Le Papillon

BTSB - Le Papillon Cover


Autumn leaves waltz on the melancholic floor while I straighten Veronique’s hat. I give her a kiss on the forehead and tighten my grip on her tiny fingers that always radiate intense heat for the whole world to feel. She responds with a content smile; and off we go, losing ourselves into the crowd of busy eyes that are quietly searching for something unpronounced.

We get through the stamping of the shoes and sit on a grey-painted bench, next to a grey stone wall. The red letters scream, 7 minutes. Just enough time for Veronique to get bored, so I start to gently rock her on my lap, humming a song from my childhood — kilometres of sundried grass, serpentine streams of clear water, and never-ending sunflower fields.

C’était un’ petit’ fille

Qui s’appellait Suzon

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.

My voice suddenly turns cold, out of some strange, unknown longing. I let Veronique sing louder when we get to the second verse. It’s her favourite song, and has been since she learnt to speak. How has it already been four years…

Qui allait à l’école

Tout près de sa maison;

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

”Maman, I want to see a butterfly, too!” she cries interrupting our singing. Smiling, I tell her that it’s not possible to see one before the spring arrives.

”How long will it take, maman?”

I pause briefly and then go on about how soon it’ll all be green and happy. ”Close your eyes and you’ll see. Let’s go!”

We imagine a cloud of colourful butterflies flying above a verdant meadow; we imagine the first flowers of the spring peeking from the trenches of promesse; we imagine dance steps here and there, bright lipsticks, first touches of the spring sun, final exams, moving ceremonies, excitement on school girls’ faces.

”But maman, when can I see it myself?!”

I force a smile and make empty promises once again. It’s only October, but I’m too afraid myself to admit that it takes about half a year until she can see those oh, so important butterflies.

”Vero, we’ve got to go now, take my hand.”

I’m already rushing toward the metro that would be arriving soon when I realize that the extension of my arm isn’t following me. When I turn around, I see my little girl standing still, weakly pulling my hand toward herself.


”Vero, what’s wrong now? We’re in a hurry!”

”Non, non, maman, look, on the floor… you could’ve tripped on that paper and hit your head. You’ve said it yourself, you’ve said that we always have to watch where we step.”

I feel guilty, culpable of all these everyday injustices I let happen to my only child, blaming lack of time, tiredness, or hastiness. In the middle of endless quotidian responsibilities and tasks to carry out, I sometimes come to question my motherly abilities.

”My little life guard, you’re right. Thank you.”

She throws a mesmerizing smile and off we hurry, escaping the darkness that’s chasing me and my girl who is loyally following her infallible guardian.

Dans son chemin rencontre

Un joli papillon

Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

sol la si do do

do si la sol ré ré ré

ré mi ré do si la si do.


Ell’ le prit par la patte

Et lui dit : mon mignon

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons.

Someone knocks on my shoulder and I turn around telling Veronique to wait a moment. A ragged stranger grabs my arm and pulls me aside. I become aware of the arriving metro; it’s already shaking the grey ground. I have just the time to open my mouth intending to complain about our hurry, when the man starts to proclaim in a thick Parisian accent:

”Madame, you must listen to me for just a moment! I am sure you have time for this, because my announcement is very important!”

He doesn’t even breathe before he goes on for a few more words, until I interrupt him, rudely, in a way so very unusual of me. When rushing toward the metro that is now slowing down only about a hundred metres away from the platform, I keep thinking about my nature that I’m sure has changed into identical with the busy city people, who don’t care about anyone else surrounding them. They know how to dispirit a childishly enthusiastic tourist, the likes of whom I once served in the countryside. In my past life, I would happily bake them cakes and pies, pour perfectly steamed milk into espresso, and decorate chocolates, with a wide smile complementing my features; but when they would return to the melancholy tango of car lights on buzzing yet depressingly grey streets, they would forget all about the texture of my divine dark chocolate truffles.

There’s the crowd again, swirling and moving toward the metro. I fake a smile once more, preparing to take Veronique on her first metro trip to a whole new part of Paris. ”Vero, are you ready for an adventure?”

Que tu es donc heureux !

Tu n’as pas de leçons

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons.

Suddenly, there is no answer.

Everything is fine, I must be overreacting, I tell myself — the girl stood next to me a second ago, I’m being paranoid, surely she just wandered a few feet away from me, and now all these people are just covering her tiny figure; she’s so easy to lose if you let her hand go for a single second… It really is about seconds.

