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Where the Road Ends
As spring comes, so does Jodi.
There’s a small one-story house where the dirt road ends. The for-sale sign on the front lawn disappears one day, and a car is parked in the driveway.
In school, a new girl joins our class. Her name is Jodi, and she’s bald and real skinny. Mrs. Bucanan asks her to tell the class a little bit about herself, and she goes up and talks about how she just moved from the city to the countryside and how she loves the wilderness and how she collects butterflies.
She doesn’t explain why she’s so bald and skinny.
Throughout the rest of the day, she doesn’t seem to pay attention. She looks out the window and at the cornfield and occasionally smiles this calm, bare smile. By the end of the day, I think she’s creepy.
I go home and tell mom and dad about Jodi, and dad suggests that I ask her out on a date. I can tell by his smile that he’s joking. But I do think that if Jodi had more hair, she’d be real pretty looking.
A few days pass and Jodi misses a day of school. A kid asks Mrs. Bucanan what’s wrong with Jodi, and she says she has something called leukemia and gets sick very often. I think, I knew there was something wrong with Jodi and for a little bit I feel bad for her. It must be hard to be sick all the time.
Next week, I am out in the forest behind my house and I decide to go find Jodi. I creep up behind Jodi’s house where the road ends, and I hide behind a tree and I watch for a bit. Eventually, she comes outside with a jar and walks past me. I make sure to maneuver myself around the tree so she doesn’t see me. I follow her, and every so often, she crouches down and puts something in the jar. She seems to like bugs, so I figure she’s hunting for them.
I accidentally step on a stick and it cracks. Jodi sees me and instead of being creeped out, she waves. Then she turns around and goes looking for more bugs.
I run up to her and she turns to me and waves again. This time, she says, “Hi.” She tells me she recognizes me from class, and I tell her I’m Peter and I recognize her from class as well. I ask her what’s in her jar and she says she got a Wild Indigo Duskywing. I tell her she must be smart to know the names of so many bugs and she says she has a lot of free time.
The next day, I sit with her at lunch and she talks about butterflies and bugs and stuff. Except she doesn’t like the word “bug”. She says that butterflies are not bugs. Some boys say, “Peter and Jodi, sittin’ in a tree!” and I blush but Jodi doesn’t care.
Eventually, summer comes and school is out. The first thing I do when I get back home from school is go outside to the forest to find Jodi. I find her barefoot laying in the grass near a clearance of trees. I lay down next to her and she looks at me and smiles. She says, “Some school year, huh?”
I agree with her. For the rest of the day, we talk about bugs and run around and tell jokes. I can tell that Jodi is a lot happier than I am, and I think, She must have a great personality if she doesn’t care that she’s so sick.
One day at dinner, I mention Jodi. My dad teases me that I like her, and I get embarrassed but I don’t deny it. I tell him that she is sick and and apparently, my mom knows already. She says that she has some form of cancer in her and it’s pretty bad. She says Jodi shouldn’t be outside all the time where there are germs and stuff.
As the weeks pass, Jodi’s hair starts to grow back. I guess she is getting better from her leukemia, but those beliefs are cancelled when her manner starts to change. She becomes a little bit quieter, a little bit paler, a little bit skinner. It gets a bit worse and worse every so often. Finally, one day, I ask her why she isn’t bald anymore. She says, “Because I’m not taking my medicine anymore.” I ask her why she isn’t taking her medicine anymore, and she says because it just makes her more miserable. She says her medicine is what makes her bald and nauseous.
I ask her, “But what if you get even sicker without medicine? My mom says you shouldn’t be outside with all the germs.”
Jodi answers, “The doctors already said that my chances of living are slim. I’d rather live the rest of my time not being miserable.” She sounds so wise, and I get sad for a bit.
“But what if you die?”
“Then I’ll be happy. I’ll be with Jesus and the angels and everything.”
We lay in the grass for what seems like a short amount of time but It’s probably hours. At last, I suggest we go inside.
Being the nice girl she is, Jodi invites me to her house for some lemonade. When I get inside, I can see she’s not very rich. Her house doesn’t have any paintings on the walls and they don’t have that good of a TV. She introduces me to her dad, who’s a nice man with glasses and a bald spot on his head. He has the same subtle smile that Jodi has. Jodi asks for lemonade and he makes it for us. He even puts the lemon slice on the rim of the glass the way I like it.
After a while, I ask to see her bug, I mean butterfly, collection. She says no. I ask why. She says because she isn’t finished with it. She says she wants to gather up all the butterflies in Iowa before she can show me. She says there are tons of them and that her collection is almost complete.
More and more weeks begin to pass. Jodi gets sicker and sicker. Some days, she has a fever or a headache and can’t go outside with me. Summer ends, and school starts again. Jodi tells me that she is scared all of a sudden. She tells me that when it grows cold, the butterflies will begin to die. She is looking for one butterfly called the Meadow Fritillary. She says she thought it was more common than it really was.
One day, I go to Jodi’s and ask her dad if she can come outside. Her dad says she’s real sick and can’t come outside. I ask if she’ll get better, and he says, “We’ll see.”
The first thing I do is go home and get on the computer. I look up the Meadow Fritillary, and it’s real easy to remember because it looks like a leopard, except for much smaller. I take a jar and go looking for it. For days, I have no luck. A week passes, and Jodi doesn’t get better. I keep looking.
After a while of searching, just as I was gonna give up, I find a butterfly in the clearing that Jodi and I hung out by. I don’t hesitate to put it in the jar.
I run to Jodi’s house and politely demand to speak with Jodi. Her dad allows me to go to her room for a bit. When I enter her room, she’s in her bed. There’s a smelly plastic bin near her bed.
I run up to her and show her the jar. She looks at the Meadow Fritillary and smiles her vague, soft smile. She weakly asks me to look under her bed, and when I do, I find a huge box that spans the whole bed. I pull it out, and I can see it’s covered with a glass cover. Beneath it are dozens of beautiful butterflies, pinned to the blue velvet surface of the box.
The next day, I go to school and Jodi’s not there. I think she’s still sick, but Mrs. Dwight, our new teacher, says Jodi died last night, and I think, Right after I gave her the bug. I correct myself. Butterfly, not bug.
Jodi’s funeral is at the local church. There are tears from everyone, including me. After I get home, I cry my eyes out. The doorbell rings, and it turns out to be Jodi’s dad. He has a bunch of suitcases in the back of his car. He gives me Jodi’s huge box of butterflies and says Jodi would want me to have them. He drives off then, leaving the house where the road ends empty and leaving me feeling a little closer to Jodi.