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ODONATA

Linda M. Johnson

 

            A tiny brown dragonfly glanced off the windshield.  It was, I thought, unexceptional in anything but its plainness.  At other times and places, I had been pleased to admire dragonflies in every color from Day-Glo electric green to Easter-egg purple with eyes to match; and while I could only fantasize Jurassic dragonflies the size of crows, I had seen modern specimens with wings a good impressive four inches across.  But this little brown bug was puny, no more than an inch and a half from wing tip to wing tip, and a dull and uniform brown down to his eyes.  A very mediocre representative of the great and ancient family of the Odonata, and an extremely insufficient distraction from what would surely be one more miserable day at a miserable job.
            I needed something—anything—to take my mind off my destination, and the noises that were coming from under the hood of my truck as I reluctantly made my early morning way there.  The noises would eventually mean money that my boss had been very careful to deny me.  He knew about my trashed old truck and my lousy marriage to a crippled man whom I was forced to support on five dollars an hour.  The way he saw it, he was one blown engine away from acquiring a very nice all-purpose slave.  I would have to borrow against my pathetic wages to repair the truck, which would reduce me to working for free in his shop.  I could pay the interest by working after-hours for his mother-in-law, who needed a domestic.  And then there was the added possibility of using me to educate his nasty, lecherous thirteen-year-old son—I was, after all, clean and healthy and a goyim to boot, and not bad looking.  He might even use me himself; it was such a bummer having to stay married to a fat, ugly, crazy woman while waiting for her rich daddy's pacemaker to fritz.
            I turned onto the country road that would take me to the via Dolorosa of 377, which would in turn take me into Ft. Worth for another day of a job I hated and could not quit.  Another dragonfly skimmed the window.  And the, suddenly, they were everywhere.
            They swarmed around my laboring truck in a darting, shimmering horde.  They filled the countryside in a rich brown haze of fragile bodies that caught and reflected the morning light on the bright surfaces of countless eyes and wings.  I let off the gas, hoping to minimize causalities and wanting to look at them, all of them, for as long as I could.
            Here and there, I saw a solitary flash of blue or green.  But these larger flies were a minority.  The day belonged to the mates of that first little darter who had brushed my windshield; and what had seemed like next to nothing alone ahd become a thing of wonder en masse.  I drove even more slowly, leaving them at last just as I reached my exit on 377.
            Where were they going, I wondered. And where had they begun?  Dragonflies, I knew, were among the swiftest of flying insects, and their migrations could be spectacular.  This was the first such I had ever seen, and it was exactly what I needed: a reminder that the small evil of a small man amounts to very little in a universe that has trick like this up its commodious sleeve.
            I was a little late for work that morning and for most mornings thereafter; I smiled sweetly at my boss (which made him uneasy), until the day, a year later, when I and my tired old truck drove away without a word.  Did my boss but know it, something wonderful—something like a swarm of dragonflies—had passed through his life.  Last I heard, he's still waiting for his father-in-law to die.  And I am still flying.