The Mighty Monarchs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A band of monarch butterflies travels from Canada to Mexico led by their first-born, Beaucup. The story involves true aspects of their migration; in particular, how they leave Canada for the first time and return to the same trees in Mexico where their ancestors stayed .

Submitted: January 04, 2016

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Submitted: January 04, 2016

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To the wondrous journey with God's hand written all over it.

 

The Mighty Monarchs

by Brian Kies

 

On a late summer morning outside Orangeville, Ontario, the first of two miracles was nearly complete. Sunrise painted the woods in an orangish hue; a thin mist drifted over the glass-like pond; the two-note song of a trumpeter swan filled the air; and breaking free from the protective shell he'd been inside for ten days, Beaucup was busy being born for a second time.

Five weeks earlier, he'd gone through this routine. Then, he emerged on his three pairs of legs from a tiny egg on a milkweed leaf. His mother laid the egg there because milkweed is the only food a monarch caterpillar will eat; in fact, that's all Beaucup did for three weeks. He grew so fast he shed his skin four times like a boy outgrowing his clothes. Each time the old skin came off, there underneath was the yellow, black, and white striped skin always fitting like a brand-new coat. And each time, Beau seemed pleased with the fit.

But after the fifth and final molt, all traces of caterpillar were gone. Instead, clinging to the underside of a branch was the emerald green chrysalis which he presently broke through. It might as well have been a magician's handkerchief. After Mother Nature completed the illusion, Beaucup reappeared a completely different creature: a delicate butterfly with symmetrical bright orange and black veined wings that had white patterns along the edges.

A second later, another monarch popped out from the chrysalis next to him.

“Mornin', Lenny's the name.” (They kept their caterpillar-given names.)

“Beaucup. Pleased to meet you.”

As they shook wings, Lenny yawned and asked, “You the Firster?”

Beaucup stretched. “Sure feels like it.”

“Good luck with that.”

Even though a quarter-million other monarchs were born within seconds of him--Beaucup was first--and that made him leader of their migration to the South. You see, this was that special generation which lives to the ripe old age of nine months as they travel across America, enter the heart of Mexico, roost until spring, and begin the journey home. Their children and grandchildren, who complete the return to Canada, only live two to six weeks, but the super generation is blessed with time. It is time that enables them to travel to the oyamel forest high in the Michoacan mountains and escape the cold air of winter. It is time that enables them to return to the exact same trees where their ancestors stayed.

That would be the second miracle.

After his wings hardened, Beaucup lifted off and soared through the air for the first time. He looked at his left wing, at his right wing, to the ground below, panicked and landed on a boulder. “Not so bad,” he thought. He took off a second time and was soon gliding over grass, flowers, narrow trails, streams, taking in the joy of flight all the while with a smile on his face. Then he ascended toward the clouds. As he flew higher and higher, thousands of monarchs lifted off behind him, and they looked more like falling leaves in an autumn breeze than butterflies.

After returning to ground, Beau paced about absentmindedly. “I thought of something earlier and now I've forgotten it. What was it? Think! What have I forgotten?”

Lenny, who had landed beside him, said, “Well, let's see, you've been alive for three hours. Did you think of it in your first hour? Or maybe the second? Or could it be more recent?” asking each question louder.

“The Speech. The annual Speech of Departure. I have to give the Speech of Departure!” Beau said excitedly.

It was not mandatory he give the Speech of Departure, but the tradition did date back thousands of years, and Beaucup believed in tradition. Lenny watched his new friend fly past him and out of sight. Shortly thereafter, he returned from the other side holding parchment paper and pen. Without making a sound he sat against the trunk of a maple tree and separated the paper into three sheets. Lenny continued to look the direction his friend had flown away and said, “No one said anything about Hide and Seek.” Beaucup did not answer; he was busy writing. And then at the top of his voice, “Alright Beau, I give up. Where'd you go?”

“Lenny!” Beaucup said even louder.

Lenny flew up five feet into the air screaming his alarm. After landing, he turned around and glared at Beau.

“I'm trying to write. I need some quiet right now.”

“Don't ever do that again, pal!” spelling out the first ground-rule of their friendship. Then he pretended to observe nature, almost as bothersome as his loud questions. Beaucup continued to work on the speech. He framed it into three sections: introduce the flight crew, go over a few major details, and end with the boldest proposal ever proposed by a monarch leader.

 

Later that afternoon, Beaucup lined up a hundred colleagues across from him. Just as he was to address the group, Eddie the Prankster--dubbed the Prankster after pulling off seven pranks in his first five hours--approached low to the ground mimicking a P-51 Mustang. Four of his six legs spun in front like a propeller, and his antennae had been converted into stick controls. He wore goggles the exact shape of his bug eyes. Eddie buzzed the long row of butterflies with a smile on his face.

“War's over Eddie, quite some time ago!” Beau hollered up to the Prankster. Eddie saluted him with his wing and made a ninety degree turn into the sky.

Two monarchs, Edith and Ellie, stood in the line waiting for Beaucup to begin. They were always together and usually gossiping.

“Hey, makes you feel a little special, right?” said Ellie.

“What do you mean?”

“Being in a line of monarchs.”

Edith, a second or two behind on any joke, replied, “Oh, I get it,” and started laughing.

“Hush, he's ready to speak.”

Beaucup looked left and then right along the row of butterflies. “Good afternoon to all. It is time to assemble the flight crew.” Everyone stood a little more at attention. “Well, then, who can tell me where the nearest field of nectar is located?”

Not a single monarch raised a wing.

“This is not a trick question!”

One butterfly slowly lifted her wing.

“Please step forward.”

She cautiously move forward but did not answer.

“Yes?”

“Two hundred yards southwest of Meade Meadow, Sir.”

“Very good, and your name?”

“Catalina,” she said softly.

“Very well, Catalina, thank you.”

Catalina curtsied and stepped back in the line. Beaucup had asked this question because their nourishment no longer came from milkweed; it now came from nectar.

“Well, then, who can tell me the direction to Mexico?”

Wings started pointing every which way; everyone wanted to be Path Specialist so everyone guessed. But only one butterfly said, “Thirty degrees South-southwest, Sir.”

“And your name?”

“Dawner.”

“Thank you, Dawner. Now, everyone at ease. I have some orders for you.”

The butterflies listened attentively to Beaucup and then proceeded to carry them out. Millions of monarchs assembled into what gradually took on the shape of an orange and black single prop plane. A wobbly stack of butterflies approached the plane and spun the propeller-made-of-monarchs. The butterflies on the propeller furiously flapped their wings. As the prop spun faster and faster, the propeller-monarchs exclaimed Wooooooooh, their voices rising higher and higher until the engine started and all voices hummed steadily. The pilot, who went by the name of O & B Baron, wore goggles and had a monarch scarf around his neck. The copilot looked extremely nervous. “Are ya sure this is gonna work? I don't see it happenin'. I tell ya, I don't see it happenin' at all. Ya even know the first thing about flyin' this machine?”

“Well, someone's never been to a Rose Bowl parade. Not gonna work. You're talkin' to the O & B Baron here. Besides, if it cracks up, we just fly away.” As the plane rolled down the makeshift runway, the co-pilot looked more at ease, but then the O & B Baron put his hand on one of the controls and said, “I can't remember what this one's for?”

“Cut it out, Baron! No funny. No kiddin' around here!”

The Baron let out a big laugh and as the plane ascended into the sky, everyone looked up and saw the banner it carried:

 

MEET TOMORROW ORANGEFIELD FALLS SUNRISE

 

Beaucup had skillfully delegated his first order: sending out word for all to assemble at Orangefield Falls.

 

As the sun rose that next morning and warmed their wings, the butterflies gathered at the base of the waterfall. It was a breathtaking area, the Orangefield River descending over the middle of a mile-wide, treeless ridge and cutting across a green field of winter rye. As row after row formed, the ground began to resemble two gigantic orange carpets. And this was no ordinary group of monarchs. They used their wings like flash cards to spell out GO on one side of the river and BEAU on the other side. When the young leader appeared atop the ridge (the ridge being a mere ten feet high but looking like Niagara Falls to the butterflies), a roar ascended from below and some chanted Hail the King! Beau improvised on his speech and addressed the crowd with his first words, “Please . . . there will be no monarchs . . . that is . . . there will be no kings on this continent.”

Beau had positioned three butterflies in front of him (one to the left, one in the middle, one to the right), each holding a page of the speech. An opinionated butterfly in the crowd named Walter turned to the monarch next to him and said, “They say he's a great orator but all he does is read from that darn parchprompter.”

Beaucup continued, “I would first like to introduce our flight crew for the migration. Lenny, please step forward.” Lenny walked up next to Beau and the crowd applauded with their wings but it made no sound, maybe the hint of a faint breeze, but certainly not applause. Nevertheless, Lenny accepted their gratitude. Beau had selected Lenny as his Right-Wing Man because he had been born right next to him. And even though Lenny would end up questioning most of the the ideas Beau expressed along the journey, he never wavered in his choice, having been born right next to him. “By the power vested in me from those . . . who vest powers . . . I hereby declare you to be my Right-Wing Man.” A roar of approval rose from below, and Lenny appeared to be moved by the ceremony. Beaucup was ready to introduce the next appointee but Lenny continued to stand next to him. “That will be all, Lenny.” Lenny slowly backed up. Beau then asked for Catalina to step forward. She inched her way up to his side. “Catalina, I hereby name you Chief Scout, and request that moving forward, you go by Scout. Your duties will consist of flying ahead and reporting back any danger . . .

