The Fall of Butterflies - Andrea Portes Page 0,1

ready? It’s a simple plan, really.

1) Move to the East Coast.

And . . .

2) Kill myself.


You want to know what happened?

Fine. I can explain everything.

It’s because of “should.”

Yep, that one word. That’s why it all went down.

Does that sound crazy? It won’t for long. Not after I tell you the whole story. And this? This is the story you want to hear.

So, yeah. “Should.”

If it has to do with “should” or “supposed to be,” you are dealing, without question, with my mom.

If it has to do with “just the way things are,” that’s my dad.

And “just the way things are” is never, ever, good enough.

Nope. Not for my mom.

Not that she even lives here anymore. She lives in France. Outside Paris. In Fontainebleau. In the forest of Fontainebleau. Yes, she’s actually a fairy. Doesn’t that sound like a total fable? But hold on, we’ll get to that later, ’cause that’s a whopper.

If you think my dad and I live in Paris or France or Fontainebleau, you’ve got another think coming. No, we come from a very glamorous place you may have heard of. It’s all the rage. Beyond en vogue. Can you guess where? Okay, here goes.

What Cheer, Iowa.

Yup, you heard me. What effing Cheer effing Iowa. You may have thought I just got distracted while we were talking and turned to the person next to me and said “What?” and that person answered, “Cheer!” but no. No. That is the name of the town. What Cheer.

There are many theories as to how the town got that name. I’m fairly sure the main reason is to make everybody confused when I tell them where I’m from.

The main story most people like to tell is the one where, back in ancient times, all the townsfolk—and I want you to imagine here a bunch of people in overalls, maybe someone with a corncob pipe, someone with a rope for a belt, and then a kindly old gentleman in a black suit with white hair like George Washington—gathered round in the town hall to think of a name for the town. No one could agree. There were insults made. Accusations hurled. Possibly a chair thrown.

Finally, it descended into so much chaos and rabble-rousing that the only respectable person there, who I imagine to be the guy with the George Washington hair, declared, “All right! The next person to come in that door, the first thing they say, THAT will be the name of the town!”

And then . . . out of the blue, a lonely old drifter came sidling in. I imagine this was the moment the hall fell silent. Possibly some tumbleweed blew across the floor. Maybe even the mice froze in anticipation. A kind townsman said, “Come in, sir. Take a seat.” To which the drifter replied, “What chair?” But nobody back then could hear anything, because they had all left their ear horns back home or something, so they all thought he said, “What cheer!” And, lo and behold, the first and most constant source of my awkward discomfort. What Cheer, Iowa.

People in town love to regale folks with this story. They tell it with real verve. At the punch line, everybody laughs and shakes their heads and pretends not to have heard it a thousand times before.

Oh, yes. I can rattle off that and a million other tales about What Cheer that would make the folks back home proud, but right now let’s just stick to the fact that the population is 646 people. Actually, 645, if you’re counting me.

Because right now, if you’re looking at me, I’m on a train. See me there? I’m the girl with the frizzy red hair and the funny mouth. Don’t make fun of my mouth—everybody has to have one, and I just got a weird one. Not weird, exactly, just kind of big. I have a big mouth. In all senses. First, the mouth is literally big, and second, the mouth is open a lot, asking a lot—okay, maybe too much—about all kinds of things. But what I want to know is which came first? The big mouth or the “big mouth”? You can’t exactly go through life with a mouth like this and not, by default, end up using it a lot to ask things everybody wonders but no one wants to say. If I had been born with a thin mouth, like Kristen Stewart or something, I bet I would just always be quiet and know my place. I bet