When Wings Explode

by Courtney Clute

Sebastian trapped the butterfly’s wings between his fingers still sticky from the tub of cotton candy he just ate. Sebastian felt the butterfly trying to flutter its wings, but that only made him pinch harder. He thought he could show the butterfly around to the other kids on the playground. They didn’t talk to him much.

He held the butterfly up high, like the trophy he didn’t win for the hula-hoop contest at field day yesterday and marched over to Tiffany who was lazily swaying on a swing.

Sebastian pushed the insect close to Tiffany’s face. She didn’t laugh at him like the rest of the class. Sometimes he would cut in front of her at the water fountain and she wouldn’t say anything. He liked her. She stopped swinging.

“Look at my pretty butterfly,” he said.

“So what?” Tiffany pumped her legs back then forward and soared out of the swing. She ran away, heading towards the group that played tag by the basketball court, the group that told Sebastian moments before that he wasn’t allowed to play. When he asked, they had laughed and said he wasn’t ever fast enough to catch anyone.

The butterfly squirmed in between his fingers, its black legs manic like it was trying to find solid ground. Sebastian’s hand trembled as he searched the playground for someone else. Someone out there had to find this cool.

He marched over to the end of the slide, waiting, letting luck offer him his next friend. Seconds later, Timothy tumbled down, his shirt coming up past his belly button, the skin rubbing against the plastic sparking streaks of squeals. Timothy landed on the sand, spraying it everywhere. It shot into Sebastian’s eyes, almost causing him to lose his grip on his butterfly.

“I could have killed you!” Timothy said as he stood and picked sand from in between his belly rolls.

“Look, it’s a pretty butterfly,” Sebastian said, rubbing his eyes with his free hand. Timothy stepped closer and peered at the insect. Sebastian could see the grains of sand stuck to the sweat on Timothy’s hairline. His eyes narrowed in, and Sebastian was sure Timothy was about to high-five him.

But he said, “That’s a moth, dummy.”

Sebastian joined Timothy’s inspection. The wings were a gray blanket speckled with white spots and black streaks. Just because the wings didn’t have the normal bright colors didn’t make it a moth, Sebastian thought.

Sebastian shook his head. “Nope, it’s a butterfly.”

Timothy shrugged and ran back up the stairs to go down the slide again.

Finally, Sebastian took his butterfly to Angelica, who sat under the monkey bars, drawing pictures in the sand with a stick. She was usually alone, like Sebastian. He didn’t really play with her much because she was so shy; she never said anything when Sebastian tried to talk to her.

“Look at my butterfly,” he said to her. “It isn’t a moth.”

Angelica stood, the sand stuck to the spot on her knees where she was sitting. She put her eyes so close to it Sebastian thought he saw her eyelashes brush its wings.

She took in a breath. “It’s beautiful.” She put her fingers on top of Sebastian’s fingers so that their hands became one. He felt a pulse in between their hands, and his heart beat fast, like the butterfly’s wings when he first spotted it.

Together, they pinched the butterfly’s wings. It shook under the weight of their pressure, trying hard to flap its wings and fly. They pushed harder. The butterfly resisted. Together, they felt the butterfly explode. They took their fingers away. Angelica held one wing, Sebastian held the other.

Courtney Clute just completed her MFA at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, where she studied flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Passages North and Z Publishing’s “Florida’s Emerging Florida Writers: An Anthology.” You can find her on Twitter at @courtney_clute.



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