A Butterfly in Mid-flight

A Butterfly in Mid-flight



A Butterfly in Mid-flight

Far down below, tiny Noddy-cars milled around in two divergent, crooked lines pushing and pausing, pointing and snaking, like soldier ants on a mighty mission to nowhere in particular at all. On and on they went, stopping only when the traffic lights turned red. The tableau was augmented by matching sidewalks where multicoloured dots scurried in haphazard zigzag patterns, trying their best to avoid each other, but inevitably, bumping and pausing every so often. Framing the montage were two rows of buildings, rising and falling with asymmetrical loftiness and crowned with a barrage of spires, antennae, dishes and chimneys; and then, then there was a petite figure perched on the edge of one of the tallest. From the fish-eye lens that was her vision, rose a cacophony akin to a primary school brass band on their first day of practice and it filled her senses so, that there was little space left in her head for anything else. She had to strain to free herself from the drowning sounds lest it reeled her in prematurely and robbed her of her purpose for being there. From her hip pocket she pulled a slip of white and carefully unfolded it into a foolscap sheet of paper filled about two-thirds with her ever-so-neat handwriting. It was a list, numbered from one to thirteen down the side margin. She cast a last look over the rooftops, to the green hills in the distance and the shimmer of the mid-morning sun on the strangely calm harbour before turning her attention to the list.

1. Absent father-figure
Suddenly, his image was there in her mind as she had seen him a million times before. He leaned over his desk in the darkened room, the only lights emanating form a low desk light and the ever-present computer screen. “Not now, Poppit! I’m busy. Go bother your mother!” She sees herself, a dejected little girl leaning in the doorway wearing a faded pink night frock with a peeling Piglet on the front and dragging a brand new Pooh bear by its arm. She bore her big toe into the plush blue-green pile under her bare feet and slowly turned around to be rejected a few minutes later by her mother. She grew up, knowing always where he would be, bowed over his computer, mind floating somewhere in its vast ether ways, surfacing only to reject her time after time after time after time!

2. Mother never loved me
In fact, she never loved anybody. Not her daughter, not her husband, not the cat, not the mange dog that slept at the backdoor and got kicked every time it was opened, gleefully wagging its stupid stumpy tail, ruefully grateful for its daily dose of attention. She loved the TV though, and the stupid soapies with which it bombarded an entire moronic generation of neglecting mothers every sickening day of their sickening lives. Bold, Coronation Street, The thin blue line! She knew them all! But her daughter, she did not know; no, not at all.

3. Bobby Soames
Two words. The third entry on her list consisted of two dirty words. The name of the little tramp that out of jealousy stole her porcelain doll, cracked open the skull and crushed the limbs seventeen years ago when they were only seven, tasted like lead on her tongue. Bobby Soames, the bully that stole her lunch money and ate the occasional treat her mother would pack when she felt particularly bad about neglecting her and Bobby Soames, the prissy little bitch who stole John Connolly’s heart away from her last summer with that tiny bikini of which her tits threatened to pop the strings.

4. That creep Mike Meyers that I’ll never forget and never forgive unless I do this.

Mike was the cutest boy in Third Form! Well, maybe not the mostest cutest of all but most certainly the cutest as far as she was concerned. The first time she laid eyes on him, she knew that boys were after all, not all just boys. Some were different and he certainly was different. Standing there on the rooftop, she could feel the adrenalin rush of the first time Mikey touched her budding breasts, squeezed them gently and called them his doves’ eggs! Looking down at her breasts, flattened in the tight-fitting lycra top, they still did not look much bigger than doves’ eggs. But soon, the adrenalin was replaced by the wrenching pain of a sword travelling straight through her body and on and on into the depths of her soul, cutting open places she did not even know she possessed at thirteen. For Mikey then! Who left her for and pissed off at boys for the rest of her life!

5. I never lived up to mom and dad’s expectations
She was too dumb, she thought. Dad was a genius. He had a well paid job as a computer consultant. Mum, she was a pillar in the community. Always busy with some or other charity, hosting another function in aid of whatever, off to another hui to advise. “We are very disappointed in this report card!” She heard her father say. “Winners don’t come third!” her mother’s voice echoed through a hall decked in bronze medals.

6. Bullying, bitching, backstabbing and general bad behaviour
Oh, what are friends for if not for support! This was a general entry for all those supposed “friends” who helped her from the frying pan into the fire; John Brinkley who sold her the lemon that has thus far cost her more in repairs than a brand new Jaguar; Freya Calderwood the bitch with the botched nose job (serves her right) that introduced her to the evil Mary-Jane and later graduated her to Ecstasy; Bradley! Don’t forget Bradley! He, the son of the almighty Bradley P. Jones Sr., who screwed her every other week night for eight months and let his dad have her over weekends when she was high. Little did she know that while dad was having a go at her, Bradley screwed her best friend Lisa! Little Lisa who laughed in her face when she confided in her about Bradley Sr.; Little Lisa who told her with a smile that she knew all along.

