Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.


25. Things going bump in the night

I wonder why we've moved here. Can't figure it out. They're obviously taking the stuff somewhere on this boat, and maybe us too. What if they take us to another country and leave us there? How do we get back home?! I mustn't think like that, but I can't help it. I remember one of them saying that he wanted to go overseas, so maybe that's what they meant by leaving us in the middle of nowhere. What if the people speak a different language there? This is our second time on a boat. The first time was when Daddy took us on a short boat ride around Seal Island in Mossel Bay and it stank so much, that's all I can remember from that day. Lisa almost threw up – she doesn’t like bad smells. I hope she doesn't get nauseous here. I'm feeling a bit sick myself but it's because Mack is making me sick. He made another call to Mommy to tell her that he's giving her 3 days to get the money together or else. He told her that she'll never see us again and we only got the chance to say hello to her. Hearing her voice was so wonderful; I never thought I could be so happy to hear someone's voice. She must've said that she'd give him what he asked for because Mack looked like the cat that stole the cream. Lucky for us, he and Barney didn't stay much longer after the phone call ended.

Whitey and Skinny are with us on the boat. They're playing cards at the table now that dinner’s finished. I'm feeling a bit more relaxed now. Whitey gave us the book that we started reading at the house, so Lisa and I spent a few hours forgetting about where we are and afterwards we talked about how much the pirates in the story are like the mullet gang. Maybe we have to be our own heroes, like the boy in the story. He doesn't have a mommy or a daddy to save him. The way the boat is moving is making me sleepy and I see that Lisa has now fallen asleep, so I'll put the book down and force myself to think happy thoughts so that I don't have a nightmare about pirates with hooks. Whitey's gone outside to smoke a cigarette and Skinny is having a snack. And right there under the sheet, so close I can almost touch it, lies a very special shoebox...


The last thing she remembered before she fell asleep was hearing Skinny crack open a large tub of ice cream and loudly licking his lips. The boat is rocking gently as the sea laps softly against the boat. The girls are sleeping the deep, fitful sleep of innocents. Whitey goes over to check on them and settles down on his sleeping bag near the cabin door. He has already locked the door and put the key inside his jeans pocket. He grunts goodnight to Skinny who grunts a reply with his mouth full. The only thing lighting up the cabin is a camping gas lamp flickering strange shapes against the ceiling and walls. The hissing of the lamp combined with the swaying and rocking of the boat and the sound of the sea outside, are too much for Skinny to resist. Before long, he too falls asleep with a spoon in his mouth. A trickle of ice cream dribbles from his open, snoring mouth... It's hard to say how much time has passed but suddenly Skinny is woken up by a loud thud beside him. He looks groggily around the cabin. Nothing’s wrong. He’s about to put his head back down on the table when he notices something is wrong! "Where’s my ice cream?" He starts looking around and finds the tub on the floor beside the table. "Phew! Thank goodness it didn't fall upside down. I only had a little of it... What the--" The tub is empty! Skinny’s face is clouded over with confusion and anger. He jumps to his feet. "Who ate my ice cream?" He's shouting out loud to no one in particular and everyone in general. Whitey and the girls slowly wake up.

