Friday, September 23, 2011

Butterflies: A Surrealistic Writing Class

The following story was inspired by the Paris Writer's Workshop I attended in 2007:

Butterflies: A Surrealistic Writing Class 

            I got up in the morning in my second day in Paris and had a healthy breakfast from the landlady, Christina, who wanted to feed me like a horse.  I turned down the ham but happily accepted the cucumber, yogurt and a delicious cup of hot cocoa.  After having a quick Parisian goodbye, hugs and kisses with Christina, and stuffing the first manuscript we were going to discuss into my leather bag, I stepped out the door on my way to my class– Master Class for Novel Writing.  It was going to be taught by an American-French writer, Ms. Catherine Texier.  It was perfect for me, a non-native speaker, to be taking a class in English in Paris.
            The weather was cool but not rainy.  Since I didn’t know how to take the subway, I decided to join the briskly walking Parisians on the street.  The Google map said it would only take about twenty minutes to walk to the class site but it actually took twice as long, including getting lost twice at the same street corners where I got lost the previous day.  Since I had figured out how to get through the doors in Paris by pushing buttons and pulling latches the day before, I had no trouble getting into the building.  But I had no idea where the class would be.  I decided to go straight to the garden at the far end where there were a fishpond and many beautiful flowers.  Since this place resembled paradise, it had to be somewhere near here.  But I was wrong; there were no human beings in sight.  Instead, there was a garden full of butterflies.
            “Hello!”  One of the butterflies said, fluttering right in front of my face.  I almost fell backwards.
            “I can lead you to your classroom,” said the Butterfly. 
            I was dumbfounded.  What sort of place is this?  The Butterfly must be some kind of high-tech navigation device.  I obediently followed the butterfly.
            As I walked up the squeaky staircases, the atmosphere became more mysterious.  I could see light smoke hovering in the air.
            “What sort of place is this?”  I asked.
            “You will find out soon,” The Butterfly flapped her wings and went ahead.
            Like being drugged, I started feeling light headed and followed ahead.  So when I saw the green rolling hills, the colorful flowers, and the happily running squirrels and rabbits, I was not surprised.  I slowed down, checking the surroundings of this wonderland.
            “Hurry up.  Otherwise we will be late,” said the Butterfly.
            We entered a forest, and crossed a few streams over some miniature wooden bridges.  Then we came to a log cabin.
            “Here is your classroom,” said the Butterfly.  Then she started flapping her wings rapidly.  “Open the door, please.”
            I could hear loud footsteps coming to the door.  Then the door opened and a frog’s big green head stuck out.  “Welcome.  You must be here for the Master Class for Novel Writing.”  The frog had an impeccable British accent.
            Without even asking why I was here taking a class from a frog, I stepped in.  Maybe I was drugged.  Maybe I was in a dream.  Or it was simply an adventure, which for a writer was a golden opportunity. 
After I had found out, who my classmates were, I was not sure that I was in the right class.  Sitting around the table were a giant moth, quite old but beautiful, a raccoon, very earnest, a beaver with prominent nose and a parrot who couldn’t stop talking. 
            “A human?  I haven’t seen one for a long time,” said the Parrot.
            “Have you noticed how young she is,” said the Frog.
            I looked at myself up and down and was surprised to see that I wore a red and white pleated skirt and an apron.  I had two long black pigtails hanging down on my shoulders.  For some reason, I pulled up my skirt and curtsied.
            “You can sit down now.”  The Frog waved her hands.  “One, two, three, and four.  We have one missing.  Before we start, let me pour some tea for everyone.”  She went to a miniature stove and grabbed the teapot.  There were already a few tea ups with saucers on the little wooden table.  The Frog started pouring the tea into the teacups carelessly as though the tea would spill all over the table.  But magically every cup was filled with tea all the way up to its edge and there was no visible sign of a mess.  Then everyone was pushing the teacups and saucers across the table to each other like they were playing a game.  Whoever could push the teacups and the saucers the farthest without knocking over the other teacups won.  Then they started throwing the teacups and saucers at each other through the air like airplanes.  Then this wonderful game was interrupted.
            “Knock.  Knock.”
            “Who is it?”  The Frog asked.
            “I’m Robbie.”
            “Oh, come in.”
            A giant gray rabbit jumped in, panting.  “I didn’t hear my alarm.  Sorry,” he sat down next to the Raccoon.
