Contributor: Eric Suhem

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He pedaled more furiously. He was 3 years old, riding a tricycle through a maze of hedges in the springtime. At each turn he became more lost, and he could feel the wings bearing down on him from the sky. His brain started to throb and bubble, seemingly simmering for an imminent explosion. Finally he couldn’t pedal anymore, and the tricycle stopped in the far corner of the labyrinth. His sister was there and she looked at his head. “There’s a dead butterfly in your hair,” she said, pinching it with her thumb and forefinger. He stared at her, and looked around, seeing nothing but foliage towering above, and started to smile.

Now he was riding a bright red bicycle over the new pavement in the tract-house suburban neighborhood. He was 9 years old. It was a bright summer’s afternoon, the temperature over 100 degrees, the light and horizon shimmering darkly in the pavement’s reflection. He was sweating as he popped wheelie after wheelie over the sidewalk curbs. He was sucking on a lemon popsicle, and he could feel the wings upon him, as he rode the bike faster and faster down the hill, trying to outrun them. Playing cards were clothes-pinned on the bike spokes, and he saw a few pomegranates situated oddly on the sidewalk, but they were just a blur as he sped by, the cards clacking. The skies darkened as a swarm of butterflies flew overhead, blocking the sun, their shadow weighing him down. At the bottom of the hill, he slammed on the brakes and left a tire skid of about 10 feet on the asphalt. During the skid, he felt freed from the butterflies.

He was now an adult, 32 years old, riding a rusty bicycle to work in the autumn. Big sunflowers started to grow out of cracks in the sidewalk. He could see peaceful golden hills on the horizon and a clear blue sky. Birds were chirping, butterflies flew about, and the air had a crisp smell of early morning. He approached the pomegranate orchards, the sights, smells and sounds filling his body with energy. The sunflowers were growing taller and taller, towards the sky. The weather was cold, but felt so good. His hands were getting numb on the handlebars, but he didn’t care. He rode through the pomegranate orchards, amongst the butterflies, to his construction job at Caterpillar Inc.

The butterflies flutter through the black corridor. All colors: yellow, blue, orange, green, red, purple. They sail past each tightly bolted black door, down the hall, through miles and miles of blackness to the 457th door on the right, slightly, ajar. They swarm into the hospital operating room, bright hues flowing amidst the surgical masks and gowns. They fly, and then settle on the beeping iron lung.

He was 81 years old, in a wheelchair, being pushed through corridor after corridor in a pale green institution. The smell was one of cold antiseptic efficiency. He was being pushed by someone in a nurse’s outfit with rolls of gauze wrapped around his/her head. A screaming sound of little wings furiously beating together filled his ears. Finally, the gauze-bound ‘nurse’ gave him a mighty shove, and the wheelchair went speeding blindly down the corridor, crashing through the doors at the end. There was nothing on the other side of the doors but black winter’s night, and the wheelchair, with him in it, started falling… He saw large butterflies above him, and he reached for the big wings, hoping they would lift him up, but he missed, and laughed as he fell into oblivion.

His mother was pushing him around the park in his stroller on a warm spring day. He was back to 8 weeks old. He saw a monarch butterfly on the left safety bar of the stroller. He put it in his mouth, and chewed.

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Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer.
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