Thirty three reasons why

Whatcha reading?

He unhooks the leash from its nail on the wall, and curls it around his fist.

She doesn’t look up.

She’s frowning as she reads, dark brows curling over her eyes. He watches her, letting the silence ooze slowly down the room, over the flaking paint of the kitchen table and into the cracks in the lino. A dollop of it finally reaches her with its sticky finger, and ever so gently touches the page.

She looks up.

She has no idea who he is. He swallows, shifts his six foot four frame from one foot to the other. He hates this part. She blinks, twice, and then the muscles in her jaw begin to loosen, and she’s back. Her pupils almost look normal.


He feels his shoulders relax as he heads to the stove. He lifts the percolator from its grill with his free hand, sets it down and picks up two coffee cups.

I said, whatcha reading, babydoll?

She shakes her head briefly, throwing who knows what thoughts loose. She closes the book with both hands and then lays them side by side on the table, fingers splayed out. The wedding ring catches the light and throws shafts of gold through the kitchen window.


He finishes filling the second cup and loads a spoon with brown sugar, stirs it three times. He turns back to her and places on the table next to the cover, the bookmark lolling out like a dog’s tongue.


But her gaze is on the cup, the dark liquid still swirling. Her brows are beginning to lower again.

Yep, three stirs, he says softly. All counter-clockwise. No dirt got in, darlin.

She sits up, and reaches for the cup. Her face brightens, and suddenly he knows he could count thirty three reasons why he married her if he was given the chance.

Did you know some butterflies need salt?

He smiles, takes a sip of his coffee. He shakes his head.

That’s why they land on humans, she says. They’re attracted to our sweat.

He rests his hand on top of hers, the leash still wrapped around it.

What else?

Her words are almost slurred in their softness.

Do you think they’d want our tears, too?

He taps the metal links of the leash against her ring, clears his throat.

I’m taking Jensen for a walk. Down by the creek. No people around.

She doesn’t look up from her coffee cup.

Wanna come, darlin?

When her eyes lift, he sucks in his breath at the look on her face.

You know I can’t.

You can. You just won’t.

Fine! I won’t then. Why do you keep asking me? Why do you always keep asking?!

She pulls her hand out from his, and turns the book right side up. He just watches, his eyes dropping to the page and then back to her face. He rubs his hand against his jaw, and stands up.

Fine then. Have you taken them yet?

She shakes her head.

Damn it, you know you have to, every morning like clockwork. I’ll stop asking you for a walk if you remember to take them, ok?

She nods, a movement so tiny he almost misses it.


He reaches above the fridge and takes down a small white bottle, shakes two red pills out. It’d taken months for her to stop spitting them out, convinced the doctor was trying to poison her. Convinced of so many things that he just doesn’t have the words to soothe away.

But lord, he’ll keep trying to find them.

He puts them on the table in front of her, and slides a hand into her hair.

I’ll be back in an hour. Keep reading, babydoll. I’ll be back.

He kisses the top of her head and gets to the door before she starts to speak.

They have lovely names, you know. There’s the jezebel butterfly, and the plum judy.

He rests his head against the door frame and smiles at her.

What else?

The painted lady, and the rusty tipped page. Isn’t that one beautiful?

Sure, darlin. It sure is.

She sighs.

But there’s one I worry about; the red pierrot.

Why? Why are you worried about a butterfly?

She turns right around in her seat and stares at him. He knows the medication is going to kick in soon, and those pupils he loves will become so wide he can’t quite look at them.

It’s just…it can’t fly well. It can’t fly. It has some of the most beautiful colours of all, but it has weak wings. That makes it vulnerable and it has to fly low, to hide in the shadows.

He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t know what she wants him to say.

I mean, she shakes her head. Why give it something so exquisite, then take it away? Why give it wings in the first place?

He feels the wood of the doorframe against his temple.

I don’t know, darlin…maybe when they fly low they see treasures on the ground the others can’t, high in the sky. Maybe there’s something amazing in the shadows the others will never know about.

Her eyes haven’t left him.

You think?

He can feel the dog scraping against the other side of the door. He lets the leash unwind from his fist, the chain dangling.

I do. Yeah, I sure do. There has to be a reason. There has to be a reason for every damn thing in this world, even if we don’t think we’ll ever find it.

The screen door flutters shut behind him.

