“Look, Mama, I found a butterfly!” said the little boy as he swung his net down over it. He scooped it up and covered the opening of the net with his hand, and the yellow and black butterfly struggled against the netting.
“Lovely, George,” said his mother, glancing up from her phone. “Look at it for a moment and then let it go.”
“Let it go?” asked George. “I want to keep it!”
His mother sighed. “You can’t keep a butterfly, George.”
“We don’t have any sort of container to put her in, and besides, she needs to be left wild and free. It’d be cruel to keep her.”
George’s lower lip jutted out and he frowned.
“That’s not fair,” he whispered.
“What was that?”
“It’s not fair!” he said, much louder.
“That’s enough, George. Let the butterfly go and then we’re leaving. I think you’re going to need a nap.”
With that, George’s eyes welled up with tears, and rather of shaking the butterfly out of the net, he grabbed it with his hand and held it inside his fist.
“George! Stop it! Let it go right now!”
He looked at his mother, opened his fist, and before she could make a move toward him, he had taken the butterfly in both hands and ripped it in half. He threw both pieces on the ground and walked to the car without another word.
His mother watched him, mouth agape, as he walked to the car and crawled into the back seat. When he was out of her view, she bent down to pick up the butterfly. She held it in her hand, one wing alone, one wing still connected to the body, and walked down to the river.
She tossed them up into the air and watched as they fell back down to the water. The wings lost each other as they floated downstream on different currents, and soon they were out of her sight.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, and walked up the hill back to the car.