Scene From The Lakeshore
“But why do I have to be dressed as a pilgrim meets 1920s newspaper boy?!” “Because it’s part of it.”
“Part of what?”
“It’s a butterfly catcher outfit.”
“They have outfits for that?”
I had lost a bet. Normally, I don’t make bets unless I know I can win, but I got cocky. I bet my sister I could beat her in an arm-wrestling match.
I don’t really wanna go into the fact that I am seventeen years old, my sister is eleven, and that she can beat me in an arm-wrestling match, on my good side and her bad side (left). I prefer to tell myself she is a skinny little freak of nature who by some grace-of-God was blessed with inhuman strength that could never be matched by even the strongest of humans. But even if that were true, those strongest of humans probably wouldn’t have made a bet where a loss would result in having to take their little sister out butterfly catching in full costume. Well, almost full costume. Luckily, she couldn’t find a hat.
We walked out and around our house, down the street, and to the entrance of the pathway that led behind and below the hill our house sat on. It wasn’t the woods, per se, but nature-y enough that there would probably be some butterflies.
The path was set between a steep hill and the lake shoreline. Amongst it were tall trees, small trees, branches and stumps with spray-painted orange X’s that had been cut down by the city, and a few patches of neglected dog poop. We would pass people occasionally, but for the most part it was quiet, which was good for me. The less people who saw me in this getup the better.
After walking for a while we reached the part of the lake with the large section of bulrush along the shoreline. There, the water was shallow enough to stand in and the air was just open enough that maybe we’d see some butterflies. Or not. I was cool with either. I actually hate butterflies and my sister knows it. I’ve chalked it up to being forced to go into the butterfly house at our state fair as a child. It’s just this huge room with probably millions of butterflies and they just fly around and land all over you. I’ve never understood why or how people enjoy that. All I can say is that it gave me the heebie-jeebies, which is probably fitting language considering my old-timey newsies attire, but yeah. Have never liked them since.
My sister spent little time on the shoreline before wading into the water and bulrush. Moving through it as if she were on a grand safari to discover the latest and greatest species, she motioned
silently for me to follow her. I wanted to tell her that I’d ruin the costume she’d picked out for me if I did but I knew neither of us cared. I followed her. Alternating our sightlines between the water and the sky, we finally saw one. One single monarch butterfly. The setting sun was glistening through its orange wings. Out in its natural habitat, I’ll admit it looked quite beautiful. Even peacefu—
My sister had swung her net and missed.
The butterfly was flying high above us now. Wary of what we were up to.
“Maybe it’s better if you don’t catch it,” I said. “I think it likes it here, yeah?”
My sister shrugged her shoulders. “I guess.”
I nodded, and we began wading through the water toward the shoreline. I know I was pretty bugged about this whole thing earlier, but now I felt bad my sister wasn’t reaping the full benefits of her win. But then, just as we took our last few steps out of the bulrush, it landed on me. Right on my shoulder. I could feel its delicate little legs moving on my costume. I could hear my sister gasp behind me. I turned to her.
“Do you wanna get it?”
Her net was still hanging low.
“No,” she said. “How ‘bout I take a picture?”
I nodded, pulled my phone out and handed it to her. As I did, the butterfly flew from my shoulder to my outstretched hand. Skin to butterfly leg contact. Ehh.
“Just hold still for a second. Good, good. Man, how are you getting your face like that? It looks all model-y like you’re posing for a photo shoot.”
“Then all the models must be in a constant state of discomfort.”
“Do you have it yet?”
She clicks the camera a few more times.
“Yep, got it.”
I let my arm fall to my side and the butterfly flew away over the lake. Just as it flew so far we couldn’t see it, I felt a ripple of water over my feet. I looked down to see a group of fish and minnows swimming around us. Probably twenty-or-so fish and a hundred minnows. My sister smiles and sees them too, knowing we have the same idea.
“But we’re not gonna keep ‘em, right?”
“Just for fun, then we put them back?”
“Just for fun and then we put them back.”
We both leaned down, nets in hand, and began trying to catch the fish and minnows with our butterfly nets. It was surprisingly effective. Fish were a lot more gullible, or just blind to the nets. Either way, we stayed there, catching fish and letting them go, until the sun dipped all the way into the other side of the lake.
Biographical Note: Sophie Jonsson is a senior at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sophie is pursuing a degree in English with additional minors in Art and Film Studies.