He stands on the porch, the dog prancing, nipping at the chain. He turns his face to the sun, and listens to the birds with his eyes closed. Then he steps off the porch, and heads for the creek.

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bellmusker, butterfly, love

I love the words that fall between the cracks; where I have to roll my sleeve up, jam my arm down into the darkness, and yank the stories up by their hair.

I write with black coffee, and bare feet.

Both seem to help.

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  • Mel Brackstone
    Mel Brackstoneabout 3 years ago

    Yes indeed, there has to be a reason…..and I love your reasoning here!

  • Ah Mel, you know how comfortable I am in the shadows…how could there not be jewels there? :-)

    – bellmusker

  • kat86
    kat86about 3 years ago

    love it Bell :)

    a bit slower and more of a gradual reveal than a lot of your stuff which I find myself reading, but this one has something very subtle and beautiful about it which seems like it might just flit away (like a butterfly :) ) if not held close to ones heart, and is all the more special because of its fragility

  • What a lovely comment -_ flitting away like a butterfly_, I like it. It’s a lot slower than my usual style and not at all what I had in mind when I sat down at the computer. How I love those moments, when my ink surprises even me!

    – bellmusker

  • Lisa  Jewell
    Lisa Jewellabout 3 years ago

    yes there does have to be reason,
    gosh I found myself saying it has to have a reason, over and over…

    wonderful writing Darling
    so real it thumped into my chest

  • Thank you my love…I have two more stories brewing too. Making the most of my writing days! But will definitely see you for an afternoon whiskey in a few hours x x

    – bellmusker

  • friartuck
    friartuckabout 3 years ago

    The people in your head always understand. Wish the ones outside it were better at it!

  • Isn’t that the way? Hope all is well with you :-)

    – bellmusker

  • Matthew Dalton
    Matthew Daltonabout 3 years ago

    I like the contrasts in this story, Bell. There is reality and there are the pills. And there is a trying-to-understand, and a perfect sense of knowing.

    Trying to understand why a certain butterfly was created to be so vulnerable. Trying to understand why a certain person was created to be so vulnerable.

  • I sat down to write something completely different, Matthew – I didn’t have these characters in my head at all until the first words fell onto the page. And you know, I think I like them.

    And I know better than to look for reasons in madness…though my characters still have to learn that lesson.

    I hope all is well in your world, thanks for dropping by.

    – bellmusker

  • ClaireJane
    ClaireJaneabout 3 years ago

    Wonderful writing Bell. xx

  • Thanks so much ClairJane, I appreciate it x

    – bellmusker

  • amanda marx
    amanda marxabout 3 years ago

    wow, great write bell, will have to read it a few more times to give this the comment it deserves . . . loving the imagery

  • Thanks Amanda! I’ll send you a bmail about the next writers’ meeting, Sunday 2nd, see if we can’t coax you along :-)

    – bellmusker

  • Michael Jones
    Michael Jonesabout 3 years ago

    This is a beautiful story, I can guess that the lady suffers from Schizophrenia, as she reminds me of an old girlfriend of mine who, sadly, is no longer with us, due to this infliction. Your character is very believable in this situation, worrying so much about something which she does not have any control over, being the butterflies inability to fly very well. You have taken me back to the time when this lady was in my life, a very emotional time, thank you.

  • Michael, I’ve been thinking for a while about how best to respond to your poignant comment, with the consideration and sensitivity it deserves. I can only imagine what it was like to be in a relationship with a woman afflicted with this, and my heart goes out to you. If I portrayed her believably, well, let me just say that my own personal experience has given me a touch too much knowledge on the subject, and I understand her demons all too well. Much light and love to you, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    – bellmusker

  • Andrew Paranavitana
    Andrew Paranav...about 3 years ago

    This is an incredible piece, what a strong story. I felt every line of this.

  • Thank you, that means so much to hear that :-)

    – bellmusker

  • berndt2
    berndt2about 3 years ago

    Incredible. What I love is that as I’m reading and savouring every sentence, I’m trying to theorise what the next sentence will be and I’m never… EVER…. even close. Every sentence is a revelation – love it! Something amazing in the shadows the others will never know about

  • I swear I replied to your comment over a week ago, but internet demons seem to have eaten it up….Thank you, your comment makes me smile; unpredictability is something all writers aim for, but it ain’t always easy to land right on the red target when we jump. And you know the shadows are where the stories are…everyone worth their salt gives a secret nod to that :-)

    – bellmusker

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