By Sage Tyrtle
As the grasshoppers finish their dance, Jane hops up and down but the wings on her back do not flutter. They droop. On stage her groom is led to the altar, encased in an iridescent beetle shell. The other six-year-olds watch as she trudges toward him. When she was chosen to be the butterfly she thought she would sail, skim, swoop, but her teacher attached a tiara with a small veil to her head. Told her she was so lucky to be the bride. Jane drags her feet. Skirts the altar.
The cattails that form the backdrop are shedding bits of fuzz and the grade-seven girl in the priest’s collar wipes her watering eyes. Jane’s stomach flutters. She wants to stop, to point at the moon in the painted sky, to shout to the audience that she painted it all by herself. She keeps trudging.
Why create a butterfly that is all butter and no fly, a future filled with this small, stolid beetle? If she were the teacher, the tall priest would be holding the butterfly aloft as she flapped brand new sparkling wings. If she were the teacher, there would be no altar, but instead a cresting wave, a thunderstorm, a crescendo.
When Jane arrives at the altar the beetle grunts in greeting. Ladybug kindergartners rush to throw rose petals. Jane jams her arms by her side. She flutters her hands as a poor substitute for her wilted wings. The priest, sneezing, points to the masking tape X on the floor and Jane kneels, but forgets to allow for her wings and jostles the beetle. He turns to her with wide, hurt eyes, his antennae trembling.
Her hands shove his hard-shelled chest before she tells them to move and it’s like a rescuing for both of them when he falls on his back. He’s rocking back and forth and the priest rushes to help him. Jane doesn’t feel like a broken flutterby anymore, she feels like a wasp. Stinging. Fast. The beetle flails, four shiny feet waving in the air as teachers flood the stage and gather up the squealing ladybugs.
Jane un-jams her arms, kicks off her ballet slippers. A looming teacher grabs her wrist but she wrenches away. She leaps, whirs, spins to the front of the stage. Roaring. Glittering.
Sage Tyrtle’s work is available or upcoming in X-R-A-Y, The Offing, and Apex among others. She’s told stories on stages all over the world and her words have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She runs a free online writing group open to everyone. Twitter: @sagetyrtle