 

(murmuring instantly came from below: Danger . . . who said anything of danger . . . what does he mean, danger?)

 

. . . that is, minor problems . . .

 

( Alright . . . we can handle minor problems . . . right . . . yeah, we're okay with minor problems.)

 

. . . and to find appropriate places for nourishment and for resting.” Another roar from the crowd and Catalina, too, appeared moved by the ceremony. Finally, he called on Dawner. The opposite demeanor of Catalina, Dawner boldly stepped forward to a point not alongside Beaucup, but rather one foot ahead of him. “My good friend, seeing as we've known each other for a day or so now, I appoint you to perhaps the most important position of all: Path Specialist. Even though the butterflies will sense which direction to go, a slight turn here or a slight turn there may be required of you.” The monarchs looked a little subdued after this pronouncement. They weren't so sure about someone else telling them which direction to go. After Dawner stepped back between Lenny and Scout, Beaucup continued, “The journey is long, the days are short . . . ”, and covered other aspects of the trip until reaching the conclusion of his speech:

 

“And so my light-winged friends, I end with this: We have been the greatest migratory movement going for thousands of years, yet hardly anyone gives us the respect we deserve. I have been thinking on that and have determined we need a new name; a nickname, if you will, that gives credence to our remarkable feat. Henceforth . . . moving forward . . . . we will be known as . . . . . the Mighty Monarchs.”

 

Absolute silence greeted the boldest proposal ever proposed by a monarch leader. Until Lenny spoke in a deadpan voice: “Jeez Beau, we’re just butterflies. A good thunderstorm can eliminate a hundred-thousand of us.”

Beaucup gave Lenny a perplexed look and then gazed back at the troops. “Now in the past, we have traveled individually to Mexico, but this year let us make the journey together. Let us migrate as the Mighty Monarchs. Are there any questions?”

A low buzz started up and quickly grew louder as thousands of butterflies consulted among themselves until the deafening noise stopped and Beaucup heard from below (all at once but slightly out-of-unison), “Why is this place called Orangefield Falls?”

Beaucup looked at the falls, which emptied into the river, which cut across the orange field. He turned to his crew and said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Then he exclaimed, “It is time for the migration to begin!”

“We have a problem with that,” said Scout.

“What do you mean a problem?”

“One butterfly insists she's not going.”

A look of astonishment overcame Beaucup and he stated in a loud voice, “Not going! . . . Not going! . . . There's no NOT GOING in monarch migration!” Then he quietly asked, “What's her name and where is she?”

“Her name is Molly and I last saw her fishing at Clover Leaf Pond.”

____________________________________________________________________

 

In a small valley high in the mountains of Michoacan lay the village of Angangueo. At one time a profitable mining area, it now subsisted as a community of farmers. Its buildings and houses of adobe and wood spread across the valley floor in an array of bright colors: lime-green, yellow, chalk-white, turquoise, pink. Almost all had red-tiled roofs. Beautiful flowers adorned the porches of the little houses and, over the past few years, the houses had crept up one side of the mountain.

In the middle of town, the Inmaculada Concepcion Church rose high above all red-tiled roofs. Here lay the heart of the city and the dusty streets that led to it were not unlike the veins of a body. Its towering steeple could be seen from anywhere in the valley.

Even higher than the church tower lay the town's main cemetery. In the middle of a quiet field a small rock wall outlined its rectangular shape, and a white gate provided entrance. Slanted trees stood silent among the graves. At exactly the same time Beaucup delivered his speech, a short dark-haired woman named Maria Prado stood by one of the graves. She wore a white cotton dress and held a simple bouquet of flowers. Nine months earlier, she experienced the saddest day of her life.

 

* * * * * *

 

Maria had just finished preparing chilaquiles and eggs for her family. “Breakfast is ready,”she hollered out. Her husband, Miguel, and two of the three daughters--Rachel, the oldest, and Amparo, the youngest--entered the kitchen. Maria left the room and walked down the hallway to her son's bedroom. She stood just outside the door. “Jose, breakfast is ready.” As she returned to the kitchen, the six-year-old child did not move. Jose was a remarkable boy, full of curiosity and candor, but ever since birth he had health issues off and on. As of late, he appeared very tired.

Miguel, Rachel, and Amparo now sat at the table. Maria dished up her plate and the third daughter, Nora, entered the kitchen.

“Good morning, Sleepy,” said her father.

“Morning.”

“Jose!” Maria called out loudly.

Maria set her plate on the table and returned to the bedroom. Amparo picked up her fork but her father thumped his fist twice on the table and said, “We will wait for prayer,” exaggerating his sternness. Amparo placed the fork back on the table. When Maria's scream hurtled down the hallway into the kitchen, Miguel's heart sank to the floor. “Wait here, girls,” he said quickly leaving the table. The girls looked at each other frightened. Miguel hurried through the hall into the room where he found his wife on her knees weeping by the side of the bed.

“He's not breathing, Miguel” said Maria.

Miguel felt for a pulse and placing his arm around his wife stammered, “No, no, not my son.”

Jose had passed away overnight, and that dawn began the long mournful process for the Prado family. They agonized over their loss for several months, and Maria made many trips to the Inmaculada Concepcion church to consult with Father Padilla.

On her very first visit Father Padilla had said, “Jose is now in God's hands.”

“He was always in God's hands,” whispered the mother.

 

* * * * *

 

Maria leaned over and placed the bouquet of flowers upon his grave. She had come to much better terms with her son being gone, but one matter remained to ensure the safety of his soul--the return of the monarch butterflies. For centuries, the orange and black creatures had descended upon the nearby forest and represented the souls of departed loved ones to the village. Like clockwork they almost always arrive by November 1 and this is fitting: it coincides with 'THE DAY OF THE DEAD' celebration. On All Saints' Day, or the Day of the Little Angels, the spirits of departed children return for twenty-four hours. On November 2 or All Souls' Day, the spirits of departed adults do the same. That year it was especially important the monarchs arrive by November 1. Miguel walked up alongside Maria and they said a prayer for it to be so.

___________________________________________________________________

 

Flying above the red-yellow countryside, Beaucup located Clover Leaf Pond; it was easy to find being in the shape of a four-leaf clover. He spotted Molly along a bank and descended landing beside her. “Any luck with the fishing?”

Sensing the purpose of his visit she replied, “No, but I have plenty of time.”

“Well, actually, you --- ”

Molly cast out her line.

“I see. Let me try this another way. Molly, you are a monarch and migration is what we do: it is our past, our present, and our future. There is no choice involved in it.” Looking concerned he added, “Besides, if you stay here, you will freeze to death!”

“Well, I don't have to go all the way to Mexico to avoid the cold! I understand Florida is nice.”

Beaucup did not immediately respond as the comment took him by surprise. Then he said, “Florida . . . maybe in your eighth or ninth month, but surely not till then.” Molly missed the humor so he continued, “Seriously, there must be a reason why we go to Mexico, maybe it is something we can't quite understand.”

“If we can't understand it, then why do it!”

“Because it's the way we're made,” asserted Beaucup. “Molly, I like the way you think. I need monarchs like you on the migration. Please fly over to Orangefield Falls within the hour.” Beau said this not only to ensure she join the group, but because he did like Molly and hoped to make the journey together. She said nothing as he ascended and slowly disappeared from sight.

 

After returning to Orangefield Falls, Beau appeared restless. As the time passed, he paced back and forth atop the ridge.

“What seems to be amiss, El Capitan?” asked Lenny.

“You know we're not the only outfit preparing to leave. Four other groups are migrating to Mexico and we have to merge in Texas. I don't want our group to throw it off.”

“Well, what are we waiting on?”

“Nothing,” Beau said irritated by the question.

“Shall I give the command then?” asked Dawner.

“One moment. I have some parting thoughts.” Beau walked to the edge of the ridge and used his wings to quiet the crowd. It did not work. When he flapped them down, he went up a little ways into the air. He tried a second time with the same results and said, “Darn it!” Everyone in the crowd thought he was practicing takeoffs. After one more failed attempt he hollered out, “Mighty Monarchs!” and had their attention.

“Always remember this. With the wind at your back, fly high; with the wind in your face, fly low to the ground.” He looked up to the sky on his right. “And if the wind is too strong, wait for it to return from the north.” He looked to the sky again. “Always remember that.”

“Give the order now?” asked Dawner.

“Settle down jackrabbit,” said Beaucup, “I'll let you know." Turning back to the crowd he continued, "Be cautious near all waters: pools, ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans.”

“Oceans?” pondered Dawner.

“Some will go astray.”

“Not under my watch!”

Beau looked one last time to the sky and concluded: “Most importantly, remember this. At times you will have to look out for yourself in order to survive! I repeat, at times look out for yourself in order to survive!” The crowd turned somber after this most important advice. Beaucup turned to Dawner and regrettably said, “Alright, go ahead with the command.”

Then with the uncanny timing of a female, Molly touched down on the ridge.

“Hold up, Dawner.” Dawner deflated from the puffed-up state he had assumed to give the command. Beau walked toward Molly, a look of total relief on his face.

“Good news, bad news, Molly.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“The good news, I am . . . that is . . . I mean, we are all delighted you are joining us for the journey. The bad news, at times you will have to look out for yourself in order to survive. Do you understand?”

Molly nodded in agreement.

Beau turned to Dawner who re-inflated and exclaimed at the top of his voice, “To the South . . . and Beyond!”

Not a single butterfly budged.

Lenny leaned over and whispered, “Dawner, that's sort of been taken.”

Slightly embarrassed, the Path Specialist said in not so loud a voice, “I see . . . well then . . . to the South and Mexico!

