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From worms to butterflies

“Mamá, are they going to take me?”

“I don’t know Mari. They choose some, not others.”

“Papi said, it could be like a doctor’s exam.”

“Si, mi hija. I’m praying….

“Mamá? Abuela said to be strong. Not to cry.”

“Ay, mi hijita, my little daughter. Sit closer Mari. Let me hold you now.”

“Papi said they might touch me? Why Mamá? Why?”

“They look for hidden things, Mari. Jewels people hide in strange parts. To take out of Cuba then sell in Miami.”

“I’m going to be strong Mamá. Abuela said I can do it. She said, for both of us to keep our eyes down.”

“And, why did your father’s mother, say that?”  

“She said our eyes are mirrors. They show the face of our hearts. We could get in trouble.”

“Abuela talks too much. She thinks you’re an adult.”

“Mamá, she said not to make, waves! And….”

“And when did Abuela say all this?”

“Last week. Abuela, Abuelo and Papi said, they were preparing me. Mamá?”

“Juan Gonzalez.”

“Look! They’re taking that little boy!”

“Oh, my little girl. Mi caramelo, my sweet, candy. Nine years old. You shouldn’t be going through this.”

“Let’s look for Papi Mari. Behind the glass wall. Beyond the first row of people. See him? Beside the man with the straw hat?”

“Si, si. I see his moustache. He told me he’d twitch it for me, until we go, ‘till the end. See Mamá, he’s smiling. He said, if you start getting sad Mari, look for me. For the thick, black toothbrush under my nose. I’ll twitch it for you, bella, ‘till the end.”  

“Ay, Mamá! No! Your mirrors’re wet.

“Hard to say good-bye to Papi, Mari. First time we’re apart.”

“Look around Mamá. Abuela said to think happy things.”

“Again, Abuela said.”

“Mamá, what’s the sign on top of that door. Gusanos? Worms? Who’s that for?”

“That’s the exit door. To the plane. The sign’s for us, Mari. We’re the gusanos.”


“Si, hija. That’s what they think of us who want to leave the island.”

“Mamá, Gusanos?Abuela said they can take things from us. But, not my gift. My  imagination. We’re not just any worms. We go into the plane, our cocoon, and then Mamá, we reach….”

“Oh, Mari, you give me something to hold onto. Si! We’ll be butterflies. Free, butterflies.”

“Maria Teresa de Jesus Garcia!”

“Ay! Mari!”

“Seňora, we need to take your daughter.”


“Mari, you’re back!”

“Mari, Ay, let me kiss you hija. Your face’s all wet?”

“We won’t be examining you. Your daughter was enough.”

“Mari! Mari!”

“Mamá look down, look down.”

“What happened Mari?”

“Mamá, Papi made me promise. I can’t tell you. Not ‘till the plane.”

“Ay, hijita, Mari, you’re trembling!”

“Papi said you would call them names…they take you away. Mami, hold me, Mami.”

“Degenerada! The same Cuban blood can’t be running through those veins.”


“You’re trembling Mari. Ay, Dios mio, ayudanos.”

“Evangelina Garcia. Maria Teresa de Jesus Garcia.”

“They’re calling us. Dios mio! We’re going. Put your arm around me caramelo, mi hijita.

“Mami, Papi’s toothbrush. It’twitching.”

“Si, my love. It’s twitching, ‘till the end. Hold on to me. We have to go, hijita. Under the sign. Gusanos.”

“Mamá, bend down. Let me whisper. But soon butterflies free, in the U.S.”


Amarilys Gacio Rassler writes Cuban-American prose and poetry. She came to the US at the age of ten with her sister through the movement under the code name, Operation Peter Pan. She has been published in the FWA magazine and she has won prizes for her prose and poetry in the Florida area.


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