The seconds I wandered around the metro station felt like hours. When it finally struck my mind, the one thing no one should ever have to experience, which eventually ended up being the truth, everything went silent.

Like in a movie, people start to scream here and there, pointing toward the metro tunnel, staring and marvelling. It felt like a disgrace — as if there wasn’t enough pain to get through in the accident itself. From that day on, I started to dislike people.

Tous deux de compagnie

Nous nous envolerons

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

I make my way through the crowd of faceless Parisians now in disarray, to see what is going on.

There lies an angel on the rails, and she is smiling; her smile is cruel and beautiful. A left foot’s shoe has flown metres away and a right arm bent unnaturally. I stare at this sight without any understanding, thinking that the angel looks relieved, happy even.

But it’s not spring yet.

I jump down not noticing the tears falling down my cheeks. ”Oh my God, she’s breathing, what are you all looking at, the angel is breathing and she’s happy, she’s enjoying the spring sun, she’s smiling, can’t you see…”

La clochette m’appelle

Adieu, cher papillon.

Slowly, my senses begin to work again, and a clear comprehension strikes my mind. My bones start to ache, my lungs shut down. I can’t hear any noise of breathing, the body next to me is ice-cold, the smile is gone.

Suddenly, I am being dragged away from the last scene of her I ever get to witness again. I lift my head and notice a painted butterfly on the concrete wall behind her.

It’s smiling.




The scent of the pages of fifty-year-old books

up in the cold


Your breaths twirling up,


Crackling fireplaces and collapsing logs

The scrunching snow underneath your steps

Mulled wine and its sweet heat on your tongue

Rabbit footprints and paths guarded by evergreens

The hissing noise of water thrown on the stove


The dripping sound of droplets coming down

from gutters

The shy hues of birches waking up

from slumber


The sound of lawn mowers in the early heat

The hungry scent of the first barbeque

Exhilarated shrieks of children let loose on the yards


Wheat crops brushing against your bare leg

Hands of clocks ticking while sunsets linger

Gentle fingers picking wild strawberries on the

outskirts of meadows

Pebbles stinging, wandering barefoot

Splashes of cool water enveloping your body


The weight of ripe apples falling,



The rustle of warm colors fallen on the ground

Tickling blankets, the taste of warm, sweet tea and honey


And everyday, with a whoosh, golden adventure lines cut up the blueness above

and then slowly evaporate

Because when it comes down to it, it’s always good to be back home

Walden 2.0

Remember Henry David Thoreau? Yeah, he was the guy who went to live in the woods for a couple of years and wrote the Transcendentalist masterpiece Walden, to the delight of literary critics and to the chagrin of English students just trying to stay awake, the poor sods. Yes, Walden was all about a man with a mission. It was a book about silence, about hard work and about being at peace with yourself and nature, without the bells and whistles of industry and the fervent need to accumulate more and more while riding on the tidal wave of western expansion.

But what is Walden now but a terribly effective sleep medicine; a work so outdated and boring that even a rock gathering moss and covered in drying paint is a showstopper by comparison? We, the literary innovators at Better Than Sliced Bread, feel that it’s time to give Walden an update. How would the ideas of this 1854 published text transpose to this day and age? With our limited budget we managed to send one of our reporters to live in the woods for five days. There he kept a diary, which eventually proved that Thoreau had it easy. Witness the struggles of our heroic reporter here on BTSB.

Walden 2.0 by Simo Ahava

No Facebook, no mobile phone, no Internet, no GPS, no booze, no fire, no dairy, no meat, no tap water, no insurance, no toothpaste, no NOTHING!

Stupid Thoreau and stupid BTSB.

I live in a small cabin that’s as old as my grandma and almost as shabby. I should build a fire, but I have nothing to kindle it with, nothing to fuel it with and nothing to light it with. I spend five hours trying to do it like they do in the movies, with two pieces of wood rubbed together, but to no avail. I guess freezing my ass off will be the main theme of this adventure.

I miss Facebook. I wonder how many Rock-Paper-Scissors challenges I’ve missed so far.

Since I’m all by myself, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna go crazy soon. To prevent that from happening, I cut myself and use my blood to draw a smiling face on the wall of the cabin to keep me company. Harry, as I christen my buddy, is going to be my best friend as I try to survive these remaining four days.