He lifted off and set a southwestern direction, but after a few minutes he was the only monarch on a path to Mexico. Behind him total chaos ensued as millions of butterflies kept running into each other trying to take off. Observing from the ridge Beau repeated, “What have we gotten ourselves into?" After sorting it out, they assumed a spectacular flying formation above the autumn landscape: Dawner in the lead, followed by Lenny and Scout, then Beaucup and Molly, and twenty million butterflies casting a shadow over Canada the size of Rhode Island.

 

Later that day, Beaucup and friends flew in large circles high in the sky. Beaucup had immediately picked up the art of soaring by observing hawks and shared it with the others.

“Good thing you figured this out, Beau,” said Elsa, “we'd never make it to Mexico without it. How did you figure it out?”

“Hawks.”

“Could you be more brief ?” commented Walter.

“Walter, stop flying around Lenny!”

Then Ernie chimed in, “I think we could make it without this.”

That prompted Lenny to say, “Oh really! You might want to sharpen your tool-set there ol' buddy. We change direction every half second and look like we can't decide which way to go.”

“And what's that supposed to mean, Lenny?” asked Ernie.

“WE CAN'T FLY IN A STRAIGHT LINE!”

Beaucup looked below and noticed Molly struggling. He flew down alongside her and said, “You have to stop flying and start soaring.”

Molly looked puzzled. “Stop flying! Stop flying and fall to the ground. Are you already tired of my company, Beau?”

“I said stop flying and start soaring . . . follow me,” and he began to ascend. As they rose to a higher altitude, he told Molly to watch a hawk in the distance. “You see how he circles around. He's moving on the warm air that rises from the ground. As long as he does that, he barely uses his wings and it's like a free ride. Go ahead, try it." After she stopped fluttering her wings, Molly fell and cast a doubtful eye toward Beau. But when she rose on a warm pocket of air, her face lit up with excitement.

“Whee!” she exclaimed, holding up her wings as if riding on a roller coaster.

Beau grinned as he watched from a distance.

A little later, with the sun setting in the west, Scout flew up alongside Beaucup and said, “Looks like the end of the first day of the journey.”

“Yes, and a successful one at that. Several monarchs were soaring today. Now everyone's looking forward to some good nectar, Scout. Finish the day off right for us.” She flew ahead and located some large fields of colorful flowers. She reported back to Beaucup.

“Any luck?”

Scout smiled and answered, “Goldmine!”

“Come on, come on,” Beau said gesturing with his legs for more.

“Fields of bright-petaled flowers as far as the ol' bug-eye can see.”

“Excellent, Scout.”

He issued an order for all Mighty Monarchs to follow her direction. This made Dawner a little jealous as they always followed his lead, but he did not have time to think about it: he was busy marking the sun's position and mapping out the direction for the next day. After the butterflies touched down, they uncoiled their straw-like mouths from under their heads and inserted them into the flowers. After a long day's flight, the nectar tasted delicious. Beaucup and Molly shared the same dandelion.

“Dawner says (sips nectar) we traveled (sips more nectar) --- ”

“Beau, finish your nectar first!”

“Sorry.” He sipped a few more seconds.

“Dawner says we traveled sixty miles. That's a fair distance with the late start,” he said turning to Molly.

“Why are you looking at me?”

“My, this is good nectar. Excellent location for our first stop!” Beau hollered out to Scout who dined a few flowers away.

Scout smiled.

As dusk turned to darkness, most of the butterflies ascended into trees to fall asleep. Beau, Molly, Lenny, Dawner, and Sam the Storyteller remained in the field, their eyes reflecting a quarter moon.

“I can't sleep,” complained Dawner.

“It would help if you had eyelids,” said Lenny.

“Lenny, must you always be so negative?” asked Molly.

“Yes, Mother.”

Dawner continued, “Why did you have to say that, Lenny. Now I can't stop thinking about eyelids. I need eyelids! We need eyelids! Hey, how do we sleep when we're always looking at something?

“Pretend you're looking at the back of an eyelid,” said Molly.

All the butterflies laughed and Dawner exclaimed, “Molly made a funny!”

“It's just the nectar. It will wear off in a little while,” Beaucup explained.

They rested in silence until Dawner asked, “Anyone have a ghost story?”

More silence.

“Sam, you awake?” said Beau.

Crickets in the distance were all to be heard.

“Sam?”

Another spell of silence then the Storyteller began:

 

"Once upon a time in a field far away, a group of butterflies rested just above the ground. Content with nectar in their tummies and the scent of wild chamomiles in the air, they quietly admired a yellow moon on the horizon, the biggest moon they had ever seen. But, suddenly, the yellow moon disappeared. The butterflies were now in the shadow of an enormous raccoon who stood three feet high on his hind legs. The raccoon rubbed his paws together as if preparing for hors d'oevres before his main course of squirrel.”

 

Sam looked to his left and then to his right. The butterflies were gone. He flew up to the nearest tree and rejoined them. High above the possibility of a raccoon, they all fell asleep.

 

Two days later, the monarchs had taken advantage of an excellent tailwind and traveled a good distance--seventy miles--when Beau looked around and sensed their weariness. He was about to address this with Scout when something caught the corner of his eye. Above to his left, a large duck slowly passed and resting on its back was the Prankster. Eddie had wrapped his goggles around the duck's neck to provide protection from the wind, and he held his head up with two of his legs. He looked out over the struggling monarchs and said “Losers!”

“Brother!” exclaimed Scout.

Then Beau heard something from his right side. Above, a group of butterflies were flying in V formation and sang tauntingly in na-nana-na-nah fashion: WE'RE MORE EFFICIENT! WE'RE MORE EFFICIENT! In all the commotion, no one heard the faint sound of the prop plane. But as it drew nearer and Beau looked back to his left, he became furious. “I gave specific instructions, Baron. That plane's only purpose was to carry a banner!”

“Oh,” said the O&B Baron.

While Beau looked down and shook his head, the Baron whispered to the others around him. When Beau looked back up he not only saw the plane still in tact, but the banner it now carried. The banner read, 'Losers!' Beaucup looked to the heavens. “Why this generation?” Then he said to Scout, “I think we need to stop for a while.”

She located a grove of large trees. Scout, Beau, and ten thousand butterflies slowly descended upon one of the trees. This was a time-consuming operation, and it was imperative nothing hinder their rest. Beau immediately noticed a problem Scout had not considered. Blackbirds! Two hundred of them. Blackbirds and butterflies can coexist on the same tree, but here's the rub: if one blackbird flies away--wham!--all blackbirds fly away. That would be followed by ten thousand butterflies on the same tree flying away, then ten thousand on the next tree, and so on down the line. "Did you notice the blackbirds?”

“No,” Scout said sheepishly .

“Next time, please do!”

Wearing a half-smile she said, “Remember our first stop? . . . Wasn't that something?”

Beau looked at the top of the tree and noticed one blackbird slightly flap his wings. “No,” he whispered, hoping it to be the extent of the bird's movement. But the bird fluttered his wings again, this time a little longer and a little louder. “No . . . please stop.” Then the blackbird flew away and the entire domino effect ensued. A few minutes later, Beau glided up alongside Scout and said, “I'm sorry I spoke so harshly.” He realized she had no way of understanding blackbird behavior, being her first time in a tree with them. But the beauty of the migration is one learns from their experience, so it would not happen again.

No one complained about the five-minute rest; the monarchs simply flew on. Beau let them travel another thirty miles before settling in for the night, and a good night's rest they would need. The next day would bring the first major obstacle of the journey--one that would prove most shocking to the little creatures.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Maria stood by the living room window and looked out at a heavy rain. The dirt road in front turned from light gray to dark reddish brown, and little rivers cut through it to the end of the road. Loud claps of thunder rolled slowly across the sky. She turned and looked at the wooden table in the center of the room.

“Rachel!”

Rachel placed her book on the nightstand and walked into the living room.

“Yes, Mama?”

“Help me move the table against the wall.”

And so began the altar for the Day of the Dead celebration. They build the altar to honor their departed loved ones, and it is a joyful celebration for two reasons: the departed are now in a safer place and, as mentioned earlier, their spirits return home for twenty-four hours. They will burn candles and incense upon it to help guide them home. Maria walked to the center of the room to see if the table had been centered correctly. “A little to the right,” she said walking back and they moved it another half foot along the wall. “Good. Now the tablecloth and crates.”

Walking to her parents bedroom Rachel asked, “Aren't we starting the offrenda a little early, Mama?”

“Are we? Maybe just a little.”

Rachel was correct; they were starting earlier. This altar would light the way for Maria's little boy. They entered the bedroom. "Crates are on the left side, Mija.

While Rachel removed them from the closet, Maria opened a small wooden drawer and took out their tablecloth. She inspected it for cleanliness and put it in one of the empty blue milk crates. They carried the crates to the living room, and as Rachel positioned them along the wall, Maria walked into the kitchen. Side by side the crates were the exact width of the table. After she draped the tablecloth over the table, then the crates, it had been transformed into a two-tiered altar.

Maria opened the cupboard and pulled a cigar box from the top shelf. Inside the cigar box were the white candles they use during the celebration. It is tradition to burn one candle for each departed relative. For the last few years they had used two candles--one for Maria's grandmother and one for Miguel's father. She pulled out two candles from the box. Another clap of thunder rattled the house. Maria hesitated, then slowly removed the third candle. She closed the cigar box and placed it back in the cupboard.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

That next morning after flying for an hour, millions of monarchs skidded to a long, silent halt.

“Where'd the land go?” asked Lenny.

