Butterfly Wars


Samurai Platypus



I was stretched out on the sofa, channel surfing, when I came to the Home Shopping Network and found myself mesmerized by an ad for the Hose Barn. The Hose Barn looks like a plastic red and brown barn with a hose sticking out the front and a crank on the side, so you can roll out the hose and then crank it back in. That's when I heard the racket in the dining room.

I was supposed to be the only person in the house, and we had no pets, so I forced myself to sit up as the racket continued. It sounded like someone repeatedly crumpling and uncrumpling plastic. What the hell?

Cautiously I got up off the couch and tiptoed to the dining room entry and peeked around the corner. The three butterflies on the wall–the plastic imitation wicker-looking ones my girlfriend Bonnie had gotten from a mail-order catalog–were flapping their plastic wings, fighting to free themselves from the hooks where they hung.

I shut my eyes, thinking when I opened them the butterflies would be their usual dead fake selves. But still I heard the clatter of their wings against the wall.

When I opened my eyes there were only two butterflies on the wall–the third butterfly was free. But where was it? I spun around, actually expecting to see the thing fluttering across the living room. Meanwhile, as the other two continued flapping against the wall, I began to worry not so much about the butterflies as about my sanity. To preserve it, I had to stop the butterflies.

Keeping an eye on the flapping butterflies while watching out for the missing one, I moved carefully across the dining room to the kitchen. There I opened the utensil drawer and grabbed a fine stainless egg turner.

Back in the dining room, I approached the two hooked butterflies and swatted each of them against the wall with the egg turner until they fell to the floor, cracked. Then, with the leather soles of my slippers, I crunched the butterflies into the hard-wood floor until I was sure they were still and silent.

Confident now, I told myself that those two butterflies had not come to life. It was a hallucination, and the real reason I had swatted them with an egg turner and crushed them to pieces was unconscious--I hated plastic imitation wicker mail-order butterflies. I had wanted them out of my life--Out! Out! Damnéd butterflies!--and now they were out. In psychological terms, the hallucination was a "coping mechanism," an attempt by my unconscious mind to spur me to action, to gain control of my environment. Seeing what was left of the butterflies, I thought smugly that my unconscious mind had succeeded.

Then I remembered the third butterfly. What was my unconscious mind trying to do now? Where did I hallucinate that butterfly off to? It was not flying around anywhere. It was not on the floor with the broken pieces of plastic imitation wicker. Where was it? I scanned the dining room all over, then walked back into the living room where the Home Shopping Network was running an ad for an inflatable purple plastic lounge chair.

I saw it. On top of the center surround sound speaker above the big-screen TV was a dusty, faded arrangement of plastic flowers unknown to any botanist. Perched on one of the flowers was the third butterfly, its imitation wicker wings fanning slowly and contentedly. It was "The perfect gift for your mother-in-law!"--an animated plastic butterfly enjoying the synthetic nectar of a fake flower.

I hated it. This is my unconscious mind again, I told myself. Take control of your environment. Exterminate this mockery of Nature!

Taking aim, I swung the stainless egg turner wide at the perched butterfly. This time I actually saw it fly across the living room, where it crashed in pieces against the wall. Then, like a mad reaper, I attacked the plastic flowers with my utensil, mowing them down, splitting open the plastic pot, and flinging it onto the floor.

Unfortunately, I also gouged the top of Bonnie's wooden surround sound speaker cabinet. But it was worth it.