There's a butterfly in my ear, deep down in the canal, thudding and thumping to be free. The woman I love is holding my hand in a room full of people, but nobody knows, not really, that we are in love but that we are also out of words. So she holds my hand as if at any moment, someone will scold us because she's shy, freckled with wild ideas about peace; she'll drop my hand like an accident. And me?
I'm defying the gender binary; half a man, thrown out of womanhood.
The butterfly thrums against my ear drum, clever people chatter, and she squeezes once and looks at me. The moment comes and we smile, like new lovers do: bashful and with the freedom of childhood or old age, the time when you don't know or care but eat buttered bread and bicycle with knees bent out.
Our faces conspire close and she says 'This is boring, all of this talk.' Yes, I say. I mock wearied intelligence and droop my face. She squeezes again. 'Let’s go. It's warm tonight and there will be moths. We can take a lantern and a picnic.' And some warm things, I add.
She moves to touch my face, that fatal gesture before everyone and I welcome the contact like I'd welcome a thunderstorm: naked and willing to be struck.
The butterfly slams about under pressure and I recoil. 'I ... I'm so sorry. I never meant...'
She closes. Flowers lock up at dusk. The crowd presses in and people look, curious at the curiosity of us. I press a finger into my ear and pulse air around, hoping to dislodge the wings and the furred body, the tongue licking at the sticky walls of me. I've a butterfly in my ear, I tell her. But her head is down and now more people are watching because I yelled the last part, deafened by myself and the weather.
Welcome the storm.
I take her face without moving its saddened angle and reach round to close my mouth over hers in a full and undeniable kiss. She rises, hums, shoulders spread. We blossom and the butterfly thrashes for escape. Let’s go. She doesn't hesitate as we leave the room reeling from one another, from the raised eyebrows, the impending night where we'll watch the stacked nimbus clouds, lit from within and approaching from the south, out on the hill with our lantern.
The storm will come and the butterfly in my ear will find its way home, at last, to my heart.
We are delighted to nominate the following FlashFlood stories to the 2023 Pushcart Prize: ' The Doll House ' by Nathan Alling Long &...
CHICKEN +50 Buttermilk fried, the apogee of chicken, its chickeniest chickenness, rich gold with bite and crunch and tendern...
In case you missed any of the pieces we appeared during the 2023 FlashFlood, here's an index to everything. Happy Reading! ' They...
A shaft of sunlight fell across the worn herringbone floor, drawing his gaze upwards to the flawless blue sky beyond the row of windows, ...