7. Nanna’s death
And she did not have time to say goodbye. In fact, when her Nanna drew her last breath, she was sleeping off an acid trip in a backpackers’ halfway between Te Kuiti and the don’t-know-the-fuck-where. She hadn’t contacted anyone of the family for nearly three weeks while she was cooling off with “friends” up north and only got the news a week after Nanna was cold in her grave. She brought flowers and cried over the fresh mound of earth until she had no more tears. They found Nanna in front of her coal stove where she fell and smashed her skull against its iron base. She had been dead for a day, the coroner said, when her son found her prostrate corpse on the cold floor. She felt as if she was solely responsible for her grandmother’s demise and wondered if it could have been different if only she was home where she belonged. Maybe she would have visited at the right time; perhaps she would have been there…

8. Visa = debt
Yes, she had that too. Who didn’t? But with no plan as to how to get rid of it, it was as good a reason for jumping off a building as any. The bank had called three times the past week; she’s too scared to answer her mobile when it says “Private number”, too scared to answer the phone in the apartment! Truth is, it is not just Visa. It is the power company, it is the phone company, it is the department store, it is the car financing company, it’s the landlord, her insurance policy had lapsed and there is no point in mentioning all the friends she avoided because she owed them money.

9. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll
Corny, she knew. Corny as hell. Corny was not something she used in her songs. Those silly ditties she wrote dreaming of being a big name someday. In her songs, she was careful which words she chose; how she stitched the sentences together and always mindful of the rhythm she created. Sometimes gay, sometimes sad but lately, everything that flowed form her pen seemed to be dark and ominous. They were thoughts spawned in the many dark crevices of her life, where she hid her secrets amongst cobwebs of despair draped in pungent rotting skin peeled form her soul bit by bit.
Tears welled in her eyes. She held her breath, trying to force them back into the dank alley where they came form, but failed dismally like with so many other things in her life. She leaned back into the warm wall of what seems to be the elevator house behind her and cried.

10. Mr. Drury, the pig of all pigs.
In her mind’s eye, rose the fat face of Mr. Drury, like a shimmering ghostly apparition out of a stinking, algae-filled marshland lake. At first he was so nice to her, calling her his favourite, buying her little presents and hiding them in her drawer or amongst her files where he knew she would surely find them. Back then, he did not seem so gross, so fat, so white, sooo revolting. She actually felt sorry for him and recognized deep down in his soul, something akin to herself, hidden in the fleshy folds of his otherwise drab life. There was a time when he made going to the offices of Pushkin, Levy and Rabinowitz something to look forward to; almost making sorting and pushing all those files filled with dry legal documents around, a pleasure. But the past few months were hell. He took her for granted, he did with her as he pleased, he grunted and heaved and the niceties dried up. A week ago was the final straw. He once again ordered her to stay after work and when everyone had gone, he walked up behind her where she was making photocopies, pushed her unceremoniously over the machine and flaked her one up the ass. The pain and realization of what he was doing stunned her into a rigid, electrically charged wire doll. He seemed to like it as he only pushed and grunted harder. When he finally finished, he left her lying across the machine like yesterday’s newspaper for the cleaners to take away. “I saw this on the internet today, did you like it?” He breathed heavily into her back. By the time the pain and her tears of indignation subsided, he had long gone. The next day she stayed in bed and the next, and the next. Soon the company wrote to inform her that she was fired. They sited a host of reasons, most of which she did not get to read for the painful tears returned and completely blurred the neat handwriting of Mr. Drury.

11. Tami Tahakawa is going to kill me anyway
That day she received the letter from Mr. Drury, she used her last bit of blow. After that, Tami did not want to supply anymore before she had not paid her bill. That bill was the biggest of all. It was actually ridiculously huge! She’s never owed anyone that much before and there was no way that she was going to be able to pay it, never in a million years. Since then, she had been running away from him and got high on the gratuity of others, buying small fixes with favors, from those who still wanted favors. This is one alley from which she saw absolutely no way out.

12. About to be evicted from my apartment
Two days ago, she got the eviction notice stuck under her apartment door. It was signed by the chief rat, Mrs. Tamati, who rented those rat holes she called apartments. The chief rat had not been in her apartment since she moved in and she would be appalled at the state it was in. It smelled of mouldy pizza stuffed under the bed and opened and half-eaten tins of food standing on anything with a horizontal surface. There were unwashed clothes strewn all around the little room and cockroaches were feasting on the unidentifiable remains of many an old meal stuck to an assortment of crockery, strewn around the bathroom. ‘Insectopia’, some of her friends called it while snickering behind closed fists.

