I promised Miss Stephanie at Be Kind Rewrite that there would be no evasion of assignments this week. These two pieces of short fiction are inspired by Inspiration Monday VII and the prompt “Death’s Artwork.”
Queen for a Day
Josie fiercely protected a shopping cart abundant with the priorities of her life—newspapers, cans, tattered old coats, and bags filled with carefully chosen bits of shiny detritus—castoffs from a world of excess. She had a life once, a husband, children. But that was before the illness and one by one they abandoned her, or maybe she abandoned them. She was not so much old as she was shrunken into a wizened floating sylph—life sucks and then you live. Though she muttered and raved, sometimes pure reason would erupt from her cracked lips, heard only by those who sensed the value of words spoken in cipher.
When I found Josie one morning stiff and cold in an alleyway behind my apartment, I knew there was one last thing I could do before they came to bury her in a pauper’s grave. I bathed her and brushed her tangled hair, discarded the rags and dressed her in a simple blue shift. With her face made up, the years dropped away.
The state provided a simple wooden box, in which I arranged her priceless treasures. A small funeral was held. Other street people came, and they all said that Josie never looked so beautiful.
Interview with a Lepidopterist
Oh those butterflies are so beautiful! You must have worked on this collection for a long time.
I have. It’s my pride and joy.
You must know so much about butterflies. How do you catch them?
I use the traditional nets. I know just where to find the best specimens. I’ve been all over the world and have some very rare specimens—sometimes I even sell them to make money to further my art!
Wow. Are you a scientist?
No, it’s just a fun hobby.
What happens after you net one?
Well, we have these special pins we use to mount them for display.
No, I mean before that.
You mean how do I arrange them?
No, I mean how do they go from alive to dead? You don’t stick pins in live butterflies, do you?
Of course not, that would be cruel! I euthanize them first.
There are a couple of ways. The most common is to squeeze their thorax. The force breaks their exoskeleton, but sometimes you have to do it twice if they survive the first attempt. The other way is the killing jar. I usually add a few drops of ethyl acetate to asphyxiate it, otherwise they beat their wings against the glass trying to escape, and that damages the specimen.
Why not just take a picture?