Matthew Baker

Bumblebee, Snowstorm

I would like to write a story about my father.

However, when I was two years old, my father left my mother and moved to Arizona with an older Japanese woman.

So I do not have any stories about my father. Like the rest of his belongings, he packed my early memories of him into a cardboard banana box, peeling them off my windowsill, the back porch, our swingset.

He explained everything to my mother the day he left. "I met Sakura at the local farmer's market. She helped me find healthy eggs. In turn, I helped her choose ripe zucchini. I am truly sorry. These things are sometimes like gravity." He ate a green apple and washed some dirty silverware in the kitchen sink. Then he kissed my mother goodbye, promising that he would always love her, just not as much as his Japanese girlfriend.


For years my mother collected butterfly wings in a thick glass jar she kept above our kitchen cupboards. The wings were crisp and colorful, like dead leaves. Although I never saw her put wings into the jar, they rose steadily toward the rim, while life peeled years from her skin, until the jar was nearly full.

One night in early summer as man wearing a red ski mask broke into our basement through a loose window. My mother, who was drinking a warm mug of tea at the kitchen table, watched breathlessly as the burglar crept into the kitchen. The burglar did not turn on the lights. Instead, without hesitating, the burglar tiptoed to the kitchen cupboards, climbed onto the counter, and slide the jar of butterfly wings into his arms. He swung a green duffel bag from his shoulder onto the counter. The burglar was wearing dark gloves. He set the glass jar next to the duffel bag and, still standing on the counter, began shoveling fistfuls of crisp wings into the bag.

My mother says she wanted to scream, or to run upstairs and hide my sleeping seven year old body in the broom closer. But she was frozen, lifeless, like a bumblebee in a snowstorm. She sat silently and watched the strange man stuff butterfly wings into his duffel bag. She could hear the wings crunching against the green fabric, and she could feel the tea steaming underneath her chin.

When the jar was empty, every last paper wing, the burglar climbed off the counter. He fumbled around in his pockets and tossed some loose change into my mother's jar. He carefully zipped his bag, buttoned his coat, and tiptoed out the back door.

Wobbling to her feet, my mother stumbled out onto the back porch. The burglar was creeping across our lawn towards the woods.

My mother opened her mouth to speak. But the air inside her wheezed, like an accordion with moth holes in the bellows. So she said nothing.

The burglar disappeared into the trees.


I do not believe this incident had anything to do with my father.

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