It was 1953, it was spring, and it was a great time to be a kid!
School would be out soon, and there were three long months of summer vacation to look forward to.
Tom Mix and Roy Rogers were still making movies, and the local theater
had decided not to raise it's prices. You could still get into
the Saturday matinee for thirty five cents. And that included a Buck Rogers cliff hangar serial and a cartoon!
A carnival was coming to town in July, and a circus in August. What more could a guy ask for?
The boy and his friend had been thinking about all these things as
they watched their kite soar gracefully above them in the sky over
the large open field. The boy was ten and his friend was eleven,
and although they were a grade apart in school, they were the best of buddies and did everything together.
They came to this field often, to fly kites, or play cowboys
and Indians, or just to explore. There were woods along one
side of the clearing that were great for hiding and building forts in.
And if you were playing the part of an Indian there was
a stone fence that offered protection from the cowboys after a raid on their camp.
It was in this very field that the carnivals set up their rides and
the circuses put up their tents. And as much fun as it was to
wander around those events while they were there, it was
even more exciting to see them leave, and then race to the field to see what treasures may have been left behind.
There was always something. A broken trinket, a length of
thick rope, or maybe even change from some kids pocket
when he had been turned upside down while riding "The Octopus"! A person never knew what they might discover.
Yup, it was a really neat field.
It was getting late, and the two friends decided it was time to go. The older boy gave one last hard tug on the kite's string,
as he always did, trying to get it to dive and loop, and then they reeled in the line and started for home.
The path out of the field went by an old apple tree, and for
the past week or so they had been watching a large yellow
caterpillar who had made his home on one of the branches.
They had watched him slowly inch his way up and down
the branch looking for any new leaves that might have
sprouted. But there wasn't much new growth on
the tree this early in the year, and so they had wondered how he would survive.
They didn't see the caterpillar today. Instead they noticed
a large, grey, lifeless looking cocoon, and they wondered
if their yellow friend had died. But it was getting very late,
and the boys friend said his stomach hurt, probably
from hunger, so they didn't wonder about it too long, and continued their walk home.
The next morning the boy and his friend walked to school
together as usual. They arrived with a little time left before
the first bell, so they took a few moments
to wander around the playground and discuss their plans for that evening.
The boy's friend wanted to go fishing at Mudd Creek,
the water was getting high there and he thought perhaps the trout may have come back early this year.
It was also just about time to start getting their bicycle-built-for-two back
together. Neither friend had a great bike, but when the rear
wheel was removed from one, and the front fork of the other
attached, it made a super fast and fun vehicle!
(and sticking playing cards in the spokes of
the wheels made it sound just like the full dress Harley Davidson
motorcycles they would see on the highway...well, almost...)
But nothing definite was decided upon,
and so, when the second bell rang they went their separate ways.
Noon came, and when the boy entered the cafeteria it was
buzzing with excitement. Someone in Mrs. Foster's class
had gotten very sick and had to be taken to the hospital!
The boy's friend was in Mrs. Foster's room, and so the boy
looked around the busy lunch room trying to find him.
But his friend wasn't there so the boy sat next to some of his other classmates.
Everyone seemed to have a different version of what had happened,
and there were a lot of rumors, but the one thing they all seemed
to agree upon was the fact that it had been the boys friend who had gotten sick.
Lunch period ended and soon the school day was over.
The boy hurried home to see if his friend had returned from
the hospital yet. He was sure his friend would have
wonderful stories of being poked with long needles,
being asked to say "ahhh" a hundred times, and other strange and unknown things.
There were a lot of cars in his friends driveway as the boy walked
past, but he didn't see anyone and so he continued to his home two
houses away. His grandmother was in the kitchen baking when
he walked in, and she asked him if he had heard about his friend.
She said he had suffered an attack of acute appendicitis. His
appendix had burst in school, and by the time they got him to
the hospital it was too late. The poison had spread
throughout his body and he had died a short while ago.
His best friend was gone.
There was no one to take him to the funeral, and so he decided to
go to the field. He hadn't had much experience with death.
He had seen dead squirrels and birds of course, but a person, that was different. He didn't understand.
Why did things have to die?
Where did they go?
Why did his best friend have to leave him?
He wanted to think about all these things and so he walked slowly
down the road to the field, carrying the kite, it's tail dragging along behind him.
As he passed the apple tree he noticed the dull, grey cocoon was
broken open. There was nothing inside, it was just a
cold empty shell now, and there was no trace of the caterpillar.
There was a strong breeze, and the kite went up into the bright sky
easily. The boy sat on a rock and watched as the colorful kite swayed
in the wind and danced on it's tail. As he watched he thought about
all the good times he and his friend had had. Times that they could never have again.
That was the part he couldn't accept. That he would never see his chubby, funny friend again.
The boy was very sad, but he didn't cry.
There was less wind now and it was getting cool.
It was time to go.
He stood and began to wind the kite string onto it's holder. He hadn't wound more than a half dozen turns when a beautiful yellow
Swallowtail butterfly landed on the line no more than two feet from his hand.
The string went slack in his hands, and it seemed the butterfly was
pulling on the line, trying to catch just one last gust of air under the
kite. The kite responded by soaring another fifty feet up into the air and then started floating slowly back to earth.
The line was taut in his hands again and the boy continued reeling it in.
As he did, the Swallowtail let go his hold on the line and flew upwards,
up past the kite and into the clear blue sky until it disappeared from the boy's sight.
Now the boy understood.
The caterpillar hadn't died. He had changed into something new
and wonderful, leaving behind an empty shell which was no longer needed.
The boy knew he would never see his friend again, not as he had been.
But he knew his friend wasn't really gone. Instead, he too was off on a
great new adventure, his spirit soaring among the clouds. And he knew
that if he kept all the memories alive, the friendship and the good times, then his friend would never truly leave him.
His spirit would always be there.
Written by D. A. Tony Ciango for his friend...Jack G...1940-1953...