I Was Only Catching Butterflies

Six Sentence Stories is a weekly writers’ challenge hosted by Denise at Girlie on the Edge blog. Take part here. This week’s cue word is: Net


I Was Only Catching Butterflies 

 

I think it began with the little things… like putting the sugar in the fridge

And the teapot in the freezer, scatty things, absent-minded things,

And it’s true, I think, that I’m remembering less about the man

I’m supposed to be, though I can still tell you anything you want to know

About mechanics or the Golden Age of Hollywood or lepidopterology.

 

The chrysalis is cracking, a metamorphosis is calling

As my fingers probe the air to grasp a reality that shudders at my touch –

As though insect legs had alighted upon skin, and my voice, sometimes,

Sometimes it flitters against the acoustics of the room, no words,

Just clicking sounds, bumping sounds, like a moth hitting the window pane

Where light resides within.

 

I can’t believe for one second I did those things they told me I did:

See, I was found one eve, having escaped my room, standing knee-deep

In the vicar’s fish pond, a flower-print bedsheet to my shoulders tied tight,

And I was trying to catch with my bare hands a moth in the reflection

Of the pond’s moonlight.

 

Another time, they found me wandering the village alone in the dark,

With a supermarket trolley full of flowers I’d pulled up in the park,

And they took me back to my room and tucked me into bed,

And the next morning the visitor was there and he was cross with me,

And he told me I had to stay in my room, and I agreed, but I couldn’t remember

Exactly what it was I was supposed to be agreeing to, and then I couldn’t

Remember if the visitor was supposed to be my son or my brother or my father.

 

I’ve noticed one thing here for sure: they like to feed us all at the same time,

Give us meds, send us to bed in little swarms, put name tags on the inside

Of our clothes: apparently I am called Mr Wise.

 

They tell me I was arrested yesterday in the village, for hitting the Lord Mayor

With a pair of my underpants tied up as a net to the handle of a broom;

I explained I don’t have a violent bone in my body, that my name is Mr White,

And not Mr Wise, and that I wasn’t hitting anybody,

I was only catching butterflies.

🦋🦋🦋




Editor’s note: I Was Only Catching Butterflies is a short study on dementia and the Franz Kafka novella The Metamorphosis. As a health care worker I’ve had many opportunities over the years to work with people who have dementia. I wanted to explore the idea of a “metamorphosis of memory” rather than a physical change to the body.

Are we catching butterflies or grasping thin air? If we lose the memory of who we are, can we become whoever we dare? Had Gregor Samsa survived to a ripe old age (in whatsoever form he perceived himself to be), what would happen then, if he lost his mind (assuming he hadn’t already)?

I Was Only Catching Butterflies written by Ford Waight, 04 August, 2021.

I Was Only Catching Butterflies artworkcrystals photo and clipart digital render by Ford

Ford, The Atomic Mage.

40 comments

  1. Absolutely stunning, Ford. This passage is stuck in my head now:

    ‘my voice, sometimes,

    Sometimes it flitters against the acoustics of the room, no words,

    Just clicking sounds, bumping sounds, like a moth hitting the window pane

    Where light resides within.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a beautiful piece. There is so much that isn’t understood about the mind and the loss of memory. It can be so heart wrenching watching someone go through this. I haven’t read The Metamorphosis. I see that there is a movie based on this book. Have you watched the movie?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely lovely stuff Ford and rather close to my heart as my Mum is in the latter stages of dementia, it’s been heart wrenching watching her slowly slip away mentally. That said, she’s in a fantastic care home that specialises in dementia care, and she is, in herself, happy. She still recognises my brother and myself and can recall certain events from her past that were significant, so the spark of her is still there, thankfully.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Bruce. I wondered if this would resonate as I know about your mum from previous chats.
      I love it when a person with this disease can still recognise family and events – it shows there’s still some element of memory left even if at other times there might be no memory at all. It’s a comfort, even a joy, seeing someone ‘happy in themselves’ as you say, despite the loss.
      At the other end of the spectrum are those who are angry, sad or even violent in their loss. I think families and carers have to show a tremendous amount of courage and patience in both cases.
      Be sure to say hi to your mom from me 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “the horror, the horror” (W. Kurtz)*

    Well done, yo.

    Like Shirley Jackson, you’ve captured the worst of fears that lies within most of us, the potential for suffering that is all the more frightening for the lack of explicit description.

    Just starting to read this week’s Sixes, but it seems to be a week of, ‘What experiences in life would make a good (and horrifying) Six Sentence Story? That’d be fun!”**

    * liberty taken with the likely (according to various experts in Pediaville) intent of the author; still works as an excellent assessment of parts of life that exist on the far side of an un-crossable moat
    ** can I get an ‘Ayiiee’?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clark. Shirley Jackson is high company, and if I can show the ‘feeling’ of horror rather than ‘the horror’ then I’m doing okay I think.

      “The horror, the horror”, as Conrad superbly dialogued* his Kurtz in a heart of darkness where the antagonist perhaps instigated his own loss of identity to replace it with a madness?

      *invented word to be included in your invented words dictionary 🙂

      Like

  5. This is exquisite, Ford. The rhythm and the pace, the choice of words… another piece to be read out loud to get the full measure of those words on the tongue. Then, carried by those words, that fear of losing ones faculties – when the words cease to make sense and fly out of reach – floating not so far from the surface as the years roll by.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Mage, this piece resonates with me too. As you know I have an elderly relative who has been showing symptoms of dementia and even last week we had a mini situation. Her condition is IMO absolutely borderline so I always worry/wonder whether she is metamorphosing. So far she still appears to have that “spark” Mr Hodder (Arcane) mentioned.
    Great writing as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Oh Ford! That’s so sad. It is the sort of thing that would be particularly affecting spoken and/or performed (Alan Bennett’s A Woman of No Importance comes to mind). The butterfly angle really captures the essence of the words, bravo indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m kind of speechless about how amazing this story is. Such a tragic ailment, but the only silver lining, from my experience, is the person with dementia doesn’t know they have it. The pain is for the ones left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dyanne. You’re right, it’s true for a good many they don’t seem aware they have it, or that there is any problem at all, and appear content in the supported environment they live in.
      The character in my story who keeps escaping is loosely based on a real person who used to frequently leave us by all manner of methods. Lovely chap, who just wanted to be outside all the time rain or shine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • [Just a clarification for the readers : my comment was in no way an attempt to attract focus to my art .
        The forest fires in my area , repeated year after year, have put me in an emotional state not compatible with what/how I would like to say about Ford’s de profundis story.
        So I used the I am quite as an inside sign, since Ford is familiar with that and my views of the matter. ]

        Powerful and heartfelt full of empathy mate.
        Nothing short if what to be expected from you.

        Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m not certain what was more powerful, V – your artwork or your words. I’ve read your Six a couple of times. First upon it’s publishing. And still, I find myself unable to express my reaction verbally.
    I’m most appreciative for providing the link to Spira’s “I am”.
    The workings of the universe will never cease to amaze me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, D. Glad the artwork worked too. Took me ages collecting all those digital butterflies to attach to the photo! I was aiming for ethereal floaty butterflies style – then it turned out like those Victorian era framed pictures where the butterfly specimens were tacked down. A great uncle of mine had one and I was fascinated by it as a kid, but now looking back they’re a bit creepy really, or sad.

      Yes, Spira’s link was perfect to add to the post!

      Liked by 2 people

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