Warnings: mental illness, animal and child abuse, graphic gore
I examine the butterfly pinned on the table: stained glass window membranes, mushy eggplant guts and midnight seaweed skin. Its legs still writhe. My fingernails sear the edges of its wings, cuts them fresh off. Its legs still writhe. I pluck the antennas like eyelashes, squish the eyes like globs of ink-oil, and tear the body segments apart onto the rough-soft paper towel. Disseminated. Dead. Its legs are still.
One day, I’ll do the same to you.
I am a mother. I live in a cottage. There are rolling hills of sweet grass, hair dried willow trees, and kids whose imaginations have run far away. Schizophrenics- that’s what the doctors call them, but I call them the Lost Boys. Perhaps, that makes me Peter Pan, to lead them through their fantasies, or Wendy to sing their delusions to sleep.
I don’t know. I’m not familiar with fairytales. Can you tell me one?
I asked you that on the morning you arrived on my doorstep.
You were a pale faced child who took on the spirit of a butterfly- the same ink-oil eyes, delicate antenna lashes and a mosaic of a mind behind the flapping six-year old arms. You have your hair pulled in a tight blonde braid and you wear a sky blue dress as you prance about. Your lips flutter with teensy giggles. I want to catch them in the air.
And pin them to the wall.
The peacock pansy, with fuzzy mustard wings and those cocoa hue owl eyes that watch me through the glass. It is framed on the basement drywall, in a new place, rearranged with the others for a new blank space- approximately 50 by 150 square inches in area. There are larger pins. Bolts. And rope.
Just like your pretty little braids.
I comb your frayed locks, free from those little ginger roots. You gaze into the mirror, bite your nails and curl up in your seat so your knees pillow your chin. A cocoon. I tug on your longest lock, what you think is a silkworm shaving.
“Don’t-” I say, “we’ll go to bed soon.”
You water your eyes at me, lips in a red larvae pout.
I yank the hair from your head. The wailing takes a while to settle.
I sew your silk back on the next morning. Your glass eyes are beading with crystal, and your nose blushes with rosy sniffles as you wince at every prick of the needle. In, out, in, out- skin and blood and dandruff and tousles of rope thread hair.
“It hurts,” your tears pool on your cheeks, “Can you stop, Miss?”
“No,” My lips thin into a straight line.
I can’t let the doctors know.
The doctors flood into the cottage. They take the lost boys one by one, cultivating caterpillars into their nests. Some are bribed with leaves, others simply slink in, and all of them leave slimy paths behind. Good riddance.
I only think of the white coat, white mask doctors, and their syringe slits of eyes that scan us with pinpoint precision. I clench your hand tight.
I’ll never let them have you.
We run down the dark stairway, slipper flats and baby bare feet tip-tap against the ashwood. We spill out into the basement- the clothes I scrimmied off you splayed on the tile floor. You shiver under my touch, as my cuticles indicate lines upon your back.
I drag out my butterfly canopies from the closet. Layered blankets: monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies, buckeyes, blue sulphurs all weaved together.
Remember the fairytale you told me? What if I said I could make it come true?
I sew the quilts onto your back, stitching them to the skin with black thread. In, out, in, out. My needle is diligent, but my eyes are disorderly. They look at places they shouldn’t. They linger as I work. In, out, in, out- eggplant mush and seaweed skin and a set of prismatic wings, spread before me like Neverland.