Short Stories

Butterfly—A Love Story

The Siskiyou Writer’s Club had a great meeting last Thursday, an outdoor barbeque at the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens.  The club selected Mike Grifantini’s story, Butterfly — A Love Story, as its selection for the month.

Butterfly—A Love Story
Written By, Mike Grifantini

The first time I saw her, she was standing along the curvy two-lane highway–the road that I drove to my work each day—her thumb stuck out.  I stopped just past her in a wide turnout and she ran to my pickup and stuck her head in the window.  “Can I get a ride down to the Forest Service Station?”  “Of course,” I replied, “that’s where I am headed”.  She got in, careful to keep her long, loose hair out of the door as she slammed it shut.  Her colorful flowing flowery shirt draped over her like folded wings.

As we drove along on that first trip, I glanced at her as frequently as possible, without driving into the nearby river but fearing to stare too obviously.  Which was difficult.  After all, she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, with her luscious flowing hair, blue eyes and perfect complexion.  My questions to her were answered with short replies.  

“Why are you going to the Station?”  

“This is my first day of work there.”

“What kind of work will you do?”

“I will be surveying for endangered plants.”

Where are you from?

“A small town north of San Francisco.”

It was the 1970s and I was a young man, probably about her age, I suspected.  In my life I had never seen such an alluring woman, and as many young men may do in a ten-mile drive, I fell in love.

I worked for the Forest Service at that time, my office being in a small outbuilding away from the main office.  The young lady, who told me her name was “Breezy”, worked in the main office, requiring me to find special reasons to cross the parking lot to see her.  Many times, on these trumped-up excursions, she was gone, likely out in the mountains, doing what she was paid to do.  Other times, she was sitting at a small desk, peering at flowers, several books propped open on the desk beside her.

Occasionally, I saw her in the small picnic area adjacent to the office, sitting cross-legged on the grass, pencil and paper in hand, carefully drawing the minutia of a plant.  Several times she noticed me watching her, smiled and waved, before turning back to her work.

I never saw her hitchhiking again, so never had a chance to give her another ride.  I was not sure how she got to work– a coworker suggested that someone dropped her off each morning.  My informant had no idea how she got home after work, or where she lived.

Toward the end of summer, as I was getting into my pickup at the end of a long, hot sweaty work day, I saw her—leaving the office and walking smoothly toward the highway.  I pulled up beside her and asked if she needed a ride.  “Sure” she said, smiling with a nod.  We headed up river and had traveled several minutes before I thought of a question: “How have you liked your work down here?”  She responded briefly, “It’s fun.  I need the beautiful flowers.”  Then she added, “would you like to go for a swim”?  

Going for a swim, on the way home from work, could only mean one thing— skinny dipping.  I fought back my first reactions:  to turn red, to stammer and to let my racing heart jump from my chest.  Somehow I calmly stated: “Sure, a swim would be perfect after a hot day.”

She pointed to a side road veering off the highway that paralleled a clear mountain tributary stream.  We followed the narrow route a half-mile, then she said “there”.  I pulled into the small opening where she had pointed, which perched on a bank above the creek.  Obviously, she was familiar with this spot.

“Let’s see who can get into the water first!” she said with a laugh and quickly shed herself of her covering.  I fumbled with pants and shirt and tried not to blatantly watch as more and more of her tanned skin and golden blond hair appeared.  She won the race, leaped into the stream and swam across the small pool dammed by a pile of rocks–laughing at me as I awkwardly hobbled across the sharp pebbles as I approached the pool.  I eased in, the girl watching, submerged, and came up on the opposite side of the pool from where she had perched.  

“You are very white.  It doesn’t look like you swim very often” she noted accurately.  “No, I don’t.  But it sure feels good now.  I guess I should do it more often.”  

She nodded, “yes, you should.  There are a lot of things you should do often.”  I nodded, not knowing how to respond.

We stayed at the pool the rest of afternoon, until the coolness of evening flowed down the canyon.  Then we put back on our protective layers.  

Another five minutes up the highway she pointed to a wide spot near a driveway.  “You can let me off there.”  And I did.  She gave me a soft kiss.  “Thanks for the ride and the swim.  You are a kind and gentle person.”  I offered to take her up the driveway but she firmly declined, her hand on my shoulder.  “No, I think it is better that I go alone from here.”  I watched her walk up the graveled way; she turned once and gave a gentle wave, then continued into the shade of the tall maple trees.

That was the last time I saw her.  I stopped by her office the next week but was told that the previous week was her last at work.  Where was she going after work, I asked?  Somewhere down south, the informant seemed to think.  Obviously, no one had gotten to know her very well.

I think about her often, her hair and her body, her gentleness and grace, and our few hours at the creek.  She was a child of the times, and like others in those days, was not tied to people or locations.  She was free.  Whenever I think of her, I see her as a beautiful, graceful butterfly.  Soft as the spring grass in a meadow, tough as the craggy mountains that rose above the river.  Whenever I think of this butterfly I wonder where she flew to and what she would do whenever she lit.

The Siskiyou Writers’ Club is a local group of folks with a passion for creative writing of all genres.  We generally meet the last Thursday of the month in various locations throughout Siskiyou County.  Our next meeting will be Thursday, October 26, 2023, 4:00 PM, at the YMCA in Yreka. 
For more information about the club,
contact Bob Kaster, 530-598-5204, email [email protected]
or Mike Grifantini, 530-710-4882, email [email protected].

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