Image: Jan van Kessel, Wikicommons
In a clean attic room in the mountains I was giving a lesson to an eleven-year-old. We were reading Tom Sawyer. The room’s windows were netted by the boughs of the live oaks and their loud hard leaves; it was some time before the ticking sound distinguished itself and distracted me.
I raised my head: a butterfly, on our side of the littlest window, beating its huge wings against the glass. “Look!” I told the girl. She looked and when she saw nothing she leaned her body to see past the stairwell’s column. “Oh!” she said.
I opened the door to the outside and the girl approached the butterfly and hushed him – unaffected, a habit from handling horses, hens, goose. She collected him after many patient tries and let him out. Back in our chairs she told me that she liked to be present when butterflies came from their chrysalises because she could put out her arm and have them stay on her as they dried their wings.
The girl had black eyes and a look of interior humor and thought so keen it neared malice. She would sit in her swiveling chair with her arms wide along its back and she would twist the chair left and right like a boxer warming up. Her mother didn’t like the chrysalises hanging along the front door but the girl wouldn’t have them disturbed.