It Takes Flight Unseen (A short short story)

Ala hadn’t noticed the waiter serving her her orange juice. It was as if the glass had mate­ri­al­ized out of nowhere when the cloak of reverie slipped off. She felt embar­rassed, inat­ten­tive, boorish. Another stumble in the proud lineage of stum­bles she called her life.

Thank you!” she called as she saw him step back inside, but he didn’t turn. Sometimes it’s too late to be acknowl­edged.

The stout card­board box on the seat next to her was all she had taken. Her siblings were prob­ably still quib­bling over cutlery and jewelry, but Ala had left as soon as she could. The only inher­i­tance she valued was the one she already had, a shared life’s worth of memo­ries. The box contained things that had been hers to begin with: some old toys and diaries. Stuff that didn’t belong to anyone else and that didn’t belong in the trash. Yet.

From the corner of her eye, Ala noticed some­thing flit­tering near her glass of juice. It was a monarch butterfly, one of many she had seen on their annual trek south­ward.

Well hello there,” she said. “Go ahead, have a sip. You’ll need the energy.”

The insect landed on the rim of the glass and touched its proboscis to the orange liquid. Ala knew it would soon rejoin its colony and ulti­mately make its way to their ances­tral breeding grounds down south. There, it would die. Next year, its chil­dren — and their chil­dren — would migrate back north again, completing the cycle.

And they won’t be carrying a box full of memo­ries with them,” she thought. Or did they, some­where deep inside the life-code that spurred them ever onward? What code was Ala carrying? And what would happen to it, if she never learned to stop stum­bling and start flying?

Careful not to disturb the monarch, she got up and stepped into the café. She quickly spotted the waiter behind the bar and went over to him. He smiled.

I just wanted to say sorry. My mind was a thou­sand miles away. But thank you.”

No worries. Can I get you anything else?”

Thanks, I’m fine.”

When Ala got back to her table, the box was still there but the monarch had gone. For a moment, she didn’t feel like she was stum­bling anymore. Every firm step is an averted fall, and maybe that is all there is.

• • •

Image credit: Image credit: Richard Hurd (adapted from source)