“Big Trouble for Butterflies in China” by Caleb Echterling


Jerry learned of his firing in the typical Hollywood fashion, from a note taped to a brick some network executive had chucked through the windshield of his car, which in Jerry’s case was a ‘77 AMC Gremlin with four slashed tires.
As a lifer in the entertainment industry, Jerry had seen plenty of windshields smashed by bricks, but the slashed tires were a new one. Jerry figured the most likely culprit was his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, who was also the network CEO. He pulled up Instagram on his phone and found multiple selfies confirming his suspicions. So this is what rock bottom feels like, Jerry thought.
Jerry caught a lift home from the stoner security guard, who, instead of devoting his full attention to LA’s freeway rodeo, seized the opportunity to fill Jerry’s head with ramblings about chaos theory, how a butterfly flapping its wings in China could affect events half a world away. Sonofabitch, Jerry thought, my life’s going to shit, and it’s all because of some butterfly in China. I’m going to find that fucking butterfly, and smoosh it under my size 12 Crocs.
The next flight from LAX to Shanghai carried Jerry and his Crocs across the Pacific. A customs agent at the Shanghai airport asked the purpose of his visit. Jerry explained he was there to find the butterfly whose wing-flapping was the source of his misfortunes. Oh, said the customs agent, you’re after Willard. He lives in Shaanxi province.
When he arrived at the provincial capital of Xi’an, Jerry asked the chief of police where to find Willard. Haha, she said, some know-it-all has steered you wrong. It could be Willard you’re after, but it could also be Donna. They both flap their wings, and it is difficult to determine who is responsible for what.
No problem, Jerry thought, I can smoosh two butterflies as easily as one. He bought an extra pair of Crocs, and trekked into the woods.
A butterfly bobbed on the breeze above a patch of wildflowers. Willard, Jerry shouted. The butterfly ignored him and carried on flitting about. Jerry changed his Crocs. Donna, he hissed.
The butterfly whipped around. That’s right, she said. I’ve been waiting for you, Jerry. You stupid Americans only know the first half of chaos theory, but in China we learn how a jackass flicking his boogers in LA can affect events half a world away. And I’ve had a hard life, Jerry. One calamity after another. All because of some jackass in LA flicking boogers.
Oh crap, Jerry thought, I’m the only jackass in LA who flicks his boogers. I bet Donna’s pissed.
Donna snatched up a pointy stick, and lunged at Jerry, who parried the attack with a hand-held Croc. Jerry swung his arm for a roundhouse wallop, which gave Donna an opening to poke him in the eye. Jerry screamed. Donna swooped in to finish him off.
Stop, a voice yelled. It’s Willard, the combatants whispered in unison.
Neither of you bothered to learn the third component of chaos theory, Willard said, which is a hippopotamus singing Rigoletto on the banks of the Nile can alter events half a world away.
Crimson blushes of shame spread over Jerry’s face and over Donna’s proboscis. Donna began to apologize. No time for that, Willard said, we’ve got a score to settle in Egypt.




Caleb writes stuff. Find him on Twitter.

5 thoughts on ““Big Trouble for Butterflies in China” by Caleb Echterling

  1. Wonderful! I’m sharing this with my class when we cover chaos theory. I need to stop and seek shelter now because I hear a deep voice singing Rigoletto.


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