This is National Pollinator Week, a time to celebrate the billions of small creatures who bring flowers and food into our lives. In their honor, we revisit one of our favorite Fiction House creatures, the butterfly Calico.
… A calico butterfly of silver, ruby, and gold had lit on the youth’s head. “I see one of my friends been keepin’ ya company.” Mariner winks at it as it flits away, “Happy sailen’ Calico.” He bends to the boy. “So what’s youren name? What you been rollin’ round in? And what in the name of Poseidon’s ocean you doin’ schoolin’ here?” Sniff. “Eew! Yer rank as my giant pal Turt after e’s swum the Atlantic.”
Boy wants to say, “How can you smell me over your owen’ self?” Manages only, “Umm…”
(Mariner rescues Carper and takes him to his cabin. There, the boy sees a most marvelous sight….)
You stare intently, entranced by the array of Mariner’s exotic objects never before this moment have you seen. BOOKS – bound in leather dyed blue, black, and red. The bindings’ wild animal pungency – primal; the pulp pages emit sweet, pleasant mustiness of the forest. These soothing scents overpower the wharf-shack’s odor. These scents, intoxicating, will draw you under their covers. Soon you will sleep. Dream. All their pages of excitement, knowledge, mystery will awaken a passion for life’s grandeur in you that never will dull.
There is no way that at this moment can your child’s mind perceive all you feel so deeply. You only experience…
The BOOKS: They begin leaping from the shelves. They slide down Harpoon. Its long face, snaggled with sharp-barbed tooth, is still gleaming with the sweet ardor of some past battle glory. When they reach the floor, BOOKS, in cadence begin marching round a three-legged stool and toward you. ‘Hup! Hup! Hup, hup, hup!’ In parade. Voices echo in unison, ‘JOIN US, CARPER. DON’T LET US PASS YOU BY!’
How do they know your name? Other books are open on rickety stands and on the floor. You smile as an artist’s drawing of a wiry pooch ‘WOOFS’ at you. On the page next to him, a little wooden boy dances clip-cloppity. You want to tweak his funny, ever-growing nose. But, ‘Ouch!’ You are afraid of splinters.
On the pages of a floored book, a pretty, golden-haired girl in a silver gown looks down from atop a leafy tree. She reaches for you. She has wings of silver, ruby, and gold. She reminds you of the butterfly that spent the night with you under the cart. You whisper, “Calico?”
‘COME FLYING WITH ME CARPER!’ she sings. She swoops down, takes your hand, and off you go go go, landing on the picture’s cloudy mountaintop. You lock hands and sing, skip and play ring around rosy, pocketful of posy. Ashes, ashes… all…fall…
‘No! No! You fist your hand in defiance. The fire-breathing monster won’t eat me,’ your thoughts shout, as you partly remember the nightmare. You blink. No longer do you hold her hand. You’re still clasping Mariner’s.
“Ouch! Carper, you got a clam’s grip there,” Mariner says as he bends creakily and closes the fairy tale book. Butterfly girl winks good-bye. Carper doesn’t feel scared or sad. He feels protected by Mariner and this place. He can visit the butterfly girl any time he wants. He will find many joys like her in – BOOKS. Carper will have read and absorbed each one in this dry-dock library before he turns eight. BOOKS. They will become his life.
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)
©2017 Raji Singh