Better and Better

Better and Better by David Macfie

Once more, the week couldn’t pass quickly enough. The last two Saturdays are forever fixed in my brain. They were so wonderful that I the week seemed endless. I managed not to make too much of a mess of my school work, so I didn’t get into trouble again. But my mind was mostly somewhere else. My imagination worked overtime as I tried to guess what I would see next. By last night, my excitement was bubbling over. I couldn’t sit still or relax.  My Mom thought I was sick and took my temperature. I told her I was fine, but she still kept a close eye on me. I went to bed early to try and sleep through the remaining time. It didn’t work so I dozed and anticipated the night away. This morning I was waiting at the meeting place long before dawn, I just couldn’t wait in bed any longer. I watched the sun come up and got so engrossed that I didn’t see Lara and Mark at first. I only looked when I heard her musical little voice.

“A penny for your thoughts, Tony,” she tinkled.

“I swiveled so fast I heard the joints in my neck click, and there they were.

“I was far away,” I admitted, sheepishly. “The sunrise was so beautiful.”

“So you’ve already had a good start to the day. Let’s see if we can make it get better. First we will check on the kestrels,”

“Oh, goodie,” I exclaimed, happily. “I was wondering how they were doing.”

In no time I was sitting in the fork looking down on the nest. This chicks were much bigger and they had a lot of brown feathers speckled with black. Two were still dozy, but the third was energetically flapping the newly fledged wings.

“That’s a boy, isn’t it?” I half guessed.

“Yes, and he also hatched first so he’s a little ahead of the others,” replied Mark. “Now be very quiet because dad’s on his way with a rat.”

Sure enough breakfast was served as I watched, avidly.

“They’re pretty greedy, aren’t they?” I observed.

“Sure are,” replied Lara. “They’re building their strength to be able to fly. By next weekend, they’ll all be flying.”

“Does that mean they’ll fly away, then?” I asked, battling to keep the disappointment from my voice.

“Not straight away. They still have to learn to hunt, remember,” pointed out Mark.

“Of course,” I responded, a little crossly. “I should have worked that out for myself.”

I was angry with myself, mostly because I felt that Mark was disappointed in me for not thinking clearly, but he didn’t let on.

“Don’t worry,” he said, trying to buck me up. “They’ll be here for at least another two weeks.”

“Come along,” interrupted Lara. “It’s time for your next surprise.

She led me to the edge of the flower bed that edged the lawn. There was a flowering bush at the end next to the trees. She stopped right next to the bush.

“I don’t know what kind of bush this is,” I admitted. “But I’ve noticed it attracts a lot of bees and butterflies, so it must have good pollen and nectar. But why are we here?”

“Well observed,” smiled Lara. “We’re here because of one of those two visitors that left something behind.” She flew up beside the bush, where it was still in shadow under the trees.

“Look,” she said, musically, pointing her tiny finger. I looked and saw nothing at first. I went a little closer and looked more carefully. Then I saw it. A light brown chrysalis was fixed to one of the twigs at the fringe of the bush. It was hanging downwards.

“Is this why we’re here?” I asked, impatiently. “I’ve seen these things before.”

“Do you know that patience is a virtue?” she asked me, in a sweet voice that took none of the sting out of her question. I felt foolish and looked again.

Suddenly, the chrysalis started to move. Now it had my full attention. First the motion was rapidly shaking side to side, then a slit appeared from close to the top down to the bottom. A second split opened to leave a flap of the chrysalis open. Now the movement changed to a sort of pulsing and very gradually something started to emerge from the bottom of the hanging and now open bag-like shape. In moments I recognized the head of the emerging butterfly. Next its antenna popped out and quickly elongated. Now legs crept out and unfolded to latch onto the exterior of the chrysalis. I was mesmerized. In just over two minutes, I had taken plenty of photos and a bedraggled butterfly hung onto its shelter for nearly a month. Its wings were small and shriveled looking, but now the butterfly hugged the remains of the chrysalis and began a swiveling movement, left to right and back again.

“What’s it doing?” I asked curiously.

“It’s creating a flow of air to dry out its wings,” whispered Lara.

I watched keenly as the wings slowly expanded and stretched, the colors emerging as the fragile membranes grew and grew. A short while later, a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly, perched on top of the twig and moved into the sunlight of a new day. It stayed there for a while, opening and closing its wings to complete the drying and expanding process, and I supposed, building strength and getting used to the feel of these miraculous new appendages. After all, it wasn’t long ago that this was a caterpillar, crawling around on its food. Suddenly, the flapping increased in tempo and the incredible show was over, as the metamorphosis ended and its creation flew away.

“That was utterly awesome,” I breathed, in gratitude and amazement. “But how did you know that was going to happen right there, right then?”

“We have been watching over all the chrysalises in your garden since they were made. We keep an eye on the butterflies and watch where they lay their eggs. Then we make sure that enough of the caterpillars escape the birds and other predators to reach their next stage. Finally we prevent accidents until the butterfly is ready,” explained Mark.  “It’s all part of our job at the bottom of your garden.”

He smiled and so did Lara. “Did you have fun?” they asked, exactly together.

“Oh yes. And I’ve got lots of pictures to remind me. It was great. I can’t wait to see what you have for me next week.”

“We’ve saved the best for last,” hinted Lara with a mischievous grin and the two disappeared.