short stories ~ literary fiction ~ social commentary
copyright © 1999 - 2013
Barbara’s a wild child, hair too blond with legs much too long, blue eyes the color of soft pastel and a body defying her sixteen years, begging men to say: “But judge, I thought she was twenty-one!”
I agreed to go, not without reservation. The promise of a good party, which to Barbara was a catchall meaning lots of boys, drugs and alcohol, wasn’t the enticement. I wanted to see the hidden lake, more of myth than reality.
Karl was a gaunt boy, lanky, with brown hair having not seen shampoo for two weeks, sheepdog-ly hanging in his face. He averted his eyes, laughing, almost a giggle when introduced, pushing a friend on the shoulder. I wondered what Barbara told him.
I was trapped between Karl, the driver, and Barbara at shotgun. Four boys crowded the backseat, poking at each other, yelling jokes and stories that made no sense. I was thankful for July weather and open windows, with everyone smoking. Karl tried to take my hand, which was weird. Again, I wondered what Barbara told him. I bummed and lit a cigarette. I didn’t smoke, but it occupied my hand.
We raced down Route 70 about forty miles, went south on 72 for twenty miles, finally crossing under a railroad bridge, making a left onto a sandy dirt road, hobbling along for about a mile like I imagine a ride in a Conestoga must have been.
I didn’t do a headcount, but there had to be fifty or more people sitting in groups, drinking beer, eating. Three grills were working and a radio played somewhere. Some people danced. I recognized faces from school, a grade or two ahead of me.
“People stay here?” I dodged to keep Barbara between Karl and me.
“I would if I had a tent and Mom let me.”
I looked around. “Eh, the restroom?”
I liked nature, a gift from Dad, but I couldn’t imagine a day let alone a week with no restroom.
A circle of pot-smokers distracted Karl. Barbara took my hand, pulling me into a skipping run past the tents, stopping on a ledge. “This is my favorite.” She pulled at her shirt.
Twenty-five feet straight down sat a blanket of the greenest green I ever saw.
I was taken with the vision and Barbara dropping her clothes to the ground. I didn’t turn to the voice coming from behind me. “Quarry lake?”
In her underwear, Barbara launched off the ledge, briefly floated and then penetrated into the green.
“Yeah. Quarry lake?”
“Men, at one time, dug the earth for her riches.”
Barbara appeared below.
“Their holes fill with water.”
“Oh, quarry lake.”
“Walk with me?”
I watched Barbara, thinking she’d return to the ledge. She didn’t look back, swimming with two boys.
The air was rich with the scent of dirt and nature, the sense of new life and decay. Pine trees reached for the sky, the sun poking down in a dance of light and shadow.
“I’ve not seen you before.”
I shrugged. “This your party?”
She smiled, her fleshy eyelids half-concealing her humus brown eyes. Her perfect oval face was cut on either side by her straight oaken hair, parted in the middle, dropping to her waist. “No. I like meeting people.”
I stopped, turning on her. “People call me Kay.”
She took my hand, pulling me to her. “Virginia.”
She smelled unwashed, but not dirty. Musky. I was uncomfortable in her arms, her breasts naked hanging behind a thin veil pressed against me. She let go.
“You have a good energy. I bet you can hear the butterfly dance.”
I moved along, maybe thinking the path led to the base of the quarry. “Hear a dance?”
The path opened on a field of knee-high grasses. In the middle of the field, as if planted by a farmer, a perfect circle of white daisies reached for the sun, their faces swaying with the indiscernible breeze.
“Watch carefully.” Virginia raised her hands. “The butterfly.”
Then, I saw the butterfly among the daisies. I nodded. “Yeah, it seems to be dancing.”
“Look with your heart. Listen to the dance of the butterfly.” She closed her eyes, humming softly.
I instinctively shrugged.
“Isn’t that beautiful?”
To be polite, I agreed with a nod.
Back at the ledge, Barbara waved up at me, I waved back, happy she was having fun. Virginia wanted me to meet her people. I declined as respectfully as I could.
“Hope to see you around.” She leaned forward as if to kiss me.
I turned my face.
She stepped in. I turned, stepping off. “Yeah, I’ll look for you.”
With a roll of my eyes, I was actually glad to see Karl and two other boys running up. “Come on, Kay!” Karl, with a beer in one hand, took my hand with the other. “We’re going to hide from Joe!”
I didn’t know who Joe was, but that didn’t matter. We hurried back down the path and more importantly, away from Virginia. When we broke the pine trees into the field, the boys were appropriately enthralled, Karl, so much so, he had to relieve himself, shoving his bottle at me to hold.
Gentleman that he was, he turned his back.
As if proof of Jung’s collective unconscious, Karl and his friends became aware of the daisies and what to do about them in the same quick breath, pouncing, high stepping in a primal mockery of the butterfly’s dance. Infused with something I cannot understand, they ran off the way we came, screaming in voices first born before we stood upright.
I was stunned, stepping carefully forward, moving into the circle. I dropped to my knees, hoping to find an undamaged flower. The butterfly dropped over the knee-high grasses, dancing, seeking what was gone.
Breathing in the sweet scent of crushed flowers, I could hear the scream of the butterfly.