WRITTEN BY CAITLIN HAVENS
ILLUSTRATED BY DANA SANMAR
The sun was setting and the park seemed to clear out quicker than usual. As I was walking out, it was the peak of traffic, so I had two options to get to Mom’s. The way with many traffic lights, or the way with very few.
The Path Least Traveled
Very few seemed like the best option, less likely to have green lights and red hands. Down the walk, I saw Mom’s favorite flower — a lily. As I went to pick it up, a butterfly landed on its petals, as if he didn’t want me to steal the flower. After 45 minutes, I was at the steps of Mom’s building. Mrs. Grunsteen, the landlady, asked about my day as she offered me a cookie. Chewing and talking, I pressed my finger on the once white button to buzz for Mom. She didn’t answer, so I excused myself as Don Hardwick, Mom’s neighbor, walked up the steps. Every Friday night the two played checkers and drank hot tea. Hardwick let me in and we went our separate ways at the end of the hall. I walked into her apartment and on the creaky wooden floor was Mom. I went to her side. It was hard not to think she was just sleeping. That maybe, she was so tired that another few steps to the couch or her bed would’ve been impossible to take. It’s a side effect of the medicine — drowsiness that is. My knees pressed against the floorboards, close to her still body. She didn’t move, but it could also be a prank — she was always trying to scare me. But she wasn’t sleeping — and she wasn’t trying to scare me. My fingers against the skin of her wrist gave no response. She was gone.
An LED man lit up on the sign across the street. I decided to take the way with many lights as the man seemed like a sign of good luck. There were only a few red hands and I was at Mom’s within 15 minutes. I buzzed Mom’s apartment — there was no answer. The landlady, Mrs. Grunsteen, was walking out and held the door for me. She tried to offer me a cookie from the plate in her hand, but I declined as the struggle to get the clinging wrap off seemed like a burden. As the door shut, I heard the sound of metal hitting concrete. A butterfly flew in moments after.I knocked on the door to Mom’s as I was walking in, just to let her know it was me. She was on the floor, wooden boards creaking as she struggled to get up. Her eyes locked with mine and I couldn’t help but stand motionless in fear, not knowing what to do. Paramedics arrived shortly after, but not soon enough. She passed away while holding my hand. The last sight I have of my mother is the zipper closing on the black body bag. There wasn’t time for condolences or kind words, just business. They shut the door behind them, and I was alone.
I left the next day with a single box from her apartment. There wasn’t much to take, just the fondest memories. A photo of us sat on the side table by the entrance. I placed it at the top of my box and reached for the door. Something flew by me, and through the sliver of space between the door and wall, there was another butterfly. Or, perhaps it was the one from yesterday. He replaced the frame and sat on the side table, flapping his wings as I left.