"What’s it?" The girls listen as Skinny explains to Whitey how his ice cream mysteriously disappeared. "Man, you must've been dreaming. Maybe a big wave knocked the boat and the thing fell off the table. You’re supposed to be awake anyway." He grumbles, turns his back to them and goes back to sleep. Skinny isn't convinced and definitely not satisfied. He glares at the girls as if they were responsible. "What are you looking at? Go back to sleep!" Just as he turns to put the empty ice cream tub back on the table, something really weird happens. The girls see it too. The sheet covering the loot starts fluttering as if a wind is rippling under it. Skinny jumps up and stares at it with his eyes growing as big as saucers. "Whitey!" The girls have never heard Whitey speak as much as he's doing tonight. "I’ll buy you 2 brand new tubs of ice cream tomorrow if you shut up now!" Skinny is frozen to the spot as he watches the sheet slide off the loot and drop onto the floor in the middle of the cabin. "Whitey, look!" The sound of terror in his voice makes Whitey turn around and sit up. "What are you doing, you idiot? Put that thing back on!" Skinny shakes his head and the rest of his body is shaking too. The girls have both gone white in the face and they're clinging to each other under their blanket. "It wasn't me. I didn't touch it." "What do you mean you didn't touch it? Did they?" He's pointing at the girls but then he notices that they both look terrified too. With a big sigh and some more grumbling, Whitey gets up, walks over to the sheet and pulls it back over the loot. "Okay?" He hasn't even returned to this sleeping bag before the sheet starts fluttering again and slides off the loot once again. This time Skinny makes a sound like a little girl and he jumps up on the table. Whitey turns around slowly with eyes growing ever bigger. "It must be a breeze blowing through the cracks in the boat. Come on, cover it again but let's put something heavy to weigh the ends down." Skinny does as he's told but anyone can see he doesn't believe what Whitey is saying. "There aren't any cracks in the boat. Mack had it fixed up during the winter." Whitey ignores Skinny and checks that the sheet is weighted down properly before he returns to his sleeping bag.

Ten minutes pass during which Skinny has seated himself at the table up against the opposite wall, as far from the loot as he can possibly be, and he's watching intently for other signs of weirdness. The girls are watching too. Eventually, Skinny laughs at himself and shrugs. He gets up to go to the bathroom and the moment he turns his back, he hears a light whistling sound coming from the loot. He turns to look and guess what he sees? The sheet neatly lying in folds around the loot, on the floor. "Hey! Whitey! It’s like this boat is haunted, man!" "What the hell is it with you, Skinny?" But when Whitey looks up, his face turns even whiter. "How the..." His mouth is hanging open until he catches the young girl's eye. "Hey you! Minnie, did you do this?" She shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head. "No, but I bet I can guess who did." She's got such a mischievous look on her face that both Whitey and Skinny immediately believe she really does know. "It’s my Daddy, of course! How else can you explain it?" Skinny is staring stupidly at her but Whitey's face goes dark red and shouts at her to stop talking nonsense. "Ok, just one little question then. Skinny, what flavour was your ice cream? I bet it was strawberry, right?" Skinny is nodding stupidly at her but Whitey's unimpressed. "So what? Anyone can see what's on the tub! I don't have time for this rubbish. Leave the stupid sheet alone and everyone just be quiet!" Skinny's speaking with a voice that doesn't belong to him. "Whitey, they can't see the table from there. How does she know it's strawberry?" Whitey glares at him. "Because that's my Daddy's favourite flavour ice cream. You do remember that you guys stole my Daddy's urn, don't you? Did you bring it onboard?" Whitey walks across the floor towards the girls with hard, quick footsteps and balled up fists, and stops right in front of them. The girls shrink back against the wall. They’ve never seen Whitey like this. Skinny draws his attention away from the girls with a nervous voice. "Wait! Leave them alone! I mean, what if she's telling the truth?"

Whitey looks unsure of himself. He turns and walks over to Skinny. He’s whispering but the girls can just about hear what's being said. "Look, if you want to believe in ghosts, that's your problem, but I can tell you right now that I don't. Okay?" "That’s just too weird, man! Maybe we should give Mack a call and tell him what happened." "And sound like incompetent fools! Are you nuts? Mack’s already had it with Barney acting like a pansy and you want to tell Mack you're scared of things going bump in the night?" "Okay, but then let's put the sheet up again and let's watch it. Because right now, I have no idea how that sheet fell off, man! And I’d really like there to be a rational explanation. Anyway, those kids don't know we've brought that urn here. How does she know we still have it? It’s spooky, man!" They both walk over to the loot and are now just standing there looking at it. Whitey picks up a few items, including the shoe box, and winking at Skinny, he puts them up against the wall on the far side of the pile, out of the girls' sight, and covers the loot one more time with the sheet. Once again, they're putting some of the heavier objects on the edges of the sheet to weigh it down. They both take a seat at the table and sit and wait and watch.

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