Dawner, noticing the monarchs flying stationary, said, “Hey, I think only hummingbirds can do this!” The butterflies looked beneath themselves and screamed frantically as they flew away to land on the trees along the shore. From there, they looked out upon a most unusual situation. Across the horizon--as far as they could see--they could only see water. Dawner and Scout passed the word it was just a lake and all would be fine.

Ernie stared across the vast stretch of water and commented to Walter, “That's one big lake.”

“No, that's one great lake,” replied Walter.

Even though Dawner said everything would be fine, he knew it to not exactly be the case. He flew over and landed on the branch next to Beau.

“We have a dangerous situation here.”

“No, no . . . you said everything would be fine . . . no bad news right now, please.”

Dawner continued, “If the wind changes from the south, we probably won’t make it.”

“What do you mean we won't make it? We fly back to shore and wait it out.”

“That's not possible.”

“Why not?”

“Once the migration begins, a monarch never backtracks.”

“Even when facing death?”

“Correct El Capitan. He'll struggle along until he collapses.”

“Why, that's the stupidest thing I've --- ”

“Beau, let me help you with the dynamics of our brain,” said Lenny, “it's the size of a pinhead!”

“Another great confidence-builder from Lenny. Look, if it changes, then we wait it out on the boats. Yes, we will wait it out on the boats. Tell everyone there has to be even distribution though--even distribution or disaster.” For several minutes, even distribution or disaster passed from tree to tree, but by the time it reached the final tree the butterflies looked confused. No one understood what 'Levon wished confusion for his master' meant.

After flying for an hour, their fears were realized as a strong wind rose out of the south. At first, the butterflies descended over the choppy waves, but the winds were too strong; they furiously flapped their wings but only moved upwards and back. And it was too dangerous to be so near choppy waters. From above, Beau watched the butterflies begin landing on vessels strewn across the great waters. All was going well until too many were descending upon the Carol Ann B. “Hey, even distribution down there!” he hollered out in earnest, watching the boat turn into an orange float. Slowly, it sank a half an inch. Even after it sank another inch, the butterflies were oblivious to it. But they were not oblivious to the thundering sound they heard from inside the cabin, and their little hearts started thumping faster. The captain ascended the steps out the door and bellowed, “Away with you, monarchs!” He found amusement in watching thousands of butterflies frantically fly away. Then the captain noticed in the shadow of a coiled-up rope the one butterfly who remained. His wings were over his head and he was shivering. The captain picked him up, placed him in the palm of his hand, and said, “Aye little mate, are we not bound for the South?” The frightened butterfly slowly lifted his wing to see the captain's huge, bearded face and quickly covered up again. The captain blew a puff of air toward the palm of his hand, and he was back on his way. Just about that time the winds shifted from the north and the monarchs continued across the sixty-mile wide lake. After reaching the southern shore of Erie, they made the loudest noise of the entire journey: the collective sound of twenty million butterflies sleeping on the ground and lightly snoring.

 

Several uneventful days passed as the monarchs crossed over Ohio and Indiana. However, on their first day in Illinois, they encountered strong headwinds again. After flying low to the ground, the butterflies began attaching themselves to the nearest trees. Edith and Ellie landed on a branch and impatiently waited for the wind to change direction. Both looked bored as the tree swayed in the southerly gusts.

“We could be here for hours,” said Edith.

“For as long as it takes,” replied Ellie. “How 'bout a game of twenty questions.”

“Bring it on, honey.”

Ellie thought for a while and said, “MB.”

“Male or female?” asked Edith.

“You know the rules. Only yes-no questions.”

“Male?”

“No.”

“Madame Butterfly.”

“Darn you!”

“Layup,” said Edith.

Two branches above, Walter and Eddie were conversing. A bare limb stretched out across from them to another tree and the Prankster made a proposal: “I bet if I give you a good spin Walter, you can't walk across that limb without falling.”

“Bet I can.”

Eddie grabbed one of Walter's antennae and spun him so hard he turned into an orange and black top. After he came to a stop, Walter started across the limb. He wobbled left and he wobbled right but made it to the other side. Then Eddie flew over and landed beside him. They now faced the opposite direction as if the winds were at their back.

“I stand corrected, Walter. Excellent balance. Hey, the winds are from the north again. We can fly.”

A dizzy and confused Walter replied, “You're right. Press on.”

As Walter headed north, Eddie remained on the branch with his devious smile. When Walter passed over the water tower with an eagle painted on top, the one they had just passed before stopping, he returned to the tree branch. No one was there, the Prankster having left for another location.

Beaucup observed the branches swaying in different directions and asked Dawner, “What's your take on it?”

“The winds are variable now. I expect them to shift back from the north soon.”

Dawner proved to be correct. Shortly thereafter the butterflies resumed their flight to Mexico.

 

Other than strong headwinds, the monarchs had enjoyed a long run of relatively easy days. That was about to change in the hills of Missouri. They flew beneath bright cotton clouds but ahead lay dark, menacing sky. The storm had formed quickly and the afternoon grew so dark, it made the day appear to be dusk. A strong thunderstorm was actually their worst enemy: one drop of rain could end a monarch's life at any time. Scout hurried to find cover. They were in luck; she located the edge of a forest with hundreds of oak and hickory trees. As they descended toward the forest, flashes of lightning followed by booming thunder frightened the little creatures terribly. Big pellets of rain began to fall all around them as they took refuge on the underside of leaves. Molly flew up to a branch where one leaf remained untaken. Then she noticed a frail butterfly looking for shelter. Molly pointed to the leaf with one of her six legs and said to the helpless girl, “Fly under here.” While the grateful butterfly attached herself to the leaf, a large drop off rain struck Molly in the middle of her back. She began to spiral toward the ground. Falling faster and faster, she saw the large puddle below and knew the end was near. She tried not to look below as she moved closer and closer to the forest floor. Then everything slowed down, and Molly saw herself meeting Beau at Clover Leaf Pond and Beau teaching her how to soar and the monarchs crossing the great body of water. She looked back down and everything sped up; the ice-cold puddle now as large as Lake Erie and only three feet away, then two feet away, then one foot, and when only inches away, Molly felt herself being scooped up and deposited under a leaf.

“Maybe next time, you'll listen!” Beau said emphatically (referring to the look out for yourself in order to survive). Are you alright?

“Yes . . . thank you so much, Beau . . . I wanted to tell you something so badly and I didn't think I would ever be able to . . . and thank you Beau . . . thank you so much.” As Molly spoke, Beau had been dodging big raindrops left and right, so he flew away to find his own shelter. Molly watched him reach cover feeling slightly embarrassed, slightly proud.

That next morning the monarchs looked down and saw broken limbs and large pools of water scattered across the ground. Orange and black comrades floated everywhere in the still pools of water. Above, crystal blue sky beckoned for another day's flight.

Once air-bound, Beau noticed no one was talking.

“How far do you think we've traveled, Dawner?”

“Almost half way, El Capitan.”

“Everyone seems to be acting a little different this morning. What's your take on it, Scout?”

“Shell-shocked from the storm.”

“So I'm not the only one. Alright, let's take the day off. Do we have a good stopping point ahead?”

“Yes, a nice mid-sized town .”

“Perfect. Pass the word to everyone. And make sure they all know to be careful. There are dangers down there.”

Thirty minutes later, the butterflies had scattered out among hundreds of neighborhood lawns: resting on fountains, enjoying nectar, exploring hedges and gardens. Beau landed on the leaf of a hibiscus flower in a small circular pond and used his wing-tips to paddle to the side. Then he escorted Molly onto the leaf and pushed it back toward the middle of the pond. “Be careful of the water!”

“And if not, you will rescue me?”

“One rescue per trip, Molly,” he said flying away.

Molly smiled.

Edith and Ellie had been listening from the house eave above.

“Well, isn't she the special butterfly,” said Edith.

“I'd trade places with her in a heartbeat,” replied Ellie.

Along a lengthy hedge, the monarchs shared bright-petaled flowers with bumblebees and hummingbirds. At the end of the hedge, one butterfly, Boudro, rested and admired the statue of a large white cat. He had been admiring the statue for quite some time and pondered how the sculptor made it look so real. Poor Boudro was not quite as observant as the other butterflies. When the huge white paw swatted at him, he understood why it looked so real and escaped just in the nick of time.

Later that afternoon another monarch named Maggie would not be so lucky. Beau had noticed the spider web earlier in the day and as she headed straight for it he hollered, “Look out, Maggie!", but it was too late. And once trapped in a web, nothing could be done. The spider returned at its leisure and simply rolled up the victim and dragged it away. The monarchs who witnessed this event became very sad, and Beau decided to leave before the rolling up and dragging away of Maggie. He turned to his sad-faced friends and said, “Let's move on.” Beau flew over to the garden pond and landed beside Molly. With barely enough room for two, it created an awkward moment as he paddled to the side.

“Thank you, my Captain,” Molly said stepping onto the stone terrace.

Still on the eave Edith said, “Oh please, she could have just flown off that leaf.”

“I'd trade places with her in a heartbeat,” replied Ellie.

Everywhere, the butterflies lifted off from the lawns and ascended into the sky. Ellie took a slightly different route. She landed on the hibiscus leaf, briefly sighed, and then flew skyward, too.

Beaucup wanted to be by himself, so he found a secluded pocket away from the others. Within minutes, Molly flew up alongside him and sensed his mood.

“Hey, what's bothering you?”

“Nothin's botherin' me.”

“So why the long face?”

“What long face?”

After a few seconds of silence Beau said, “It should have never happened.”

“Maggie?”

