Corunna, MI. 1951.
Living just outside of town, surrounded by fields and big sky, an old barn, and the vast green in front of this old farm house that made me feel small, smaller than the 3 years of my life.
Worries seem wasted on the very young, dismissed as impossibility.
Me and my brother had the days to waste in that summer, when school let out and my yearning for a playmate was scorned by his bold 9 years of living. Mother insisted he watch me, thwarting any opportunity for the mischief he was prone to find himself in. It was deeper into the heat of summer, corn tall as my reach to heaven and Jere wanting to chase butterflies. I wanted to chase them too. More than anything in the whole world I wanted one. With our little home made nets, I chased him out into the wide green of our yard, to edge of the corn, with the silk thread flicking in the wind, nearly ready for shucking. We chased the yellow swallowtails that flittered and fluttered everywhere in those days. I watched the swoop of my brothers net capture one, I screamed with glee, barely able to contain myself, running to him to see his catch. I followed him like a happy puppy into the house, as he gently carried is prize, begging him to let me hold it, begging him to take me back to the edge of the field so I could catch one too. He kept to his brooding guttural sounds, as I followed him to his room. I had no idea I was his greatest annoyance, the bane of his boyhood and I wanted his butterfly.
I followed him into his room. I remember pausing before entering because his room was taboo to all of us. In that pause, I felt that at last he must really like me. He must want me to play with him to let me into is inner sanctum. It was my first time. It was a wild mess of clothes and sheets, things I had no interest in. I could only focus my trembling on the net and the beautiful fluttering yellowtail. He cleared a table off, setting my butterfly on it. It seemed to flutter madly, in fits and starts. I didn’t understand. With a cotton ball and something that was very stinky, my brother brought it to the net. The butterfly stop struggling, stopped moving; I was confused. I wondered what magic happened to tame this beautiful being. He gently opened the net and took the lifeless butterfly out. With one quick stab of a pin that magically appeared in his hand, he impaled my butterfly. He stabbed it right through the back of it’s fragile little body. It gave a the littlest shutter and moved no more. He stuck it on a board that seemed to appear from no where with other butterflies and beetles, and bugs, all pinned to it. I stopped breathing. I screamed. I screamed again, calling for my mother. I sobbed beyond control, horrified. I begged for him to bring it back to life. He smiled a smile that gave me a shiver down my spine. I was scared. I ran out his room, down the stairs to back of the house and into the kitchen. “Mommy, Mommy.” She scooped me up and pet my head, asking me what was wrong. I was inconsolable; I was beside myself with pain. I hated my brother. It was my first death.