After noon I manage to build a fire! That’s right – in your face, Zippo! However, I soon pass out from the bloodloss, and when I wake up, I notice the fire has died. Ok, I really miss Facebook now.

I rekindle the fire and start thinking about getting some water boiled. I’m pretty hungry, but I’m sure I can find something edible from the undergrowth.

The shabby shack, which is my home, came equipped with a rusty pot. I fill the pot with water from a stream a couple of miles away. After returning to the cabin after four hours of searching, I find that the fire has died again. I hate you BTSB.

I get the fire going again at nightfall. By now I’m famished, faint from bloodloss and pretty much tired of all this shit. I cheer up a little, when I find some delicious looking mushrooms from the bushes nearby.

Boiling water isn’t as easy as I thought. Without Google’s consult, I have no idea how long to keep the water on the fire before putting the mushrooms in. The first batch evaporates before I take any decisive action, so I’m off to fetch some more water from the stream.

That’s right, it’s after midnight when I find my cabin again and start rekindling the fire, which managed to die AGAIN. Harry is laughing at me. I say some nasty stuff to him.

After two hours I have my mushrooms cooking in the boiling water, and I take a break to look at the clear, star-filled sky. Overrated.

Once the mushrooms are ready I start gobbling them up. They taste pretty good, even though I could’ve used some salt. After eating I’m so tired I fall down like a log.

I must say, I see some troubling dreams, and even when I wake up, I keep seeing weird things. Harry starts to sing opera, and when I tell him to shut up, he turns into my mother and says she’s ok with me being gay. After a mandatory “Huh?!?”-moment I figure it’s because of the mushrooms. I should stop eating them, but since they’re the only food around and since the delusions keep my mind off the reality of my overall situation, I keep on stuffing myself.

It’s day three and I’m ready to give up. Harry looks rejected, so I cut myself again and draw him a nice girly smiling face to keep him company. He thanks me cordially and I pass out.

I regain consciousness in three hours. I now decide that cutting myself is not a good idea and that I shouldn’t do it again.

At nightfall I hear some rustling from the trees just outside my field of vision. I hear a low, ominous growl and I see two yellow eyes in the distance. Oh man, if I only had Wikipedia here, I could easily define this nightly menace.

As the monster approaches my fire, it turns out to be a stray cat. I slowly pick up a stick I sharpened to keep Harry in order. Meat! Finally some real food! However, the cat realises what I’m about to do and turns into my mother, telling me how it’s ok if I want to wear a skirt. I realise I’m still hallucinating and decide to go and lie down. I can’t help but wonder what’s up with my mom and that crap she’s going on about.

This trip has been remarkable in no way. I’m sorry folks, but it looks like Walden was unique. Instead of becoming a verbal masterpiece of one man’s life in the woods, at peace with the world around him, this is becoming a macabre horror tale of survival, blood-spattered faces, nightmarish mothers and constipation (if I can’t flush it, I won’t crap in it).

Harry’s been really occupied with Jewel, his girlfriend. It looks like they’re really hitting it off. I pass out for three hours and when I wake up, I find out that Harry and Jewel have a child. I try to stop the bleeding from a new wound I cut in my arm, but it’s no easy chore since the blood is coming out by the cupfull. I drink it as fast as it comes out, so that I can keep the stuff in my body at least.

I can no longer tell apart what’s true and what’s not. My whole consciousness is as tattered as an old dishrag. Harry and his family are laughing at me while I try to explain to my mother that no, I’m not gay and no, I don’t want her old wedding dress to use when I marry that handsome pine tree that’s trying to make eye contact with me. I tell the tree to bugger off, but it doesn’t move.

The pine tree’s sexual innuendo is the last straw. I take a burning piece of wood from the fire I rekindled for the hundredth time this morning and set the tree in flames. I laugh like a maniac as I listen to the tree pleading for its life. I also set fire to the cabin and watch with glee as Harry and his family are engulfed in flames.
I pass out again.

When I wake up, I’m in a helicopter, flying over a raging forest fire. I scribble these last notes in my diary before a doctor says that I must rest.

Before I slip into unconsciousness, I can’t help but feel a bit of pride for surviving the whole week.

The last thing I remember is my mother, sitting next to me, holding my hand and saying that I’m like the daughter she never had.

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