He has to fly further to get to the garden that pops up once a week on Carondelet Street. Just a bit further, he tells his tired wings. He longs to cozy up to his favorite flowers, to dine on pale pink umbels then rest on burning amber blossoms. The humans call it a farmer’s market, but Monarch finds humans to be simple creatures with little real appreciation for gardens, so he isn’t surprised. New Orleans’ early morning haze makes navigation harder but not impossible. He flies closer to the ground, hovering between thicker layers of humidity above and below, relying on his sense of where the sun is rising in the East. The last time he made this trip, he turned South farther ahead, but the woman walking behind him makes him nervous. Monarch flits his sunset wings and flies up and down a couple of times, bobbing about as if controlled by a marionettist’s strings, trying to throw her off his scent, but she persists, following him and pointing something shiny at him, so he cuts South early, desperate to dodge her. The street steam is thick but not thick enough to block the split-second loom of a big, white van. Monarch sinks to the pavement in searing pain. His left wing won’t lift. He knows more trucks are coming. No butterfly wants to find themselves grounded on paved city streets. But for brief seconds, Monarch feels the silhouette reflecting off the approaching pickup’s grille embrace him, a rush of kinship, warm and whole. He doesn’t smell sunbaked asphalt. He doesn’t see the woman filming put down her phone and be still. He thinks only of milkweed and marigolds.
Blake Bell is an MFA student at Mississippi University for Women and writes whatever comes out. Bell teaches at a magnet high school in South Louisiana, and these days, she can mostly be found on her back patio reading, writing, and gardening. To read more, visit blakelbell.com or follow @Blakelbell.