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SPARK » Brian MacDonald and Erica Szalkowski

Brian MacDonald and Erica Szalkowski

Brian MacDonald
Response

The Butterfly Prostitute
Erica Szalkowski

Inspiration piece

Diego wanted to sleep with the prostitute, but couldn’t find a butterfly that she would accept as payment. The first time he tried to solicit her, he brought her a hand-caught swallowtail butterfly, but she scarcely glanced at the creature, mounted in a shoebox and pinned slightly askew, before slamming the door in Diego’s face. On the way out of her apartment building, he angrily threw the assemblage in the trash. He knew the butterfly prostitute only pleasured men who presented her with a beautiful or rare specimen, but had hoped that his simple swallowtail would have enough homespun charm to illicit a sympathy lay. It wouldn’t have to been her best effort- just enough so he could say he lost his virginity to the most famous whore in Baltimore. But, instead of topping his friend’s purported weekend exploits, he was forced to admit defeat as early as first period on Monday. “Heard you struck out with a whore. How does that even work?” his friend texted him during Algebra II. “Fuck you, asshole. I’ll get her,” Diego wrote back, furious. He wanted to add a few more lines of insults, but Sister Cecilia caught him looking at his phone before he could manage it.

The next time he visited the butterfly prostitute, he presented her with a atrophaneura neptumus dacasini, which he bought online because it was both relatively affordable and described as ‘rare’ by the retailor. The butterfly prostitute took a long time to consider the specimen, pursing lips which could make a man see God when to put to good use, drumming her fingers against promising hips, “Let me see about this one,” she told him, slipping back inside. “Can I at least come in?” Diego asked, not wanting to be seen waiting at a whore’s door. The butterfly prostitute merely raised her eyebrows and left him on her worn ‘welcome’ mat. Obedient for once, Diego waited, enduring the knowing stares of neighbors as they passed. One old woman even crossed herself as she walked by, and Diego gave her back the finger as she shuffled away. Finally, the prostitute returned and handed the butterfly back, “Sorry,” she said, without sounding apologetic, “I already have one of these. Mine looks better,” and then she snapped her door closed again.

Diego biked back to his mother’s apartment with a frustration too potent for words. On an overpass, he lobbed the useless butterfly onto the freeway, and watched a minivan grind it into dust. The satisfaction wore of quickly when he realized that he could have given the $40 specimen to some girl eventually. “Damnit,” he muttered, peddling aggressively. His friends always told him that he should go after the weird ones, the not-so-pretty ones who were just as desperate as he was. He didn’t want the fumbling attention of some four-out-of-ten with Daddy issues- he wanted something special, something hot and sweaty and as sexy as a music video. Everyone said the butterfly prostitute was special, and that’s what he wanted. What he deserved. Sure, his friends would laugh at him again on Monday, but they wouldn’t laugh forever. The butterfly prostitute would sleep with him, and then they’d stop calling him ‘GoGo,’ Calixta in chemistry would return his texts, and hell, he’d probably start concentrating better in school- after all, what would be left to daydream about? He was sure she would fuck him right into manhood, right into greatness, if only he could find her the right butterfly to augment her doubtlessly enormous collection.

Weeks later, he was still without a viable plan to impress the butterfly prostitute. His friends were no help – the just laughed at him and suggested he buy a more expensive butterfly. The more he asked for actual help, the less they laughed less, scowled more and said, “Let it go, GoGo. You won’t get with her. You won’t get with nobody if you keep this up.” On his bi-weekly trip to the principal’s office for bad behavior, Diego kicked the furniture on the way to relieve his frustration, trying to simmer down at least a little so he could face penitence more effectively. He gave the sturdy display case outside of the biology classroom a stronger kick because he knew it could take it and decided to dawdle there, taking in the sepia-toned miscellany behind the antique glass. Flanked by a fetal pig in old formaldehyde and deer skull with missing teeth, Diego noticed a shadowbox containing a small butterfly. The tag read “Xerces Blue-extinct.” Diego blinked, disbelieving. The modest butterfly didn’t look interesting enough to be extinct. He glanced furtively up and down the hallway before opening the case and leaning into the display case, briefly huffing its antique scent before snatching the Xerces Blue and putting the specimen box in his jacket pocket. With natural fluidity, he closed the display case and began walking back to class casually, easily, leaving only a dustless square which would go noticed by no one.

Immediately after school, Diego returned to the butterfly prostitute’s door, flaunting his stolen specimen. “This is a Xerces Blue. It’s extinct,” Diego announced, handing it to the butterfly prostitute with flourish. She raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows and took the shadowbox, examining the prone creature within.

“How’d you get this?” she asked, raising the box and tilting it back and forth so an indigo sheen passed along the insect’s gossamer wings. He noticed a little pale depression on her ring finger, like the one on his mom’s hand- the ghost of a wedding band.

“I bought it. There’s no way you have one of those,” Diego said eagerly.

The butterfly prostitute remained silent, examining the specimen. Finally, she asked, “How old are you?”

“18,” he said, lying up by a year.

“Fine,” she said, opening the door fully and standing aside.

Disbelieving, Diego followed her in. The small apartment smelled like cinnamon incense, and Diego thought Whenever I smell cinnamon, I’ll think of this. “I’m a virgin,” he blurted as she moved around the apartment, lighting pungent candles. She shrugged, “Get undressed. I’ll be back. I’m going to get changed.” The butterfly prostitute opened a door to a back room, taking the specimen with her. Diego leaned and watch her ass go, watched her roughly toss the Xerces Blue aside, watched her consider the single butterfly specimen hanging above a double bed with only one half of the covers mussed. The butterfly prostitute reached up, took the hanging specimen from the wall, and smashed it over her knee. The butterfly split down the middle amid sparks of shattered glass, and the wings fell to the floor as separate things.

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