The sun's rays have not crossed the ridge, nor has the first turista awoken in the bright orange hotel, as I flit among the children making their way to school. They laugh and try to catch me, but I don't let them touch me. I keep my sting and my teeth well out of their reach, for the children cannot see them. They see only what they wish to see in me, which is a gift from the one who first dreamt me.
The young painter sees us playing and says, "Be careful, mariposa, lest they catch you."
But I am no butterfly, as I prove when I spy the village bully, Jorge, coming along the road. Yesterday he stole Juan's lunch, and Juan is too afraid to tell. I buzz into Jorge's face and spit, my phlegm warm and gummy, and all of the other children laugh and cheer as Jorge curses and chases me down the street.
Many miles away in San JosÃ©, my mother is still asleep, so I can go with the painter to his shop and watch as he hangs the painting he finished last night. It is a large painting, on canvas, not amate. He does not follow the tradition. He did not make the paper, nor did he grind or mix the paints himself. The canvas and paints came from a rich land far away, and the paintings themselves are utterly unlike those he saw as a child, but they are from his heart, and his memories and his hopes.
They are beautiful, and delicious. I sample the one showing a young man sitting in a window, waiting. In another, a faceless figure atop a stack of books on a blue background, watches me feast, seeming to disapprove of my taste. I wink at it.
In San JosÃ©, my mother is yawning and stretching. I fly to the window, after a quick glance over the artist's shoulder. He is sketching a butterflyâ€”yet it is not quite a butterfly. I am pleased.
At last she made her way downstairs and began the business of her business, dusting shelves, polishing and greeting the catrinasâ€”small skeletal statues clad in the high fashions of days gone byâ€”and other cousins of the creature hovering behind her, statuettes and sculptures in many colors, shapes, and sizes. She checked her stock of herbs and other supplies, making a list for ordering: chamomile and black tea.
While she did this, the little creature flitted around the shelves behind her, kissing the catrinas impishly as they fluttered their fans, a rosy tint flushing their bony cheeks. He stuck his nose in the near-empty jar of chamomile and sneezed. He curled around the heels of his mother as she finally opened the gate of her store. She turned and nearly tripped, an exasperated "Bastante, little one!" escaping her lips.
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