13. Slammed by the band
The Sonic Tikis was her life. She lived to sing and play the guitar. Even as she stared out over Te Whanganui a Tara, she was creating lyrics in her head. It was as if her whole existence centred on creating music. She lived for song, she lived to create it, express her feelings through it! Thus, her sisters’ abandonment was a death sentence. To replace her with that bitch Ahua was encasing her in a lead coffin before she was properly dead. She reflected on the scene that was the immediate aftermath of her girlfriends telling her she is not part of the band anymore; the band that she put together. They voted, they said, avoiding her eyes. They knew her eyes would be full of tears and they did not want to see it. They could not take her unpredictable outbursts of rage and her lyrics did not suit the band’s style anymore. She screamed, she cried, she pleaded; all fell on deaf ears. The girls had had enough. How many times in the past had she promised them and herself that she will stop putting them down, stop loosing her temper, stop being so selfish! A million times if not more and every time she would find herself having to apologize again and again. She deserved what she got, she told herself. She deserved it as surely as she planned her demise herself.

Far down below, comical little cars milled around in two divergent, crooked lines pushing and pausing, pointing and snaking, like soldier ants on a mighty mission to nowhere in particular at all. On and on they went, stopping only when the traffic lights turned red. He used to grin silently at their antics from his heavenly perch, but not this morning. The steel and Perspex walls around him wanted to squash him. The steel frame of the crane that rose from the depths below rushed up to him in a continuous and blinding speed. Outside the heavens spun at an alarming rate and sweat ran down his ashen face in icy cold rivulets of fear. A voice he has never heard before screamed hoarsely from his throat and his arms grabbed wildly at anything that came within their range. The legs of his workman’s coveralls and his scuffed brown leather boots were stained dark with urine. He was dying, he was sure of it.

Down below in the work pit, his mates stared wild-eyed up to the violently swing crane. Never had they seen anything like this. “Someone g’t up there!” screamed the foreman. Three dirty orange-clad men jumped into a sprint, almost at once. But it is a hefty climb to the top, four minutes if you’re fit, eight if you’re not.

In the control car of the crane, the blue coverall-ed man clung on to the controls for dear life. For thirty-three years he had been operating cranes and never once had he been feared the height. Why suddenly now? Down below him, he did not see the frantic orange dot suspended between the girders of the steel frame of the crane.

She stood with her list tightly crumpled in her fists, squashed against her doves’ eggs breasts. Her eyes were tightly shut with tears squeezing from the corners. A lonely sob wracked through her entire being as she stepped out onto the ledge of no return. She tried to take in the beauty of the city and the ocean below her one last time, but the tears that blurred her vision robbed her of that. But as she stood there on the ledge, toes pointing downwards, other visions began to form behind the tears. First her father; a calm smiling face, the face he wore when he came to kiss her in bed at night. He did not always have time to read a story, but he always came to kiss her goodnight. Then her mother, tired from another flight, but glad to be home; glad and even willing to share a warm cup of hot chocolate with her and dad. Lastly her Nanna’s stern but friendly face loomed in front of hers. ”What are you doing, dear?” She said. “Can I help?” The old woman stood in the door of the Marae, friendly wisps of smoke coming from the umu she was tending. Memories of a childhood spent in the closeness and comfort of the Whanau with weekends at the Marae where she met her friends that became the Sonic Tikis. The same girls that Tim Timo himself said will soon be ready for next year’s Polyphusion! She was always there, wasn’t she? She took a step backward, suddenly wavering in her decision. Is she doing the right thing? This is so final! “What if… what if I could fix all this? But I can’t! That’s why I made the list! I already tried…what if…what if Dad can fix this? Would he? Could he?” She took another step backward. “Perhaps I should talk to Dad first, I can always come back here if he rejects me.” Her mind whirled. A little light went on at the end of that dark, long tunnel.

The man in the orange coverall reached the door of the control car. Inside, the blue coverall-ed colleague sat in a puddle of piss, whimpering like a baby and hanging on to the control levers as if hugging a tree.

“Hey! Let go! Let go!” Orange screamed. He wrestled with his crazy colleague for control of the crane, stretching the stretch of the unstretchable, to reach the green button marked OFF. The crane gyrated like a Latin dancer, the forty foot steel girder hanging off the end of it, swinging in an ever-widening arc. Finally he reached the button and slammed his palm on top of it. He looked out the window as he pinned his colleague underneath a knee in a painful grip and followed the girder as it swept across the skyline. He screamed a frightful scream that only he and his vertigo-ed colleague heard when the forty-foot steel girder struck a small figure on the roof of an adjacent building square between the shoulder blades and pushed it like a rag doll ahead of it in its path. The force of it flung the small figure halfway across the road below before it came to a halt in mid-air, head back, arms outstretched and feet together, for just a moment, a butterfly in mid-flight, before plummeting to the asphalt far below.


02 May 2019


Short Stories