“I should have marked the area as dangerous. I'd seen the web earlier in the day.”

“But you warned everyone to be careful. Remember . . . there are dangers down there!”

“I suppose.”

Beaucup flew further ahead of Molly. She again came to his side.

“You may not want to hear this right now Beau, but you are doing an outstanding job as our leader.”

“Oh really! Do you think Maggie would agree with that? That is, if she could still express an opinion.”

“Yes, oh really!”

“Look Molly, to be quite frank about it, I never wanted to be leader. I wish I'd never been born . . . . . . first.”

“But you were.”

Beaucup looked somewhat irritated knowing the response left him no leeway. He flew into a cloud where Molly could not find him. But one last time she came to his side. As she gave her final piece of advice, the two moved out from the cloud into clear sky: “Beau, no one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. But some make fewer than others, and they should be our leaders. You happen to be one of them.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Think about that.” As Molly flew away, Beaucup's expression changed to a half-smile.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

It was a lovely autumn day in Angangueo; the red-tiled roofs shone brightly under a clear, blue sky. Maria leaned out the window and watched her daughters jump rope in the fresh air. "Girls, why don't you gather the sugar cane today.” Each October the children gathered sugar cane stalks and used them to build an arch over the altar. Later they would pick wild marigolds to decorate the arch. The three went to their room and retrieved the baskets they used each year. Just before walking back out Maria said, “One moment,” and when they turned they saw she was holding a soccer ball.

“Remember how much Jose enjoyed gathering the stalks?”

“Yes, Mama” said Rachel.

“Why don't you take it with you.”

Rachel walked over and took the ball from her mother and the girls went back outside. Leaning out the window again, Maria watched her daughters walk down the narrow street with their baskets in hand, and kicking the ball among themselves.

At the end of the street, a hill rose steeply away from the little houses. It leveled off into an open field and that is where Miguel was busy tilling the soil. Holding the plow behind his two oxen, he moved straight ahead at a steady pace. Then he stopped. He had looked across the field and seen another farmer showing his son how to plough. Miguel stood there in the silence of the morning and pulled out his red-checkered handkerchief. He normally used it to wipe the sweat from his brow, but not on that morning. He dabbed the tears away from the corner of his eyes and put the handkerchief back in his pocket. Then he continued ploughing the field.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Sometimes sad days can be followed by a good day. Flying higher than usual, the Mighty Monarchs took advantage of a strong tailwind and traveled two hundred miles into the Ozarks of Arkansas.

On their first morning there, an unusual matter occurred. Beau was leading a large group of butterflies in group exercise before taking off for the day. They had just finished side straddle hops and began doing wing lifts.

“Higher, Ernie. Straight up along your head!”

“High as mine go, Beau.”

Then everyone looked the same direction. In the light of the rising sun, twenty monarchs approached from the east. After they all touched down, one approached Beau and said, “Good morning.”

“Good morning to you and your friends.”

“We hate to bother you — ”

“No bother. How can we help?”

“Somehow we separated from our group and I'm afraid we are lost.”

“Where do you hail from?”

“Connecticut,” the monarch replied.

“The Eastern Flank, I see. Well, we're all family here, Connecticut. You're no longer lost. Join us and we'll reunite you with your group.” The twenty easily blended in as the Orangeville unit ascended for another day's flight.

 

Over the next few days, the butterflies crossed the mountains of western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma and entered into the prairies of Texas--their gateway to Mexico. Soon, somewhere over the center of the great state, the five groups would merge into an enormous flyway for the last leg of the journey. It would be a proud moment for every monarch butterfly.

Scout found a clearing in the middle of some woods for their first night in Texas. And being their first night in Texas, they decided to build a campfire in a corner of the clearing. They rolled grass up into little bales of hay and placed them around the fire and sat there staring into the embers; however, everyone seemed a little lethargic. Sam began a story:

 

“Once upon a time there lived an eagle on a lakeside hill. One evening from high atop his perch, the eagle observed a band of monarchs battle crossing winds over the lake . . . ”

 

Sam always included the monarchs in his stories; it usually helped to capture their attention. But not on that night. Even it failed to strike a spark.

In the middle of the clearing Beau, Walter, and Lenny were conversing. Walter suddenly spoke in a thick Texan accent, “Dadburnit! What in the world's wrong with us.”

“Why are you talking that way, Walter?” asked Lenny.

Ignoring Lenny, Walter said, “What day of the week is it?”

Dawner had just walked up and answered, “Saturday.”

“That's what I thought. Dadburnit, look at us all mopin' around. We're in Texas on a Saturday night mopin' around. What we need is a dance hall.”

“A dance hall everyone. Everyone look for a dance hall,” Beaucup said loudly.

“Your nuts, Walter,” added Lenny.

Then Walter positioned his antennae across his mouth and produced a special whistle. This caused thousands of monarchs to roll out a one-foot tall bare tree limb from the woods. “Nuts, you say,” said Walter. Their sheer numbers raised the branch and by flapping their wings in force they moved enough dirt around the base to support it. They repeated this routine three more times thus assembling the four corner posts of a rectangular dance hall.

“Now, we need some string,” said Walter.

Sam, who had given up up on his story, walked up to Dawner and asked, “What's going on?”

“Walter, here, is building us a dance hall. He says we need some string. Let's give a look around, Sam.”

They flew into the woods and immediately struck pay-dirt. “Sammy, lookie what I found.” Sam flew over to where Dawner stared at the ground.

“Some old trot line, Sam.”

“Perfect, I'll be right back,” and he returned to the clearing and Walter.

“Mission accomplished. We found the string. Now what do we do with it?”

“Wrap it from post-top to post-top, then run it back and forth across the two longer sides.”

Sam returned to the woods with a large group of monarchs and explained the task at hand. Each butterfly then wrapped its six legs around the line and with wings in unison like the oars of a great ship, they lifted off and carried the trot line toward the corner posts. On the way over a butterfly behind Lenny commented, “Six leg do come in handy at times, now don't it partner.”

“Now six leg sure do, partner,” Lenny replied rolling his eyes.

The monarchs reached the first post, circled around it three times, and repeated the same process for each post until returning to the original one and wrappring it for a second time. Then they strung the line across the two longer sides.

Meanwhile, another group of monarchs followed a second set of instructions and built a saloon bar just outside the hall.

Lenny returned to Walter and Beaucup and the three stood there in the middle of the rectangular posts. Walter continued, “Nuts, am I. Let me tell you somethin' my two fine bedfellows, you're so dumb there's nothin' to compare you with.”

Above them, another group of monarchs completed a final set of instructions. They captured fireflies and positioned them in groups of three at equal distances along the lines. “If you all stay here and alternate glowing, big bowls of nectar will be available after closing,” explained Dawner. The fireflies accommodated and by producing a constant light across all points, the classic Texas dance hall bowed its head to Saturday night.

Beaucup and Lenny looked totally befuddled.

“Look at each other, will you. Did you ever see anything like yourselves for being dumb specimens.” Walter began to laugh and to skip his feet.“Where's the dance hall? You're so dumb, you couldn't see what you were standin' on with your own two feet.”

Then the strangest event of the entire migration occurred. A group of men--each a half foot tall--emerged from the woods. But these were not just any men: the group consisted of Willie Nelson, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Lyle Lovett, and Kris Kristofferson. Willie had an acoustic guitar, Buddy and Roy electric guitars, Waylon a stand-up bass, Kris a steel guitar, and Lyle a harmonica and accordion.

“Did someone say dance hall?” asked Willie.

“Scout?” said Beau.

Scout flew up alongside Beaucup.

“What kind of flowers were in that last field?”

“Sorry, Captain. Me Scout, me no botanist.”

“Why in the blazin' saddles is everyone suddenly from the Old West?” screamed Lenny.

The six men stood in silence and stared at the monarchs.

Edith said, “Well, are they going to play or not?”

“All these gentlemen are from Texas. They are waiting our permission,” replied Ellie.

Then Eddie the Prankster flew up and hovered in front of Holly's face. “Nice frames.”

“Thank you little fellow. Uh . . . like yours too, man.”

Eddie flew back to the dance floor and the legendary musicians continued to stare at the crowd.

“Maybe something a little up tempo,” suggested Beau.

“Lyle, you have somethin' a little up-tempo?” asked Buddy.

“Here's a song about your next door neighbor,” said Lovett.

He broke into the introduction of 'That Was Your Mother' on the accordion. The rest of the band joined in and the butterflies instantly began to dance. They moved in unison: three steps to the left moving left wings up and down, three steps to the right moving right wings up and down; flew an inch to the left, then an inch to the right. In all the commotion, Beaucup and Molly ended up on opposite sides of the dance floor. They looked around for each other and saw each other at the exact same time. They walked to the back of the dance floor and met in the middle.

“May I have the pleasure of this dance?” asked Beaucup.

Molly curtsied and replied, “If it pleases the Captain.”

They swirled out across the dance floor and joined their friends who no longer looked lethargic.

Lenny walked over to the saloon bar. Behind the bartender there were various bottles of nectar: Rosebud, Dandelion, Thistle, Lantana, etc. Walter walked up to the bar a few feet from Lenny.

“What can I do you for, partner?” asked the bartender.

“Somethin' to wipe the dust from the corners of my mouth.”

“May I recommend the Rosebud. A touch stronger than the others.”

“A glass of Rosebud will do just fine then.”

Lenny looked up to the sky. “Please wake me up!”

