Tag Archives: Madagascar


 (Short Fiction)

As I dropped the coin into the beggar’s hand, his icy fingers brushed mine and I shivered. Icy fingers – slow mo : my fingers were icy – Jake’s fingers were icy, I did all I could but his fingers got colder and colder – icy fingers – why didn’t I do more? All that snow! Spruce branches groaning and creaking under their cargo of snow – snowfields up to the jagged peaks – snow – snow – nothing but cold snow – fast forward  – “Lady? You okay?” – the bearded face, the sour winey breath, the grubby parka – slow mo – the icicles growing on Jakes’s beard, my icy fingers, my freezing feet – I should have done more – the blinding light off the snowfield – the creaking spruce boughs – my icy fingers – fast forward – “I – I ..”

“Lady – “ slow mo – Jake’s fingers stiffening – getting colder – my breath in puffy clouds – no clouds in that harsh blue sky – rubbing Jake’s stiff frozen fingers  –  fast forward – “Lady – what you been takin?  Lady?”

Slow mo: I dimly hear the roar of the traffic on the nearby Trans-Alaska Highway – and I know where that goes – all the way up to the north, where it’s cold, cold, cold and there’s nothing but snow and ice and mountains and there’s Jake sinking into a snowdrift  –  fast forward  “Lady: what you sayin? Ain’t no snow here! just rain – this is Seattle and all we got is rain – no snow!”

Slow mo: the distant clatter of a helicopter – a shadow swooping over the snow –  but it’s too late – Jake’s fingers are stiff – mine are numb – my brain is frozen – my tongue won ‘t work – my eyeballs are stuck – fast forward – “Lady, that’s the radio station traffic bird – WRX – always up there, spyin’ on us all! ain’t rescuin’ nobody – leastways not tonight, not here”.

Slow mo: –helicopter – that’s it – we’ll go to the red sand, where yellow snakes bask in the sun, and black  and white striped lemur tails whisk through the trees, where the careful chameleons creep – no snow there, they don’t even know what snow means they –  fast forward –  “Whaddya mean we’re going to Madagascar? Lady, I don’t even know where Madagascar is – someplace down south maybe?  And anyway, I don’t even know you! Who you, crazy lady? Where you from? Where you goin? only place you need to go is Saint Martin’s Memorial I reckon, they got places for crazies like you”   – fast forward  – and Madagascar will be warm, and Sir David will show me round the island, you can come too, dirty old hobo in a parka, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the warmth, the sun, we can swim in the sea, and play with the lemurs, and there’ll be no more snow, no more icy fingers, your fingers will never be cold again – fast forward  : “Whaddya mean: swim? Where? In the freakin gutters? In this weather?  Lady – I’m drunk, I know I’m drunk, helps keep the cold out, but you is somethin’ else. Man!”

Slow mo : No, don’t go, old hobo man, I’m going to sell Aunty Maudie’s ring, that big emerald , and those emeralds  will buy us two tickets and we’ll go far away from the snow, no more icy fingers, no more Jake, we’ll be warm and no more snow and you can have a chameleon, I’ll have one too, and our hands will always be warm  – fast forward  “Lady: I’m getting wet, you is getting wet, I’m tired of your mumbling and your nonsense – go on home now, get outta the rain, I’m  going down the street to the Shelter, where you going? You what? No, Lady, NO! Ohmigod: no lady – what you do that for? Huh? Huh? Don’ wanna be a witness, no sir, guess I’ll just sneak down the alley into 6th Street and go to the Shelter that route – freakin cold, might as well be snowin’, that lady sure was rambling about snow, and why her fingers was cold in them fancy gloves I’ll never know.  Women! I ain’t got no gloves, and I sure do know about icy fingers. “




I heard a fascinating radio programme on Sunday morning which related how the Little White Butterfly migrates from the Kalahari, right across Africa, to end its journey (and its life) off the Mozambique coast, and sometimes, as far away as Madagascar.  Apart from the mind-blowing physical feat of such a tiny insect flying thousands of kilometres what is even more astonishing is that nobody has managed to work out why they do this.

As a rule, animal migrations are connected with moving to better grazing areas (the great annual migrations of antelope across the African plains) or returning to birth places to breed – think of turtles or salmon.  But: the puzzling thing about the butterfly migration is that they breed immediately upon hatching from the chrysalis stage, and having laid their eggs upon the Shepherd’s tree, (also their hatching location) they then flex their wings, and fly off to their doom, 2 000 kms later.  It’s inexplicable. Lepidopterologists are scratching their heads. I’m shaking mine in amazement.

A FaceBook page has been opened so that members of the public can post reports of time, location and other data when the butterfly swarms – do we call them swarms? flocks? clouds? *I don’t know – arrive in their neighbourhood. By collating this data, it’s hoped to learn more about  the phenomenon. If you’re interested the link is:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/WhiteButterflyMigration/?fref=ts

Thinking about butterfly migrations leads me to Barbara Kingsolver’s most recent novel Flight Behaviour, which deals with the Monarch Butterfly migrations in North America. Having seen a marvellous TV documentary on the myriad orange butterflies, and the spectacle of roosting insects  creating vast swathes of orange trees in evergreen forests, and marvelling at the phenomenon, I was dead keen to read the book. Furthermore, the blurb indicated that the migrating butterflies had a transformative effect on those who witnessed their flight over the continent, and I thought: what a wonderful theme for a novel, the healing and transformative power of nature! But alas! I abandoned the book after the first 30 or so pages – the characters were so plain awful, I just could not bear to read any more about them and their miserable lives. Yes, I lack staying power and fortitude, I bow my head in shame, but – hey, guys! Life’s too short to read dreadful books. Sorry, but there it is.

*I am enchanted to discover that there are a number of collective nouns to describe large numbers of butterflies:  rabble, flutter, swarm, kaleidoscope, rainbow or swarm of butterflies.  A rabble of butterflies? doesn’t sound right, somehow, whereas ‘A rainbow of butterflies’ is sheer poetry. Take your pick! (thank you, Google, for the info).


Filed under ECOLOGY