Paul Robinson had butterfly wings on his back. He never liked them and he wasn’t born with them, either. From the time he was able to crawl, he had tiny follicles all over his skin so that he could crawl up walls and things like that. But then he hit his pupa stage when he was a teenager. He was all congested with a lot of mucus and then Paul was covered in the stuff. He had to stay home from school for two weeks in the summer, but by then he was just starting middle school.
Paul’s classmates all made fun of his butterfly wings. The girls laughed at him and the boys said they were “girly.” He tried to climb up the school walls at recess but he just fell back on his butt with his wings twitching spastically. Everyone laughed at him again. “Big boys don’t cry,” he told himself until the bus stopped at his house and ran home. but Paul didn’t cry until he got home and got into his room.
His parents heard him crying and went into his room to console him. Neither of them had butterfly wings, but Paul’s grandfather did on his dad’s side. His father went to pull out a photo album and showed Paul a picture of him. He was a grizzled man with a beard and the huge wings like a Monarch Butterfly. He was smiling with a boy on his shoulder that Paul’s father said was him as a boy. Paul laughed that his dad was younger than him at one point. Paul’s father told him that about how his grandfather died, something his parents had avoided talking about before. They said that he worked on the railroads, hammering spikes into the ground. Even though he worked harder than any other worker, they never accepted him on account of his wings. One day, his coworkers invited him to drink some powerful homemade moonshine with them. He was still trying to prove himself to them and ended up drinking too much. He died of alcohol poisoning.
The next day, Paul punched a kid in the mouth for smiling. He wasn’t laughing at Paul, he was just smiling about something else, but Paul punched him anyway. He was sent home. When his mother picked him up, she didn’t say anything. Neither did his father. They never talked about it. They didn’t punish him or praise him. By the time Paul graduated, he had made the school accept him, or at least tolerate him.
Nowadays, Paul is a grown man who worked in construction. He’s learned how to fly properly with them, but it’s against safety regulations for him to fly around the construction sites. Most people on the street, however, look at him with fear and disgust. He can’t get everyone to accept him, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Paul inherited his family’s alcoholism as well as the wings. He frequents local bars and gets into fights. Most times, he just sits at home with a twelve-pack and drank it until he passes out. His foreman has threatened to fire him a few times. But even though Paul is sure he won’t have his job for much longer, he can’t stop drinking. It’s the only thing that helps him cope with the reality that he is a man with butterfly wings.