The band finished the song and the monarchs applauded with their wings but there was no sound. Kristofferson turned to Orbison and said, “That's weird.” Then the band went into 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain' with Willie singing and playing acoustic guitar, Waylon on bass, and Lyle on harmonica. All of the butterflies slow danced across the floor. A couple of fireflies shorted out their glows after teardrops trickled down their bodies.

Molly looked up at Beaucup. “Is the Captain feeling better this evening?”

“Yes. Someone gave me some very helpful advice.”

“Then, the Captain must admire this someone.”

“Yes, very much.”

Edith and Ellie sat on a bench for viewing dancers and, as usual, formed opinions on monarch behavior. Ellie tapped Edith's shoulder. “Look at Scarlett Simpson over there.” Scarlett Simpson had always thought of herself as a southern belle and would do anything to gain the gentlefly's attention. She stood there among the men fanning herself with part of her wing. Ellie put her antennae in her mouth which caused Edith to laugh profusely.

Halfway through 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain', Ernie and Elsa stepped off the dance floor--though it was level to the ground--and returned to the campfire. Staring into the embers and listening to the song became the most romantic moment of their lives. Elsa rested her head on Ernie's shoulder.

After the song finished, Holly looked out at the crowd and said, “Rumor has it if we play this next tune, y'all will do the Butterfly Boogie. Waylon, come over here.” Then Buddy looked up to the fireflies. “A little strobe, please.”

The band broke into 'Fade Away'. During the instrumental parts of the song, the monarchs stepped forward then backward moving their wings up and down with each step. But whenever Buddy sang the vocals, they came to a halt. Waylon and Lyle harmonized the bop-bops in between the lines. Fireflies provided the strobe lights. When the song ended the monarchs again gave their silent applause.

“Now that's just flat out weird, 'O,” Kristofferson said to Orbison.

“I hear ya, man!”

Then Willie stepped forward. “For our last number tonight we have a special guest. Now in the past, Texans have counted on their friends from Tennessee and tonight is no different. All the way from Clinch Mountain, let's give it up, or at least do that strange, silent thing for Mr. Guitar himself, Chet Atkins.”

The finger-picking icon emerged from the woods with his brownish-orange Gretsch. He stepped onto the stage and looked out to silent applause. “Uh, thank you so much . . . I guess. Fellows, let's do a song about a rose. No, not just any rose, but a San Antonio rose.”

The band broke into the classic tune and everyone took turns singing the verses. Above, an eagle circled in the sky. As the eagle rose higher and higher, the song became fainter. When the song ended, the dance hall lights went out. Not long after, the campfire did as well.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

It was a glorious Sunday morning; the Inmaculada Concepcion church stood majestic against the light blue sky. Inside, the Prado family stood up in their pew. Father Padilla looked out over the congregation and said, “Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” As the villagers exited the large wooden doors, church bells emanated out across the canyon. Almost everyone lingered about before returning home to their lunches. The adults intermingled with adults; the children with children. Miguel walked up to his good friend, Fernando, and Fernando's son, Hector, joined the three girls.

“We need to pick marigolds today, Fern. Where are the better fields this year?” asked Miguel.

“A large one south of the cemetery.”

“I see.”

Hector turned to Rachel and said shyly, “Hello.”

“Hello, Hector.”

Everyone knew they liked each other but Rachel would never admit to it.

“Also, one a mile north of the work-field,” added Fernando.

“Near the cemetery, is that off the El Camino path?”

“Yes, and it is beautiful, Miguel. With the late rains, the best crop I have ever seen. I am sure it is for my mother and your son.”

“No doubt. God bless them both.”

As they shook hands Fernando said, “Have a blessed day, my friend.”

“Same to you, Fern.”

 

After returning home, the Prado's prepared the table for lunch. As Maria dished up a plate she asked Rachel, who stood by her at the counter, “Did you remember to borrow a basket from the Augustine's?”

“I'm sorry, Mama. I forgot.”

“What are we going to do with you, Mija. Responsibility is a necessity for life.”

“She's thinks about Hector too much,” Amparo said from the table.

“I do not . . . I'm going to kill you, Amparo,” pinching her sister's shoulder.

“Ow. That hurts. Stop it Rachel!”

“Girls!,” exclaimed Maria.

“Hector's a good boy. He'll be at Universidad in a few years,” said Miguel.

“I'll go ask for it. You might lose your way going two houses over,” said Maria. She smiled at Rachel as she walked out the door.

Miguel turned to his daughters with a serious look on his face. “Girls, I've been wanting to go over something with you. I know we decorate the graves October 31, but this year's a little different. Sometimes it can be too soon. Let's see if Mama brings up going to the cemetery. It might be too soon with Jose. Do you understand?

“So we don't say anything?” asked Amparo.

“That's right, Amparo.”

“I miss Jose, Papa. I want him back,” said Nora.

“I know.”

The daughters walked over and hugged their father.

“One day, girls.”

They sat down at the table and Maria returned with the basket. “And now there were five,” said Miguel. The family blessed the food and began their meal. “Fernando said there is a good field south of the cemetery. We will go there after lunch.”

An hour later, the Prados walked single file up the gentle slope of the El Camino path. When they reached the top of the hill they looked down upon a large field of bright yellow and orange marigolds. They continued single file on the other side of the hill until reaching the flowers. There, the family leaned into the field and picked the marigolds and placed them in their baskets and looked as if they had walked into a painting by Millet.

____________________________________________________________________

 

Under cirrocumulus clouds that spread across the morning sky, Beau and Molly glided along in conversation. They appeared to be flying just beneath a desert of white snow.

“We need to have dances more often,” said Molly.

“I think everyone had a good time,” replied Beau.

“I had a lot of fun, how 'bout you Cowboy?”

Beau looked at Molly and was about to answer when he noticed Scout flying toward him at a speed he had not seen before.

“What's wrong, Scout?”

Out of breath she frantically exclaimed, “We have to act fast, Beau. A crop duster's up ahead, and we're heading straight for him.” There had been rumors of these low-flying machines and Scout was unusually perceptive to their danger; she had shared the information with Beau. He remained calm. He always remained calm in the face of a crisis.

“How wide is the field?”

“I'd say a mile.”

Beau instructed Scout for her and Lenny and Dawner to bring enough volunteers that would stretch a mile at the field's northern edge. Not long after, thousands of monarchs were arriving and forming the line to extend the width of the field. As Molly flew past Beaucup she exclaimed, “Great plan, Beau!” He smiled momentarily. With everyone pointing four wings upward and shouting, “Fly high", the great plan worked beautifully as butterfly after butterfly rose up over both the field and the crop duster. Beaucup looked down the line at Molly. She smiled and nodded her head toward him. He nodded back. Twenty minutes went by and no other butterflies passed, so Beau signaled for the mile-long line to move on. This happened just in the nick of time; the plane approached the northern edge of the field. After Molly ascended into the sky, she looked back and saw three more monarchs straggling along. She was about to return and warn them about the crop duster but looked over at Beau and continued to fly across the field. Then she flew up alongside him. After displaying a lesson well learned, Molly thought Beaucup would express how proud he was of her, but instead, she found a butterfly wearing a very long face.

“What in the world 's wrong with you, Grumpy? We just saved thousands of monarchs.”

“They're killing the milkweed, Molly . . . they're killing our children's milkweed.” She said nothing but thought how he always seemed to be thinking.

 

After three more travel days, Dawner and Scout advised Beau they were now flanked by the other four groups. Beaucup proudly stated: “Mighty Monarchs, here marks the moment of miraculous merger!”

“Great alliteration, Beau. You want us to land?” asked Lenny.

“Go away, Lenny.”

Following tradition, the butterflies descended upon the hill country of Central Texas. Beau instinctively knew where to find the oak tree with the enormous hollow. When he entered it, the other four leaders were waiting in the dim light of five flickering candles.

“Welcome! I am Bingo of the Eastern Flank,” handing Beau a carved out acorn. “Here, some well-earned nectar.”

Beaucup looked around at the others. “Thank you. Great to be here.”

“How's the migration been so far?”

“Good except for a strong storm in Missouri. We took heavy losses there.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Gentlemen, I believe we are here to discuss our flight plan,” said Beau.

The five leaders huddled together and Bingo did most of the talking. As he spoke, he drew with his leg in the dirt. As Beaucup listened, he looked around at signatures carved by previous leaders inside the trunk:

 

ANGANGUEO OR BUST

JACKSON

 

NEXT STOP, MICHOACAN

MICKEY

 

THE SIERRA MADRES ARE OURS

ODELL

 

Bingo concluded, “So by taking a southwest direction at that point we will reach the Sierra Madres.” Generations of butterflies had followed the Sierra Madres to their destination near Angangueo. Then Bingo turned to Beaucup and said, “There have been rumors your group has taken on a name. We hear, the Mighty Monarchs. Is this true?”

Beau cautiously looked at the other four as if in trouble and answered, “Yes.”

“Then I submit a motion for our united groups to so be named, and that your outfit, Beaucup of Orangeville, lead the final leg of our journey. Do I have five ayes on this motion?” The others raised their acorns of nectar and stated 'Aye!' Then Beau, moved by the proposal but slow to react, softly added his 'Aye.' The butterflies shook legs and returned to their groups to review flight plans.

Beau found Dawner. “How well do you handle pressure?”

Dawner extended a wing, and it was perfectly still as if to say--I can handle anything--then confidently stated, “Pressure is not in my vocabulary, Sir!”

“Good. You're now leading over two-hundred-million butterflies.”

Dawner's wing began to quiver.

 

It became unseasonably hot that afternoon, and Beau realized the butterflies needed to stop; they could never risk overheating. He turned to Scout but before he spoke she said, “Find a good location?”

