebs across the light bulb. From one angle, it takes the shape of a cirrus cloud. From another: a butterfly. ‘Butterflies,’ I say out loud. Butterflies were my dead sister, Caroline’s, thing. She’d spent hours and hours poring over butterfly books. The Orangetip had been her favourite. She’d even won a school prize for a poem she’d written titled: The Bountiful Butterfly. ‘What does bountiful mean?’ she’d asked again and again whilst she’d been penning the poem. She’d only been six at the time.

Caroline visits sometimes. She simply appears in my room without warning. At times, she’ll sit on the edge of my bed, or stand by the window gazing out at the surrounding farmland. Often, she lies beside me – as we are doing now – and we stare at the ceiling, saying nothing. Since she died, Caroline hasn’t spoken to me. I talk to her all the time. But she says nothing. It’s as if there is a barrier between us. When I look at her, pools of sadness fill her eyes. She offers no tears, no words – nothing. In spite of this, her silence strengthens me. I’d rather have her wordless presence than nothing at all. Now – in the stillness of our thoughts, I squeeze her hand – the way I’ve always done.

Then as if on cue, she bolts upright and stands up - shattering my reverie. With a finger, she beckons me to follow. She wanders to her bedroom across the landing. As we enter, I sneeze. I've always been sensitive to dust. Her room is just as it’s always been; untouched since she died. It's been six months. Butterflies of all descriptions crowd the room. Butterfly patterned wall-paper, butterfly toys, posters and decor – resting and hanging from all directions. When she was around this Butterfly Zoo seemed to come alive. Buzzed with life. Nowadays, it felt... feels cold and lifeless. I notice Caroline open the wardrobe. She begins to rummage around for something. I watch her bent head; her pale curls bounce with the movement of her search. After many minutes, she retrieves a shoebox and places it on the bed. From it, she brings out a scrapbook-cum-photo album. Together we flick through each page. Inside, more butterflies. Images of: Orangetips, Brown Elfins, Edith’s Coppers, Cabbage Whites, and on and on. Each labelled in her scratchy scrawl. Eventually, from the back of the book, she pulls out a postcard. She stares hard at it, takes a deep breath, before handing it over to me. I am confused because it is blank. Her manner tells me that my eyes are deceiving me. I do not see what she knows. A secret lies in the note.


I Ponder said...

What an interesting beginning. I'm looking forward to more Chapters !

Dina said...

Shalom! So glad our paths crossed!
I found your story below about your moving around. Lucky you that part was in Jerusalem. Did you go to the Anglican school on Neviim Street? I can post pics of it.
Good luck in Australia. My daughter and her family now live in Sydney. Oz is a fine place to live.
Wishing you strength for packing.
Blessings to you.

CathM said...

Thanks for stopping by. Hee hee hee... indeed, I did go to the Anglican School in the late 70's/early 80's. (In fact, I've kept in touch with a number of folk via facebook)! Yes - I'd LOVE to see pics of the school! Cheers.

p.s. Did your children go there too?

Lilly's Life said...

Oh you are writing a book - I am doing the same but not blogging it because its too dark really.

Your writing style is wonderful. I shall be back!

Dina said...

Hi Catherine. Cool. OK, but please be patient. I am trying not to spend so much time on the blog these next few days so I can pack for the trip to Oz. But I will gather pics and info on your school.
I moved from Chicago to Israel in 1968. We lived near Tel Aviv then. My kids went to ordinary Israeli school.

CathM said...

Lilly - Thanks for visiting and the compliment. At the moment I spend more time writing short stories - although, I do have a novel in the pipeline (WIP). I find it interesting that you thought Caroline's butterflies might be the start of a book - I might have to pick up on that thought (lol)! I'll def stay connected to your blog too which is a gem - full of great commentary and brilliant anecdotes! Cheers.

Dina - No worries re Anglican School images! All the best with your packing. Hope you have a fantastic holiday Down Under!!!


To Ms. Catherine Mark-Beasant

You have wonderfully sketched out the character of the dead woman, Butterfly. I read the short story almost in one breath.

I like the African writers. Among African novelists, I admire Damon Galgut. His novel The Good Doctor is a wonderful allegory of the present day scenario in the region.

Naval Langa

June Saville said...

Caroline's Buutterflies is intriguing! I'm so pleased to find another writer who loves rhythm as much as I do.
Also pleased you enjoyed 'Paternity'. It's a departure for me and isn't typical of my writing. But then, I wonder what is.
I tend to wander through various styles, depending on the whim of the story.
I hope you do get a chance to read more of the novel - and some of the short stories that are also on the site. I'd love more feedback!
Wouldn't be surprised if we're chatting often.
June in Oz

CathM said...

June... OoooHHhhh... I'm so excited - you're my first official blog follower. I'm really really really chuffed! THANK YOU!

Linda S. Socha said...

Lovely story. I feel as if I have known this Caroline. I lost a sister to Lukemia at age 40. That was in 1986 but if often seems not that long ago. She died in December. This time of the year she is on my mind more than usual
I like the style you are in writing

Lilly's Life said...

Have a great Christmas and how exciting that you are moving to Australia - you will like it. I used to live in the UK until a couple of years ago but am Australian by birth.

~PakKaramu~ said...

Happy new year you



CathM said...

Linda - thank you for visiting and for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts. I hope this is a special Christmas for you and yours.

Lilly, PakKaramu & Naval - thanks for your Christmas wishes! Hope you have a good one!

CathM said...

June (again), Rogue, Lilly & Matthew - HUGE THANKS for linking up as my 'blogging comrades'. I really really really appreciate your interest and following - as it gives me added impetus to keep writing and blogging (BIG SMILE ON MY FACE). Thanks guys! HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you all!

Cynthia said...

A beautiful introduction to
these two young girls. Catherine
you write with honesty and skill.

CathM said...

I Ponder & Cynthia - thanks for your positive thoughts on the story... inspired, I've pressed on with it and posted Prt 1&2 above. Let me know what you think... Cheers.