In honour of Indigenous families on this special day.
This story was written for an Ojibwe friend to read to his pre-teen daughter. I’m waiting on her feedback. Your feedback is welcome too- please comment below!
LayLay was flying distractedly, her focus more on the book in her hands than her surroundings. She was new to the world, born yesterday, so she wasn’t especially practiced at flying, or reading either for that matter. LayLay was brand new, just born, but she could fly; she could fly right by because she was a flutterby.
Now flutterbys are different than butterflies, everyone knows that. Usually flutterbys are brown or beige or white; they aren’t bright like butterflies. They’re soft too- their wings are made of dust. So delicate that they cannot be touched- that’s how fragile flutterby wings are.
LayLay was brand new, born yesterday, but she knew that she didn’t want to be a flutterby. Her wings were white with matching brown ovals that looked like eyes. What a disappointment! She wanted stiff purple wings with black scalloped edging and a few white dots. Or, she’d be happy with yellow wings, bright ones with green spots. But she’d have to be a butterfly to have colours like that.
She wasn’t alone- plenty of LoLos and LeeLees and LuLus were furry brown and beige. But, she was the only one nicknamed Four Eyes. Most flutterbys were content with their wings; LayLay alone read Vogue and restricted her food intake. LayLay was brand new, born yesterday, but she was already saving up for a wing augmentation.
LayLay was so preoccupied with her reading that she didn’t see Lady Bug coming from the other direction. Alas, Lady Bug was speeding- her daughter, Ann, had told her teacher that she had a tummy ache and Lady Bug didn’t know that it wasn’t true. She was in a rush, and she crashed right into LayLay’s left wing. Both of LayLay’s wings showered dust everywhere, and she dropped her book.
Lady Bug was in shock for a few seconds, but she gave herself a shake and shouted, “No reading in flight!” Then she hiked up her red tights and flew away.
Now, the book that LayLay dropped was no ordinary book. It was her diary. It was tiny, and it had fallen from a great height. Worse, it had fallen from a great height onto Forest’s floor which was a very messy place.
Poor LayLay fluttered about Forest’s floor. She searched among lichen and mushrooms, old leaves and pine needles, but no luck.
LayLay had no luck because her diary had been found immediately. LayLay’s diary had fallen from a great height right through a small pile of sticks and right smack onto Cruel Cricket’s table- just as he was sitting down to lunch. And so, Cricket read all of LayLay’s secrets, right then and right there.
Now if Turtle had found it, well, that would be fine because turtles can keep a secret. Crickets- well, that’s another story. Like warblers and blue jays and squirrels, crickets just can’t keep news to themselves.
After lunch, Cricket went out for a stroll over to Main Meadow where he read the diary out loud to all LayLay’s friends and enemies- she had a few even though she was brand new, just born yesterday- plenty of birds and bats considered flutterbys to be a tasty mouthful.
I don’t know if you can imagine the scene: Cruel Cricket reading aloud on sturdy Milkweed in the middle of Main Meadow, flutterbys and butterflys, lady bugs and lady birds… insects of all kinds and plenty of songbirds too, swooping over his head… and laughing. Imagine LayLay darting furiously among them, her four eyes glaring, her miniscule mouth open, screaming at the top of her lungs (but still inaudible to most beings) about her right to privacy, her right to run her own life, her right to privacy, her right to express herself and… her RIGHT to PRIVACY!
How vigorously did LayLay flap her wings! How furiously did she shout! She might have been a fragile flutterby, but she had guts and she had rights. All living beings have rights- even fat grubs with wings made of dust. LayLay took her fury to Councillor Buffalo because she wanted respect. Buffalo decided to involve the rest of Council because the case was complicated.
Butterflies and flutterbys have very short life spans, only one to ten days. The Council of Bangan Forest gathered to hear the case without delay. Bear, Beaver, Wolf, Turtle, Buffalo, Crow and Eagle travelled to Main Meadow to hear LayLay’s complaint.
Councillor Buffalo was correct- it was a complicated case. LayLay had written some disturbing things in her diary. She wrote that she didn’t want to be Moth- she used the old derogatory term. The word Moth had been replaced by the more accurate name, Flutterby, and nobody said Moth anymore. ‘Moths are hideous!’ LayLay had written, ‘and I am the ugliest of all.’ She wanted to be a butterfly. ‘Butterflies have bodies as slender as pine needle. I want strong gorgeous wings that don’t fall apart,’ she wrote. ‘I would give anything to be rid of my plain hairy wings and my fat grubby body.’