“Yes.”

Scout returned a few minutes later and advised Beau, “Some lovely woods ahead but a large stream through the middle.”

“The monarchs have shown excellent judgment around water. I think we'll be fine.”

The butterflies descended in droves upon the woods. Some searched for flowers while others rested in trees, Lenny preferring the latter. Whenever they encountered hotter temperatures, it always took a toll on Lenny. He attached himself to an unusually large leaf and fell into a semi-sleep.

What happened next happened so fast, no one could have prevented it. A strong wind rose up from nowhere and the leaf, along with Lenny, broke free from the tree. As it swirled toward the middle of the stream, he slowly came out of his stupor. By the time he knew what was going on, it was too late; the leaf landed in the stream, and tiny droplets of water splashed his wings. Now, floating merrily down the stream, he heard Beau from above the left bank.

“You alright, ol' buddy?”

“Couldn't be better. Relaxin' till the wings dry out.”

As Lenny said this Beau saw ahead what Lenny could not see; a one-foot drop off across the stream. Its gentle rapids would mean the end of his dear friend, so he instantly dove toward the leaf carefully landing beside him.

“Start paddling,” said Beau.

“If you don't mind, I'll just let the wings dry out and then fly away.”

“Look, I don't want to frighten you pal but there are rapids ahead and if you reach them before the bank, those wings are never drying out.”

Lenny immediately stood up and began paddling with two of his legs on the left side of the leaf. Beau paddled the opposite side. A crowd of monarchs, including Molly, now watched from the trees and cheered them on: the two were in dire need of support. They had achieved at most a ten degree angle toward the left bank. “Pick it up, Lenny! We're not gonna make it.” Lenny, hearing the rush of water downstream, quickened his pace and with Beau paddling furiously, the angle increased to thirty degrees. But would it be enough? At ten feet away the waters roared and Lenny could see streaks of sunlit mist everywhere in the air. Beaucup saw his friend truly afraid for the first time.

“Faster, Beau! We're not going to make it.”

Beaucup was paddling twice as fast as Lenny but replied, “Alright,” to appease his frightened friend.

Five feet away from the rapids, everyone could see they had run out of time. Molly's body turned limp, and she prayed for some kind of miracle. Beau, realizing he had to fly away, turned to Lenny with a tear in his eye and said, “Best Friend Forever.” Then Molly's miracle occurred. An eddy formed two feet from the drop off, and when the leaf caught the side of it, it slung Beau and Lenny toward the bank. One last gallant effort of paddling brought them to rest on a large, flat rock. They were less than a foot from the rapids.

Lenny collapsed and lay flat on his back. Monarchs dropped down everywhere onto a trail by the stream and cheered “Hip Hip Hooray”. Molly landed on the rock beside Beaucup who had taken a knee next to Lenny. When Beau looked up at her she said with a wry smile, “Looking out for yourself?”

“It doesn't work all the time.”

Lenny looked up at his dear friend and said, “Thanks, buddy.”

Beau replied, “No worries,” and then flew up and landed high in a tree. He was shivering and he remained there until his shivering ceased.

 

Two days later, somewhere over Mexico, Beau and Molly flew side by side enjoying the autumn morning.

“Beau, why do you suppose Lenny is so negative?”

“I try not to think about Lenny. Don't you love this cool weather.”

“Yes, I do.”

“What's your favorite time of our three-quarter year, Molly?”

“Right now.”

“You mean as in autumn?”

“No, I mean as in right now.”

“I see.”

Then they rose up over a hill and there they were in all their glory.

“The Sierra Madres have never looked better,” said Beau.

Molly looked puzzled. “Beau, this is your first time seeing the Sierra Madres!”

He returned the puzzled look, and she added, “Oh, I forgot. It's the way we're made.”

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Maria walked into the kitchen and addressed her daughters: “Girls, I 'm going to visit Father Padilla. Can you make the pan de muertos while I'm gone?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Nora, “for the altar?”

“And the cemetery.”

The girls smiled at each other.

Maria wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and left for the church.

“Amparo, please start the fire,” said Rachel.

Nora removed flour, yeast, salt, and sugar from the cupboard. Rachel opened their little refrigerator and got out four eggs, butter, and three oranges. They put the ingredients on the counter and began mixing them into a large yellow bowl. Amparo walked in with the wood. She lit the fire and then walked over to the counter and began peeling the oranges. They grated the peels and added the zest into the mixture and the bread dough was ready. Rachel turned the yellow bowl over and it fell on to the counter.

“Should we make them into skulls?” asked Nora.

“No, not this time,” said Amparo.

“What about angels then?” said Rachel.

“Jose never liked them as angels,” Nora said.

Amparo said, “Remember when he tried to catch that rabbit ?”

“The one he tried to catch all day,” said Nora.

“Yes.”

“And the way he kept laughing,” said Rachel and the girls laughed themselves, too.

Amparo continued, “Let's make them into rabbits.”

“Rabbit it is,” said Rachel.

The girls began shaping the dough. Rachel commented that Nora's looked more like a hippopotamus than a rabbit. Amparo told Nora to make it into a hippopotamus and maybe it would look like a rabbit. They chatted and laughed and continued shaping the dough as best they could.

 

Morning clouds had settled into the canyon and a fine mist saturated the air. Maria ascended the steps toward the Inmaculada Concepcion church and opened the large wooden door, which creaked loudly. As she walked beneath the the high ceiling arches, her footsteps were the only sound in the empty church. The scent of burning candles drifted over the pews. Maria felt anxious. It was October 31 and not one person had reported seeing a monarch. The door to Father Padilla's office was open.

“Good morning, Father.”

“Good morning, Maria. How are you?”

“Not so good, Father.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. What seems to be the problem?”

“You know how important it is for the butterflies to arrive by tomorrow and there has not been a single sighting and I'm sure you understand what it means to my family this year and if they do not return, I do not know what I will do.”

Father made sure she had finished her thoughts before responding.

“Why is it when you need your faith the most, you abandon it? Do not give up on your faith, Maria. Rely on it and the monarchs may yet arrive.” They said a short prayer for it to be so. As Maria walked back through town, the sun broke out and the mist began to clear.

 

Later that evening Miguel walked in after a long day in the field. Amparo hurried over to him and whispered, “Mama said we'd take pan de muertos to the cemetery tonight.”

“Good,” the father whispered back and hugged her.

As twilight turned to darkness, the Prados moved back and forth through the candlelit room of the offrenda. In the days leading up to October 31, they had hung paper cutouts of skulls from the altar and laid purple garlands back and forth across it and positioned pictures of Grandpa, Great Grandma, and Jose on the table. Nora had placed his soccer ball on top of a crate. Now they were adding favorite foods to entice their spirits home. Maria brought in a plateful of tamales and corn tortillas from the kitchen. Miguel placed a wooden platter of mangoes and a small glass of water next to the picture of Jose. The water quenches the thirst of the weary soul from its long journey home. Rachel put some pan de muertos on top of the crates.

Meanwhile, Amparo was outside making a trail of marigolds from the street up the dirt path to their front door. The scent of the flowers helps lead the spirits inside. When she walked back in, the family gathered around the altar and shared Grandpa and Great Grandma stories.

“I remember when Grandpa was on the porch and hit that beehive with a broom,” said Nora. As she continued the story, a Mariachi band stopped outside and played. The joyful music drifted through the open window. After performing two songs, the little band moved on to the next house.

“Well, let's go decorate the graves now,” said Maria.

She went into the kitchen and removed three red-glassed candle holders and three candles from the cupboard and carefully placed them on top of the blanket in her basket. The candle holders had Mother Mary etched on their sides. Miguel put two small bottles of tequila in his pocket and grabbed a small broom. The girls put marigolds and pan de muertos in their baskets, and they left for the cemetery.

A full moon in a cloudless sky lit the pathway for the family as they walked in the glow of its light. After ascending the hill outside the village, they could see the eerie light of burning candles emanating above the cemetery. They walked across the open field and entered the sacred grounds. Under the slanted trees, which reflected the flickering light, several families decorated. Miguel swept up around the three graves and then the girls sprinkled marigolds on them. Maria placed a candle holder and a pan de muerto on top of each headstone. Miguel lit the candles and then put the small bottles of tequila on the adult headstones. Rachel spread out the blanket and the family lay down. Miguel looked down a row of graves and saw Fernando. They waved to each other.

“Mama, what's your favorite story about Jose?” asked Amparo.

“Let me think; there's so many. Alright, I have it. When he played outside with his soccer ball for the first time. I can still see him as if it was yesterday. He slowly kicked it down the street, the ball never moving a foot, his head never looking up, kick after kick, down the street, straight into the cow.”

Everyone laughed, and then Rachel began a story.

As Maria listened, she heard the intermittent laughter of families across the cemetery. She was grateful to be with her own, but tomorrow was 'The Day of the Little Angels', andthere had still been no monarch sightings. She repeated Father Padilla's advice in her head.

Fernando's family stopped by on their way out and visited for a short while. Then Miguel told one last tale and the family returned home.

 

The next morning Maria walked out into the yard. Radiant sunlight flooded a clear sky and cool air had settled upon the village overnight like an enormous blanket. At last, after all the preparation, the Day of the Little Angels had arrived, and it seemed to be the most beautiful day of the year. She looked into the deep blue pool of sky and said, “Good morning, Son.” Miguel came outside and walked over to his wife. They hugged for a long while. Then he took a few logs back inside and started the wood oven.

