A Small Miracle
by Jewel Beth Davis
Cass stepped out of her cabin in the woods and stood on her doorstep. Her lank blonde 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 there was hope. And there was no hope. She lowered herself and the cat to the stoop.
Cass’s cabin 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. It 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.
Cass had been coming here for years. 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. She dabbed her mouth with a tissue. There was a speck of blood on it. 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 its weight.
She had come to the cabin to rest. The air was clean. She thought it would help. It hadn’t. She knew she was getting worse. She would not get better. And she was alone except for the cat. What would become of her marmalade 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 with illness or frailty. She knew he loved her, but he was weak. She hadn’t told him about the results of her last tests.
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 had 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 with difficulty. Still grasping the net, Cass moved with halting steps toward the enormous bushes at the side of the house. They were beautiful and full, more like trees than bushes. Their green was a glorious shade like the first leaf of spring partly unfurled, with branches the color of espresso.
Large boulders formed an edging around them. She thought perhaps there were other butterflies near these bushes. She wanted... She wasn’t sure what she wanted. To capture a 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. 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. So very still, 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.
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. But she did not mind it. The butterfly glowed too and flew out of the net.
She looked at her arm, which 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, and was still.
The orange cat came and lay down next to her, resting half in sun and half in the shade of the bushes.
Copyright © 2013 by Jewel Beth Davis