Laylay stood in front of Council with her wings folded back, her antennae shaking, her little hands in fists. “Perhaps it would be easier to respect me if I was a butterfly,” she declared.
Councillor Wolf’s ears pricked. “Flutterbys are vital to our community … and so is every other being- from Algae to Buffalo. You are not more or less than anyone else. We are all beautifully different and we are all valued equally.”
“LayLay Flutterby,” Buffalo spoke next. “It is true that Cricket must respect you. However, you must also show respect. You must respect your own Flutterby self, LayLay.”
Councillor Eagle agreed: “This is a case about self-love.”
“Indeed,” cawed Councillor Crow. “This is a case about accepting yourself for who you are.”
And so it came to pass that Cruel Cricket was asked to join the Peace Committee to do some work on the anti-gossip campaign.
As for LayLay, she flew down to Debwewin River with Councillor Crow on one side of her and Councillor Eagle on the other. Land below was summer green. Wind was mostly calm, just active enough for Leaves to wave back at them and for the trip to be pleasant- lots of gliding.
“I know how I look already,” LayLay said to Crow. “I saw myself in a mirror at the Bay where I was born under some wool blankets. I have never seen an uglier moth than myself.”
“Flutterby,” corrected Crow.
“I have a million headbanger cousins in Town. They smash into lamps and lightbulbs all night long. That’s how much they hate themselves.”
As they soared over Debwewin’s south shore, Eagle said, “Look down now, look into water. What do you see?”
LayLay looked down at Debwewin River. He was completely calm today, a twinkle in his blue eyes. LayLay saw her reflection: white wings with matching brown spots that looked like crossed eyes.
“I see a fat moth with an extra set of freak eyes.”
“Look again,” said Eagle. “Look with love. You are a precious being, LayLay. Born with purpose and freedom both. Look closely, my Love. What do you see?”
“Dirty brown dust falling off me.”
“Ah, but it is not dirt. Precious LayLay, when you spread your wings and fly, happy dust floats here and there and everywhere, bringing a lightness, a delicate bliss. Just the sight of you can cause happiness. Plants and animals alike bask in the silt of flutterbys… and butterflies too, for they are similar, spreading joy among the wildflower blooms and Forest’s paths. Pollinators follow your pristine energy trails to meadows and fields. Bee depends on you.”
“All creatures with wings clean Air,” said Crow. He flapped once and glided with Wind, who played a little.
LayLay got curious then, and she really looked into Debwewin River. For the first time she looked carefully into her eyes- not her oddly-crossed painted eyes, but her real eyes. She saw a sweet soul, an innocent.
“I am just a baby,” she spoke with wonder, “I will spread happy dust and I will not live long.” Debwewin had shown her the truth of the matter.
“You will give of yourself, your whole self, to Bat or Robin or maybe, Robin’s hungry baby. It will be your final gift.” Eagle tilted one wing over her, loving her.
Her body looked fat in Debwewin, it was true. But it was no longer disappointing to LayLay. She understood that she was a rich source of protein.
Now, if Ann hadn’t lied to her teacher, if LayLay hadn’t dropped her diary, if Cricket hadn’t read it and cruelly gossiped, if LayLay had never complained to the Council of Seven and then had never seen the truth in Debwewin… what a tragic life she might have led.
As it was, LayLay lived 4 days and nights. She didn’t waste a moment wishing to be anything other than her own spectacular self. She loved her work!
LayLay fluttered here, there and everywhere, clearing Air of black and blue emotions. Her brown happy dust was golden by her third day of life. It was plentiful and LayLay gave it freely- to Breeze and Wind, to meadows and Forest’s paths.
LayLay fluttered near Meadow Creek where Raccoon and Turtle had broken up and she dissipated the sadness there. She fluttered along the ditch beside Danger Road, and she cleared fear and despair. She fluttered along the trail left by Black Bear as he stomped angrily to Blackberry Thicket.
When LayLay fluttered by, animals felt happy. Sometimes they felt lighter, as if they might flutter too, at least dance a bit, darting up and down like LayLay Flutterby, the sweetest morsel that ever flew.
In the end, it was over Weeds that LayLay gave her own fat body to Wren, who did declare, “What a sweet-tasting protein! Megwich Flutterby.”