Jewel Beth Davis and Judy Weinberg

A Small Miracle

By Jewel Beth Davis

Cass stepped out of her cabin in the woods and stood on her doorstep. Her lank blond hair hung down well past her shoulders looking as enervated as she did. She was wand slender and her long fingers clasped a cat to her chest. The sun was bright. Too bright. She blinked and buried her face in the cat’s fur. She didn’t want to see the sun. It made her feel like there was hope and there was no hope. She lowered herself and the cat to the stoop.

Cass’ cabin was badly in need of upkeep, but she had no strength or resources to do it. The cabin was a dingy off-white that hadn’t been painted in thirty years. The paint was curling and peeling or just worn off in spots. It looked like a poor Depression child whose mother hadn’t bathed it often enough.  It was a one-story log cabin with a thin slate roof.  Everything was in one room, except for the tiny bathroom. There was a door in the front and one tiny window on each of the remaining three walls.

Cass had been coming here for years. It had been her Uncle Ben’s before he died and he’d left it to her. The cabin was isolated and miles from the country store and the closest neighbors. That’s what she wanted.

She took a deep breath and coughed. Her chest hurt. The orange cat, offended, jumped off her lap. Cass coughed spasmodically. There was a speck of blood on her tissue. Blue veins ran up and down her arms and pulsed in her temples. Her skin was so thin it was translucent. She put a hand to her forehead to hold the weight of it.

She had come to the cabin to rest. The air was clean. She thought it would help. It hadn’t. She knew she was worse. She was going down, down. She would not get better. And she was alone except for the cat. Her husband had stayed back in town when she decided to come up to the mountains. It was just as well. He wasn’t much help when it came to illness or any kind of weakness. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her or care but he couldn’t face it.

A butterfly net leaned against the corner of the house nearest the door. How long had it been there? She couldn’t remember. Cass wondered who’d brought and left it there. Sitting on the stoop, she reached out and picked up the long handle of the net. Deep in the bowl of the netting was a butterfly frozen in death. It had once been beautiful with swirls of black and yellow. Now it was rigid and brittle. She removed the butterfly and set it gently on the ground. She didn’t want to press it between two pages of a heavy book. Smashed flat for eternity. She wanted it to return in its own way, in its own time, to the Earth that had spawned it. She stared at the butterfly, trying to see its essence on some cellular level, as though doing so would change something for her.

She stood up. Still grasping the net, Cass moved with halting steps toward the enormous bushes as the side of the house. They were beautiful and full, more like trees than bushes. She didn’t know what kind they were. Their green was a glorious shade like the first leaf of spring partly unfurled, with branches the color of espresso. Large boulders forming an edging ringed them.  She accepted the blessing that they offered. She thought perhaps there were other butterflies near these bushes. She wanted…she wasn’t sure what she wanted, but maybe it was to capture one last butterfly.  And set it free.

Her heart palpitated as she spotted a flash of color on the far side of one of the bushes. Heart red and fruit orange, those were the colors of this perfect creation. She moved toward it so slowly, it reminded her of the crazy man taking an hour to stick his head inside the old man’s room in Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart. So slowly, only the butterfly knew she was moving. She edged closer to the small miracle and expected the butterfly to fly away any moment. It did not; it was so very still. It seemed that it allowed her to lower the net over it as it perched on the thin branch. She turned the net over and there it was fluttering spasmodically in the bottom of the net.

It will be all right, Cass told the butterfly silently.

Where she stood, the bushes transformed from green and brown to silver and gold. They glimmered as if tinged with phosphorescence. How very strange, Cass thought. The butterfly glowed and flew out of the net. She looked at her arm that was holding the net. It shimmered from pale pink to silver, the change moving progressively up towards her heart. Smiling, she fell, like a leaf in autumn drifts, slowly, inevitably to the ground.

4 Comments

  1. elizabethstelling
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm | #

    Both pieces are haunting…

  2. Gracie Burns
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 4:40 am | #

    Both the photo and the story are strikingly beautiful!

  3. Posted March 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm | #

    I love the wash of light in this photo. It lends itself to dreaming, a quality captured in the story.

  4. Damla
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm | #

    I like that Cass and the cabin have a lot in common, both are weary, tired and simple but beautiful.

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