A little later, Maria and the girls prepared lunch for their picnic. They rarely spoke and carried out their parts like a fine-oiled machine, an assembly line of tradition. They cooked tamales, black beans, tortillas and mole sauce over the wood oven. When the food was ready, the girls put it into baskets along with the remaining pan de muertos. Miguel carefully removed the arch from the altar and placed it over his shoulders. Maria grabbed some blankets and they left for the cemetery.

Other families ascended the hill carrying their arches and it gave the appearance of a religious ceremony. Once there, Maria laid down the blankets and the girls set out straw mats and paper plates. This included a setting for Jose. They said grace and began their meal. More stories were shared and after finishing lunch they visited with several other families. It was the support system in place for centuries and remained as strong as steel.

Although the afternoon had been enjoyable and Maria felt Jose's presence, ever so often she looked to the sky. As the day slowly approached dusk, she spoke less and less. Then Amparo tugged on her father's arm and asked, “Why is Mama crying?”

“Because the butterflies have not arrived.”

Maria turned and with sadness in her voice said, “Let's gather our things and go home.” A few minutes later, Miguel placed his arm around her and the Prados left the cemetery.

As they walked through the little gate, no one noticed something descending through the fire-red sky. And Maria felt nothing after it touched down on her shoulder. But when Molly flew up and landed on her nose, Maria opened her eyes as wide as overcoat buttons. Then Molly flew a few inches away and motioned for her to look up. In the distance she could see the butterflies, at first hundreds of them, then an orange and black river flowing through the sky. Father Padilla had been right. As Molly returned to the river, Maria continued to cry but now they were tears of joy. Amparo walked over and hugged her mother's waist. Then the other girls did the same, and as the five of them stood there gazing into the most beautiful of all skies Maria whispered, “Jose . . . we love you!”

_____________________________________________________________________

 

As the days passed and millions of monarchs streamed in, the damp chilly forest gave up its dark greens and browns to orange and black. The hundred-foot tall trees were now completely covered by butterflies clustering together to stay warm. When the sunlight broke through, they became circular towers of stained glass standing upon their church of nature. Beau could sense everyone's elation in reaching the winter grounds. Everyone except Lenny. He complained about all the fluttering and trying to nap. It was simply amazing what Lenny could complain about; millions of fluttering butterfly wings reach the level of a soft rain.

Occasionally, a monarch would fly away and explore for a while before returning to its tree. This went on for a week or so until everyone fell asleep, everyone except one.

That evening Beaucup looked to the sky and noticed one last butterfly descending toward the forest. He knew it had to be Lincoln, the most observant of all monarchs. As Beau watched him fly in smaller and smaller circles toward an oyamel fir he said, “Come on, Lincoln, touch down.” And after he did, Beaucup reflected on all that had transpired along the journey. Then he looked around at the sleeping miracle and fell asleep, too.

 

One night, two months later, a light snow fell, but no harm came to the butterflies; the trees formed a thick canopy which protected them.

 

Another two months passed, and one morning Beaucup woke up. It took half an hour to shake the grogginess off. Now came the most difficult part of the trip: convincing his outfit they had to fly back to Texas. For the time being he did not have to worry about it; it would take a few more days before everyone awoke from hibernation. When they did, Beau gave another Speech of Departure, but this one was more informal. He explained with spring just around the corner the humans needed to gather their crops but would not do so until they had departed. This seemed to work as thousands of monarchs nodded in agreement and said things like “that makes sense” and “humans, what would they do without us.” Within a few hours they were on their way back to Texas, but once in Texas, it would be a different story as far as continuing north.

 

After gliding over the Rio Grande River to an area known as The Valley, the butterflies were in great spirits. This was their second time to the region--they had rested there on the way down--and it was their favorite location. Temperatures were always moderate, and the fertile soil produced an exquisite variety of flowers. Because of this, the talk began of not traveling any further north. Nothing was new about this; it had occurred on previous migrations. If it did not turn into an outright rebellion, it came close to it. Of course, Lenny had to begin the second-guessing.

“This place is like paradise. Why return to Canada? I say we stay!”

But it was Lenny's compassionate pal, Jon, who concerned Beau the most. If anyone could ignite a rebellion, it was Jon Pal Jon--as Lenny called him. Beau listened to his reaction.

“Lenny makes a good point. It never freezes here. Why go back where we are forced to travel thousands of miles. Why not teach our children to stay here,” Shouts of support for Jon Pal Jon arose from the crowd.

“Not go back . . . teach our children to stay here . . . no . . . not possible,” said Beau.

“Why not? Give me one good reason why we travel any further north,” asked Jon.

“Because it's the way we're made.”

“You always use that one, Beau,” Dawner said softly.

“No, not you, too! Some Path Specialist.”

Dawner turned sheepish and walked away.

More shouts arose from the crowd and Beaucup realized the situation was growing out of hand. He crafted a way out.

“Flight crew, follow me.”

The five butterflies flew a little distance away and landed in a huddle: the Captain had his play. “Alright team, here's the game plan. We're gonna start flying north and Lenny, not a word out of you. Is that clear?”

“Aye-aye, El Capitan,” said Lenny.

“Can I be quarterback? asked Dawner.

Beau gave Dawner a dismissive look and said, “Ready.”

All five shouted 'Break' and flew north.

The butterflies initially acted as if it did not matter. But their eyes began to dart left and right to see if anyone else was leaving, and they panicked. What are we doing?--we can't stay here. Then, like waiting for someone in class to ask the question, they looked around for another monarch to fly away. Jon Pal Jon left to go speak with Lenny and that was it: everyone headed north. If there was one trait Beau understood about monarchs, they need their leaders.

A few days later Beaucup saw Scout flying toward him and he became a little sentimental. He realized it might be the last time she rushed up with news. He was very proud of Catalina; she had done an outstanding job. This time it was the same message given at least a dozen times on the journey.

“Major problem, Beau. Major highway up ahead.”

This one frustrated him more than anything. For the final time he exclaimed, “I tell them to fly high, but noooh, they always fly low! For gosh sake, fly high!” Then he added, “Think crop duster!”

“Remember the dynamics, Beau . . . brain size of pinhead!” said Lenny.

“You're a piece of work.”

Lenny smiled taking it as a compliment.

Two days later, the butterflies again descended upon Central Texas, but this time they were at the end of the journey; the little creatures were plain worn out. They could be extremely proud of their accomplishments and certainly had lived up to their name. The female butterflies deposited eggs on milkweed plants and the next generation would continue north.

Beaucup and Molly selected a beautiful peach tree for their final resting place. They lay side by side among the fragrant pink blossoms which covered the branches. Molly looked at Beau and asked, “Do you think the children will turn out okay?”

“They will go through their changes but, yes, I think they will be just fine.”

When she noticed his tattered, faded wings and how tired he looked, she whispered, “Beau, you are right. It is the way we are made.”

He smiled but did not speak. Then he said, “Molly, you never told me what you wanted to say when you were falling toward that puddle.”

“Oh my . . . let's see . . . that was so long ago . . . I'm not sure--”

“Molly!”

She smiled and said, “How much I love you!”

“Not as much as I love you, Molly.”

Then Beaucup smiled and vanished.

As she continued to look at him, Molly appeared both happy and sad at the same time. She reflected on their journey together and knew in her heart, there could have been no other monarch for her migration. Then she gazed deep into the heart of the blue sky and disappeared, too.

After the eggs hatched, the children grew up very fast. They journeyed a little over a month and made it as far north as Ohio. Once there, the females deposited their eggs, and that offspring completed the return to Canada. As they soared over Orangefield Falls, they were unaware of the generation that began the migration; the migration that had now come full circle. Even though the echoes of their grandparents swelled the grounds--Beau's Speech of Departure, Molly's refusal to go, the antics of the millions assembling into two orange carpets--they could not hear them. These monarchs had also done an outstanding job, only on a smaller scale. As the days passed, millions of eggs were deposited on milkweed plants, the seasonal clock continued to tick and on a late summer morning outside the town of Orangeville, Ontario: sunrise painted the woods in an orangish hue; a thin mist floated over the glass-like pond; the two-note song of a trumpeter swan filled the air; and breaking free from the protective shell she'd been inside for ten days, Abbey was busy being born for a second time.

 

 

After Molly woke up she turned and saw Beau, but they were no longer in a peach tree. Instead, each reclined in a light-gold clamshell in the middle of a field that resembled The Valley. Beau sipped through a straw from a little cup. Molly gazed around in wonder and then saw the straw in front of her.

“Care for some blueberry milk?”

“Is this The Valley?” she asked.

“Sort of.”

“Sort of? What kind of answer is that, Beau? When do we move on?”

“Never.”

“Excuse me? Let me rephrase that question. How long can we stay here?”

“Forever!” Beau said and smiled.

“So is this --- ?”

Beau smiled again.

“But how can you be sure?”

“Well, for starters, Lenny has not made a negative comment since we've been here!”

In fact, Lenny stood nearby among a circle of friends. He was dressed in a white tunic of linen and they overheard him say:

 

“Only one part of our being is equal among us all and that is the heart. Therefore, let it rule.”

 

“Interesting,” said Molly as she watched thousands of butterflies drift among the colorful trees and shrubs.

Then, she noticed a hill to her right that looked very different.

“Beau, that hill is such an unusual color. What color is it?”

“Emerald green.”

“I see.”

But Molly could not see the top of the hill, or the grove of trees and the big rocks there. Nor the young boy dashing among them, laughing all the while, as he chased a white rabbit round and round.

Instead, gazing out from her shell she said, “So this is --- ?”

Beaucup affirmed, “It is.”

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Newtown, and the twenty monarchs that surely touched down on the Day of the Little Angels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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