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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

The Fireflies May Well Have Been Fairies

Fireflies, iStock Photos
Fireflies, iStock Photos

Excerpt It wasn’t too long before the pond incident that Dolly May’s baby was born. That night would remain clear in my memory. Other than catchin’ two fireflies and puttin’ ‘em in a jar, nothin’ extraordinary happened. I made sure that there were holes in the cover so they wouldn’t die. The rule was to let ‘em go in the mornin’. We never kept anything that was meant to be in the wild. At first, I kept the jar under the corner of my sack because just the week before, Dolly May warned me not to bring them in. She said it was bad luck to bring anything like that inside, but especially the fireflies, because they were from the same circle as the fairies and wee folk. She didn’t get into the particulars, but she said that it was serious. She even went on to say that disturbin’ their world could bring a whole lot of trouble to us all. Mamma said that it was nonsense because she and Sarah caught countless fireflies and nothin’ bad ever happened. If you think you need to hide them, then suit yourself, she said. Superstition goes against the Lord. I regret that I didn’t listen to Dolly May. Had I left the fireflies alone, our stories may have taken a different turn. It wasn’t worth the risk, but I will never know. Everything from then on would continue to haunt me. The fireflies may well have been fairies. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. And I was sure that everyone knew that I was up to somethin’ because of the green glow under my sack. I remember it bein’ hot under there and was about to confess to Dolly May when she let out a scream that shook my bones. She stood up and continued to scream as some of the women rushed to help her. For weeks, Mamma had been prepared. On the crate beside the door was her special pouch, and there were bunches of freshly picked plants hangin’ from the beam. I backed away from the women, droppin’ my jar in the meantime. Bein’ that the cover was only a brown paper sack, bound loosely with twine, it came off, and the fireflies escaped. “You shouldn’t have brought them in here!” Dolly May screamed as water splashed on the floor, makin’ a puddle by her feet. I had never seen such a sight. Her face looked as if it belonged to someone else. “Never mind,” Mamma said. “Samuel, gather our sack and go to the great room.” Bella hurried into the hallway and down the stairs. I s’posed she needed to fetch the usual things. The other women tried to help Dolly May, but there was no way it would happen. She screamed so and carried on. It was my fault for bringin’ the fireflies inside. I had cursed her and, as I came to know, cursed us all. I started a quick prayer, but stopped, fearin’ that everything had already been set in motion. God didn’t like that, and I was already guilty of my wicked actions. What could I have said to make a difference?

At that moment, the world shifted. What seemed magical only moments before, pressed recklessly against the walls of my chest. I kept my eyes fixed on the fireflies as they twinkled along the top of the sill. I jumped when a loose shutter banged against the window, while the voices of women blended with an uncommon moanin’ in the wind.

I backed into the shadows of the far corner and watched. Mamma was too busy to notice that I hadn’t left. Unable to move or fully breathe, I never made it to the great room. What I was about to see was not meant for my eyes; what I heard, not meant for my ears. But what I witnessed in the whole of me is why it happened. Had I gone to the great room, I would have missed it. Samuel J. Hodgdon, II, June 17, 1878 Carroll County Farm, NH Excerpt: Down from the Tree Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series, Book Three


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