Friday, at the State Fair of Texas, we learned something about our new boss, Cristina. Also, we witnessed a brutal killing.
Cristina, recently arrived on our shores and thus an SFT virgin, thought it would build morale if the staff took a field trip. Or maybe she had a hangover and wanted to eat some fried food. Not sure. Didn’t ask. Just offered to drive. Our away party consisted of Michael Jamal Mooney, Peter Dalworthington Simek, Zac Dane Crain, Krista Aloysius Nightengale, the aforementioned Cristina Daglas (whose middle name appears to be missing from her personnel file), and yours truly. The weather was mostly cloudy, with a chance of meatballs. In fact, Peter ate a paper serving boat of them, fried, on the Midway.
In due time, we found ourselves at the Texas Discovery Gardens’ Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium. That’s where Cristina confessed that she is afraid of “flying things,” owing to a childhood trauma. If I recall the story, she was 5 years old. She found a feather in her basement. That feather, it turned out, was attached to a bird carcass. Other birds were present. Cristina’s dad dealt with them. Right, I know, I can’t explain it either. The lady saw a dead bird. Big deal, right? But such is the nature of childhood traumas. What might merely inspire curiosity in a healthy, normal child inspires paralyzing fear in another. Who are we to judge? I cannot tell you whether Cristina, in addition to birds and butterflies, is also afraid of paper airplanes and Frisbees, which might seem to belong to the class of “flying things” but which, in reality, are “gliding things.” Maybe she’s not aware of that distinction, though. Again, didn’t ask.
In the butterfly house, Cristina dodged and ducked the fluttering insects. One of them caught a ride on Zac’s hand for the duration of our visit. Cristina had no interest in getting an up-close look at it.
Mike, whose hyperhidrosis can get the best of him even under ideal conditions, sweated like a madman in the butterfly house’s butterfly-friendly humidity. This detail has no bearing on the story.
Then it happened. Near the exit, we encountered a docent and struck up a conversation about — what else? — butterflies. Fact: while moths rest with their wings laid flat, butterflies rest with theirs held upright. Another fact: several years ago, the docent, using tiny numbered stickers, tagged a whole slew of monarchs on their migration through Texas, but she forgot to enter the stickers’ tracking numbers in an online monarch-tracking database. She still has the numbers, though, and plans to enter them yet.
When the docent reached this point in her butterfly-tracking tale, Cristina shrieked and pointed. I figured a bloodthirsty butterfly had attacked her. But then she said, “Peter!” and I saw where she was pointing, to the concrete path we were standing on. Specifically, she was pointing to the large, blue butterfly under Peter’s foot.
A mother standing with us shielded her daughter’s eyes as Peter backed away from his victim. I am not a trained lepidopterist, but I believe it was a common blue morpho — an ironic name, because another docent said, “That was the last one we had left.”
“It’s okay,” the first docent said, picking up the still-twitching butterfly and tossing it into a flowerbed. “It happens.”
By now, Mike and Zac were fighting back tears of laughter. Savages.
Later, in the children’s petting zoo, Peter formed a special, if brief, bond with a camel. Maybe he was attempting to assuage his guilt by showing tenderness to another of God’s creatures. Maybe he just has a thing for dromedaries. Again, didn’t ask. It was time for the pig races, and I didn’t want to miss the first heat.