“I brought you something,” I told my little brother.
Turn off the lights. I unzipped my suitcase. The glass of a baby food jar shone faintly among my used socks and shirts. I pulled it out, felt the cool glass in my hands. Two tiny insects sat still inside, barely glowing.
My brother sucked in a big gasp of air.
“Fireflies,” I said
“Fireflies!” my brother echoed.
Fireflies, caught in auntie’s back garden. Fireflies, that rose up between the poles of okra and beans like green-yellow sparks from a cold fire. Slow, they were, and easy to catch. Easy to put in a jar and smuggle in my suitcase from Louisiana back to Texas.
Texas, where there weren’t any fireflies.
But now there were.
I opened the jar lid. The bugs didn’t know they were free. I had to shake the jar and tumble them out onto the bed. Gently, I didn’t want to hurt them. My brother watched, not daring to breathe, as they crawled slow, jet-lagged I guess.
One eventually took off, and then the other. I waited for them to flash, to spark, but all they did was make their dull green glow. Like a glow-in-the dark plastic toy. In the dark of my bedroom they wove their way up to the ceiling, bumped it a couple times, then landed on the wall, the two of them close together.
I’d wanted to bring my brother that whole garden full of fireflies, night after night of amazing fireflies. These two weren’t anything compared to that.
Should I have let them alone? It tugged at me, a little sadness, a little guilt. I’d brought them all this way, so far from home. No wonder they wouldn’t flash for us. They missed their garden.
I couldn’t take them back.
Wow, my brother said, but that’s just because he hadn’t seen what I’d seen. To him, two sad little glowing bugs on the wall was amazing.
I left them there, on the wall. In the morning, they were gone.