One afternoon, drunk and staggering all over the road on his way home from Jimmy's bar, Roman collided with Mrs. Jeremiah as she was coming out of the grocery and sent her toppling like a bag of plums. Mrs. Maingot was walking to the post office and saw her fall. Then she saw Roman try to help her up, but then he fell too—on top of Mrs. Jeremiah. Mrs. Maingot said it was like a comedy but no one was laughing. She rushed to where they were struggling like two animals and she, Mrs. Maingot, started to shout at Roman. She helped Mrs. Jeremiah to her feet and told Roman that she would never put up with half of what Tassi D'Abadie put up with and she was glad her husband had been a decent man and why did God take away a good man like Wilfred so young and leave him to run about the place like a demon. Roman looked down at the ground as if he had lost something there but couldn't remember what it was. Mrs. Maingot guided Mrs. Jeremiah home to her little wooden house and she settled her into a chair in the veranda. She did not go inside the house because Mrs. Jeremiah said she would rather sit in the breeze. For a few moments, Mrs. Maingot sat on a stool while the old lady kept her eyes closed. She was about to leave quietly when Mrs. Jeremiah spoke in a voice like a sudden rain.
"Wilfred is doing all right; he is at peace."
Later, Mrs. Maingot told us she turned cold and hot at the same time, and her heart began to thud.
"Jesus is with him and our Lord has granted him everlasting life. If you wish him back you keep him between this world and that." Mrs. Jeremiah smiled but not at Mrs. Maingot. She smiled at something or someone hovering above her head. Then she closed her eyes and nodded.
"Watch for butterflies," she said. "Just now plenty butterflies will come around you. They are a sign from Wilfred. His body will never be found but that don't matter, the sea is a big place. And don't worry about Joan. She will meet a good man and they will have plenty children." Then she told Mrs. Maingot she would be taken care of in her dying years. The worst was over—joy was on its way.
Mrs. Maingot hurried home. She lay on her bed and thought about her dead husband, and wept. Then she tried not to think about him, afraid she might keep him trapped between two worlds. Then she cried some more. In the end, she fell asleep. When she woke it was dark and Joan was standing in the lamplight looking up at the ceiling and there were two huge yellow butterflies hanging upside down there. Mrs. Maingot thought she was dreaming but Joan raised the lamp and pointed at them.
That evening Mrs. Maingot came over to our house and told Aunt Tassi what had happened. Aunt Tassi was surprised; Roman hadn't mentioned anything about Mrs. Jeremiah. He was sleeping in the back room, she said. When he woke she would ask him all about it. Mrs. Maingot didn't seem too bothered. She was happy and there was brightness in her eyes as though she had been drinking rum. She kept glancing around the room and I wondered what she was looking for. There weren't any butterflies.
We Hear You!