Hundreds of butterflies invaded Flytown that spring. The butterflies fluttered past the tumbling down houses, through the dusty alleys and across the barren yards creating an arc of color in the dull gray streets.
Sean, my older brother by one year, spent much of his time chasing and catching the beautiful creatures. I would beg him not to harm the butterflies as he threatened to tear their delicate wings from their tiny bodies.
Sean would laugh as he threw the tiny beings into the air. "Casey, they ain't got no feelings," he would shout.
"Why hurt something beautiful?" I called after him. "They don't hurt anybody." It was spring and the butterflies invaded our tired old part of the city. My father said it was because of a mild winter. Mama said it was a blessing from God because the war had ended and the GIs were coming home.
The sky was a soft May blue when I saw the young man move into the vacant house across the street.
He was a handsome young man with blond wavy hair, a delicate build, and a neatness about him the young men in Flytown didn't share.
Later, I walked past Butch Mackey, the toughest teen on our street, as he and his pal, Jerry Connor stood on the corner smoking cigarettes. "I hear he don't like girls." Butch nodded to the no longer vacant house. " I wonder if that blond hair of his is natural or if he goes the beauty shop." Butch wiggled his hips and flung his hands around in a gesture he thought was imitating a woman. "He'd be easy to whip, be like fightin' a girl." He laughed and puffed on his cigarette mocking a woman.
Butch was thick-necked and rugged with a loud voice to match. He carried a package of Camels rolled up in the sleeve of his tee shirt and kept Jerry and their other pals in smokes. Jerry was tall and skinny with a head full of rusty-colored hair and was Butch's right hand man.
The house had been vacant for a long time. The La Machie Family had left in the middle of the night. Dad said they owed a ton of rent and skipped out. They were in such a hurry they left some furniture, including a piano.
As I sat on our splintery porch steps observing the house and wondering why the young man didn't like girls, I heard beautiful piano music streaming out through the open door. I closed my eyes and listened. It wasn't the swing or jazz music I was accustom to hearing.
When the music stopped I sat there for a bit, hoping it would start again. Soon after, the young man appeared on his porch. He saw me and waved me over. Maybe he did like girls, I reasoned.
I ran across the street, careful not to trip on the trolley tracks, and stood on the crumbling walk in front of his house.
"Hello," he said. "I'm Garth Turner." He smiled.
"Delighted to meet you, Casey." He didn't speak rough and tough like the boys in the neighborhood, but polite and clearly.
I wasn't sure what to say.
"You have beautiful red hair," he said.
I grunted and looked to the ground. I hated my red hair and everybody knew it. "Thanks," I said, trying to show politeness.
"And freckles. That's very American." He smiled, showing his beautiful white teeth.