Monday, 12 August 2019

Butterfly Kiss

Something very weird happened to me yesterday. At least, it seemed weird to me but maybe I’m not in the best position to judge. For ten days now, I’ve been wiped out by some joyless virus that has stolen my brain and replaced it with snot. After ten days of doing nothing other than sleeping and coughing, everything has started to feel a little weird.

Anyway, in all this time, the only person who has been getting me out of the house is Benny. Strictly speaking, Benny isn’t a person because he’s a rabbit - but that’s just fussing over the details. Benny lives in an enormous rabbit mansion which dominates my front room. Even so, he likes to be let out of his mansion every morning so that he can drop bits of hay all over my house and trample down anything that’s trying to grow in my garden.

Yesterday morning, I dragged myself downstairs, let Benny out for a spin in the back garden and made myself useful filling the bird feeders with sunflower hearts and replacing the water in the bird bath. When this was done, I turned my attention to a small bowl of water that I keep filled for the thieving thirsty squirrels. As I bent down to pick it up, I saw a butterfly floating motionless inside.

It was a Red Admiral. Brown with orange stripy bits. It was perfectly symmetrical and arranged on display just like an exhibit.

‘Shit,’ I muttered, and I tipped the water and the dead butterfly on to a nearby parched plant.

To my surprise, the butterfly moved.

I leaned in closer and had another look but nothing more happened. The butterfly looked beautiful and sad and very dead. Maybe I was imagining things? Carefully, I touched its wing with my finger – and there it was again! A tiny, tiny flicker of movement.

I frowned. Then, very carefully, I picked the butterfly up and carried it in my cupped hands, down the garden and closer to my house. Then I placed it inside the plant pot of a rhododendron near my back door. Here, the butterfly had half a chance of survival. Here, it was less likely to get pecked to pieces by a blue tit or trampled to death by Benny.

I went off and did some other stuff and then I returned to check on the butterfly to see how it was doing.

It hadn’t moved. In fact, it looked deader than ever. Dismayed, I gave it another poke with my finger. And once again, there was that tiny flicker of movement.

I stood up and scratched my head. I had to do something. It seemed a real crying shame just to let a living thing die. Maybe this butterfly would benefit from an energy drink?

I went back to my kitchen, mixed a little icing sugar into some warm water and put a few drops of this sugary mix on to a piece of kitchen towel. Then I took it outside to the butterfly.

Like magic, the butterfly quickly started to come to life. I could see its antennae probing the soaked kitchen towel. I waited and watched as the butterfly grew livelier and livelier. It began to flap its wings and make tiny jumps into the air – but each jump ended with a clumsy crash landing. This butterfly was flightless.

As I watched, the problem became clear. One of the butterfly’s wings was torn almost in half. No matter how hard the butterfly flapped its wings, it wasn’t going anywhere.

‘Shit,’ I muttered again.

Maybe I was over-reacting because I was ill, high on Sudafed and lacking human contact, but this to me seemed like an absolute catastrophe. I’d revived this Red Admiral with a fizzy drink just to condemn it to an even worse death. It would have been better if I’d stayed in bed.

But then I had an idea. It was a stupid idea – as many of mine are - but it was also better than doing nothing. When I was younger, I used to mend my mangled cassette tapes with tiny slivers of carefully placed Sellotape. Maybe this same trick would work on the delicate wing of a butterfly?

I went back into my kitchen and cut a tiny fragment of Sellotape and stuck it to my fingertip. Then I went back outside to the butterfly.

It was still flapping its wings together and jumping around the rhododendron in sad little somersaults.

Carefully, I took hold of the torn wing and patted the sliver of Sellotape over the rip and then I let go.

The butterfly flapped its wings again and rose upwards in a dizzy, disorientated motion. Then it flew straight towards my face and landed right on the end of my nose.

I don’t like creepie-crawlies, insects or flappy things. My shoulders instantly hunched up around my ears and I stumbled backwards.

The butterfly didn’t move. It stayed where it was, right there on my nose. I could see it. How could I not see it? It was ****ing ENORMOUS and it was tickling me. I was being tickled by a ginormous angry butterfly.

As gently as my terror would let me, I swatted it away. It flapped around in front of me for a moment and then flew straight back into my face and up towards my hair. Closing my eyes, I stumbled all the way back to my house in a blind panic. Clearly this butterfly didn’t like the fact that I’d stuck sticky tape on to its wing and now it was going to eat my brains. With my shoulders up to my eyebrows, I fled into my house and peered into a mirror, terrified of what I was about to see. But to my relief, the butterfly was gone.

Breathing more calmly, I went back to my kitchen door. Straight away something caught my eye. Just on the other side of the door, the Red Admiral was flying around and around in circles and spiraling higher and higher.

I started to laugh. Then, as I watched, it broke out of its spiral and fluttered away over my neighbour’s fence.

I hope my repair job lasts.

[PS I'm no wildlife expert and I'm certainly not advocating sticking things to animals and insects but sometimes you have to try emergency methods.]


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