            “Now everyone is here.  Let’s start,” said the Frog, “Beaver, you can start first.  Read the first three pages of your writing.”
            Beaver started chewing a piece of wood.  The Parrot interpreted his story for him.  “Beavers are slaughtered in large numbers because the humans like the fur.  They are always living in fear.  They have to build special shelters and only go out in the middle of the night.  If they do have to go out during the day…”  Beaver started crying uncontrollably.
            “I really like the story,” said Moth, flapping her wings.  “It’s moving.”
            “Why don’t you fight back?”  Forgetting the fact that I was a human, I couldn’t help but be on the Beaver’s side.”
            “We are too weak to fight humans,” said Beaver, still weeping.
            “You can hire an army of Raccoons to help you,” said the Raccoon with his two big eyes.
            “I’m not sure that humans can be defeated by armies of raccoons,” said Moth with an air of authority.
            “I have good relationships with humans,” said Parrot proudly.  “They like me.  They pay a lot of money to buy me.  This story is too depressing.  I like uplifting stories.  I think that we should make peace with humans.  What do you think, guys?”  Parrot glanced around.
            “You are just satisfied to be a pet.  You are coward,” said Robbie.  “I love freedom.  I represent all the freedom loving animals, let’s fight the humans!”  Robbie jumped up and down to make his point.
            “I agree with you.  We should just give up our lives and our fur.”  As he was speaking, the Raccoon started glancing toward me.
            All of sudden, I felt every creature in the room was staring at me with not-so-friendly facial expressions.  I was sweating.  I couldn’t stand this anymore, I was telling myself.  This roomful of creatures would definitely defeat me.  I stood up and ran out of the door as fast as I could.  There must be a door out of this wonderland!  As I was running, I heard a loud scurrying sound behind me.  I looked back and saw a troop of mice chasing me, holding chopsticks-like swords.  Their captain was sitting in a cart that resembled a Chinese-takeout box.  As I was running, the flowers nearby started closing in on me and tried to block me.  I pushed them away and ran even faster.  The funny thing was that these flowers all had faces and they looked very surprised with their oval-shaped mouths and pedal bonnets all standing up.  I couldn’t help laughing.  What kind of creatures were they?  Just before I was about to be captured by the mouse troop, I dove into the flower bushes.  I pushed and shoved to get in as far as I could.  Then I came to a rose-covered cabin guarded by two guards with peony heads with frog’s bodies.  I stood in front of them and bowed.  One of the guards waved me in.  After I entered the cabin, I discovered a flower palace.  There were tulips on the wall, on the ceiling and on the floor.  I was actually walking on rose pedals.  On the flower-covered throne, there sat a Frog king who also wore a flower crown.  There was an enormous green bronze fountain covered by all different colors of flowers next to the throne.
            “My child, are you here for the fountain of the creativity?”  His eyes looked enormous behind a pair of very thick glasses.  He looked very intelligent.
            “Sure.”  I said.  Do I have other choices, I asked myself.
            “Let’s congregate!”  As soon as the Frog king waved, creatures of all kinds came out from behind the flower curtain and gathered around me.  I looked around and saw my teacher, Ms. Frog, and my classmates, the Beaver, the Raccoon, the Moth, the Parrot and the Rabbit.  Everyone was holding hands. 
            “Are you ready?” asked the Frog king.
            “Yes!”  Everyone yelled in unison.
            All of the sudden the room went pitch dark and lightening came followed by thunders.  The clouds swept through like thousands of sheep.  The sky was going to be split into half.  Many ghosts came in from all directions.  They were tangled up as though they were in a battle.  Then two enormous ghosts were left alone in the sky, yelling at each other. 
            “You told me that you loved me,” said one ghost with trembling voice.
            “That’s history.  I don’t love you anymore,” answered another ghost apprehensively.
            “Remember we used to do so many fun things together?”  The first ghost sounded on the verge of crying.
            “It’s getting old.  Let’s move on!”  The second ghost wouldn’t budge.
            “I’m going to kill myself!”
            “Go ahead!  I’m tired of hearing this.  Please do as you have said for once.  Die, die!”  The second ghost’s voice was so penetrating that it hurt my ears.
            Then they were gone.  The sky had turned peaceful as though a curtain had been closed.  But the peace was short-lived.  The enormous wind started blowing accompanied by thousands of ghosts howling.  It was followed by the rain, the blood rain, to be more precise, as I could taste it.
            “Drink, child, drink!” said the Frog king.  His voice sounded dreamy.

