Butterflies, Forest Sprites

I believe that the greatest pleasure in life is a good nap. That, and sunsets. Oh, and blackberries too. I’d eat blackberries for breakfast and lunch and dinner if I could, but they’re so hard to find these days… The other sprites in the forest love blackberries almost as much as I do, so the blackberry bushes are always bare – if a sprite finds a blackberry, he takes it. A sprite will never share his blackberries, ever. Which is annoying. I don’t share my blackberries either though. Why would I?

But see, that’s why naps are so nice! Naps aren’t like blackberries. Not a bit. I can take a nap whenever I want. And I can take as many as I want! I took eight naps in a day once. I promise I did, I’m not making it up. Ah, I remember it was a lovely day, that day I took eight naps. I remember it being warm. Really warm. Maybe that’s why I slept so much.

Oregon doesn’t usually get that warm. Oregon is chilly for the most part, even during the summer sometimes. A few winters ago, I got so fed up with the wind and the sleet that I thought about moving. I considered California – I have a friend who lives in the Sequoias that I could stay with. He always talks about how nice the weather is. I admit, I would enjoy nice weather for a change.

But I’ve decided that I don’t want to move. For one, I’m lazy. And, two, if I moved I’d have to leave my friends – and we’ve been together for hundreds and hundreds of years. There’s no way I could leave them. So that’s why I decided not to move in the end. I guess I can tolerate the cold – it’s much less painful than leaving.

And there’s another very important perk about living deep in the forest – no humans anywhere! None at all! It’s just us Sprites here in the forest. (Well, and the birds and the butterflies, and the pinworms.) I haven’t seen a human being in several decades! I’m so glad. Human beings are awful things. Awful is a good word for them. And smelly. They smell absolutely terrible. And they make such a mess of things. Oh, and they complain a lot too – and about such useless stuff.

One time a tiny human sprung up on me and tried to put me in a jar! I still have nightmares about it actually… I was playing with a pinworm when the ground suddenly became very dark. A shadow! I expected to see a large boar or some other fat animal, but when I turned, I was face to face with a tiny human. When the tiny human saw me, it grinned a malicious grin. I remember being frozen in terror, I couldn’t move. And then the tiny human bent down and I noticed that it held a small glass jar in its hand. Luckily, Francis – one of the other Sprites – came to my rescue. Francis threw an acorn at the tiny human’s head. The tiny human blinked a few times in shock and then began to cry. Humans make such ugly sounds when they cry. And they’re so dumb too! It just sat there and cried and cried and Frances and I threw some more acorns at its head and then we left it there.

I’ve seen a few humans pass by since then, but only a few. Maybe one every 15 years or so. Imagine living in the Sequoias… Apparently humans love the Sequoias because the Sequoias are so tall and humans are fascinated by things that are taller than them. I don’t think I could bear having to tolerate the human smell everyday. And if I had to listen to them jabber on about nonsensical things all day long I’d go insane, I really would. Just imagining it makes me cringe!

Wait… You’re not a human, are you?

 

Suggested Reading: Reunion by John Cheever

Reunion is two pages long. It’ll probably take you less than ten minutes to finish. But the story will stay with you for a lot longer than that. You’ll get immersed in the dialogue, attached to the characters, and wholly invested in the story. And the final words will echo in your mind and sink into your stomach and will leave you fuming, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed with an inexplicable sense of regret. I don’t think there are many stories that have the ability to hold that much power in so little words, which is why I believe Reunion is a necessary read.

At its surface, it’s a simple story about a father and son. But even the first line, despite its brevity, conveys the depth and emotional complexity of the boy’s relationship with his father:

“The last time I saw my father was in Grand Central Station.”

Charlie hasn’t seen his father for three years, since he divorced Charlie’s mother, and is now meeting him for a few hours in New York where his father has been staying. Throughout the meeting, the reader watches both of them struggle to repair and make sense of their relationship. Trying, but not succeeding. In the end, both Charlie – and the reader – come to the saddening, but inevitable, realization that Charlie can never have the relationship he has always hoped to have with his father.

Cheever’s prose is simple and bare and shaved to the core, which is what makes it effective. And his ability to manipulate the flow of every single sentence makes the reading process so smooth, so effortless, that it comes alive in your head. The black inked letters become animated – you can almost hear the muffled voices of a crowd, can nearly smell the rustic scent of the father’s coat. Rather than reading, you’re watching the story unfold, scene by scene.

Though the language is what makes Reunion accessible, what’s most compelling about the story is its poignant honesty. It is raw and brutally real: an unfortunate depiction of the stark brokenness that underlie many father-son relationships. Throughout the course of Charlie and his father’s short time together, you empathize with, and even internalize, the deep, complex emotions – from frustration, to disappointment, to regret – that Charlie is forced to endure. You become so emotionally invested that you, like Charlie, hope that their relationship can be salvaged by the end. But deep down you know, just as Charlie does, that there is nothing left to salvage.

“Goodbye, Daddy,” I said, and I went down the stairs and got my train, and that was the last time I saw my father.

Here’s the PDF version. Like I said, it’s a quick read – you won’t need more than 10 minutes. But it’s worth every minute and more.