            I woke up in the garden under a grape vine.  Looking around, I didn’t see one single butterfly.  Instead, I saw writers standing, drinking and talking about writing, which seemed so surreal for me.  I sat up and tried to wake up.  But a voice startled me.
“Hello, Young lady!  Why didn’t you go to my class?”  I raised my head and saw my teacher standing in front of me.  Her red curly hair made her look like a lion roaring at me.

“I, I thought that I just took a, a class,” said I, still feeling dreamy.

“Where did you take it?  I certainly didn’t see you in my class!” 
“I, I took it here,” said I.  My voice drifted down and I knew that I had felt a sleep here and had completely missed the class.
“Ok.  You are still jet-lagged so I forgive you today.  If this happened again tomorrow, I will have to have a talk with you.”  She turned around and disappeared like a gust of wind.
 I decided that it was time to go back to my bed-and-breakfast.  I walked all the way back without even getting lost once.
            I opened the apartment door.  I could hear the loud music playing inside, which I recognize as Rock & Roll.  Then I noticed the shadow of two people hugging. Then I started making out that one of them was my landlady Christina in the dim late afternoon light coming through the opened living room door.  They were kissing.  Feeling like an intruder, I quickly averted my eyes and ran to my bedroom like disappearing shadow.  I closed the door and tried to take a nap.  Yet I was as curious as a cat.  I walked to the door and pressed my ear on it, listening.
            “I missed you so much,” said the man.
            Then Christina stepped out from the living room in her usual tights and a low-cut short-sleeve black top.
            “I’m glad that you are back.”  She kissed me on both cheeks.  I’m getting used to this, I was telling myself.  “How is the class?” she asked.
            “Surreal!”  What else could I say?
            “I would like you to meet with my former boyfriend Jean-Paul and his wife Lila.”  Then she lowered her voice.  “Please don’t tell anyone else that they are in town.  Jean-Paul’s life is in danger in this country.  They snuck in just to visit me.”
            I nodded.  Gee, I thought the drama in my life had stopped in the flower palace.  It just kept on going.
            I ended up watching Christina dancing with her boyfriend Charlie, a much younger man from the Congo.  Jean-Paul and Lila watched also since they were much too frail to dance.
            Watching Christina and Charlie swirling around in the small but well-lit living room, I could not help thinking that, Paris is a writing workshop.

The Fantasy Island Book Publishing will publish my book “Last Kiss In Tiananmen Square”. It will come out in Kindle very soon.

The following books have been published by Fantasy Island Book Publishing and are available at

Terps by Elaine Gannon
HarBinGer by Anabell Martin
The Rose Tower by Connie J. Jasperson
Don't Feed the Fairies by Eileen Gormley
After Ilium by S. M. Swartz
Heather's Heart by  Douglas A. Sanburn
Whatever Became of the Squishies by Claire Chilton
Children Of The Elementi by Ceri Clark
Emeline and the Muntant by Rachel Tsoumbakos
Miranda Warning by Marilyn Rucker Norrod
Sofia’s Story, The Shattered Seeds by Clu Gallagher
Brother, Betrayed by Danielle Raver
Ednor Scardens by Kathleen Barker
Land Of Nod, The Artifact by Gary Hoover
Losing Beauty by Johanna Garth
The King Of Egypt by  J. J. Makins
The Last Good Knight by Connie J. Jasperson
The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca
Black Numbers by Dean Frank Lappi
Beloved by Patty Sarro
Sin by Shaun Allan
Recycled Souls Lynette Ferreira


Gary Hoover said...

Great story!! Thanks!

jenny milchman said...

I love seeing the ever mounting stack of FIBP books!! Thanks for posting the story, too, and best of luck with your own release.

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

Gary and Jenny, thank you for commenting. Dwight is actually not a FIBP wirter. I'm trying to branch out. I read some of his writing before and was very impressed. Maybe he will come to FIBP some day :).

Dwight Okita said...

Lisa, thanks for the post. Do you know when your book is due out? Will it be in various formats? You might want to add your blog address onto your Facebook information page too.

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

THank Dwight for suggestion. I will add that.

Connie J Jasperson said...

Lisa - this is such a fun blog! I love Dwight's work and will definitely help get the word out for him!

Dwight Okita said...

I like the Parisian hug and the cucumber and hot cocoa. Talking butterflies are fun too.

(Hi Connie. Thanks.)

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

Dwight, thank you for reading me story.