This story is basically about, I guess, showing that even if life kicks the shit out of you and expects you to kill yourself, to just... not to, because there's so much love out there and so much beauty and wonder. You don't have to look further than your window to be able to feel pride in just being so lucky and so alive.

Song for the Chapter: Avalanche - Sufjan Stevens

Caterpillar's Crippled Heart

One day Violet took in an abused puppy from the animal shelter, a deranged looking thing with skittish eyes who shivered and wheezed and shyed away from touch. It's fur was short and clumpy and its spine jutted out of its back. It was small, about the size of a chihuahua, and hovered in the back corner of the cage, bony back as close to the wall as it could be. The people who were showing her around the shelter tried to move Violet on, towards the fresh faced puppies whose eyes were full of light, but Violet would not be moved. She chose the dog and called is Caterpillar over the potential it had.

She scooped it up from the corner of the cage and it frantically worked against her, bony back wiggiling and eyes wide and frightened. It thrashed in her arms all the way home, yelping and howling, but she kept right on holding it tenderly but firmly until it calmed. She knew if dogs could cry, this one would be weeping.

Over the months, Violet's admirers would watch, jealous of little, scatter-brained Caterpillar that Violet so tenderly and lovingly held and placed kisses on. They watched, envious, at how she would tell the mangy mutt (that in all rights should be dead) how much she loved it and how she cared. She continued to kiss it atop it's bony crown, thinly covered with hair, and boys continued to become more and more jealous of the dog that meekly demmanded most of Violet's attention.

Hollow watched Violet in her love of this dog. He was her best friend and loved the attention she would spread all over the dog, Caterpillar, who each day would become less and less frightened and more and more inquistive. The dog was the caterpillar, he often mused, and Violet was its cocoon. He knew well that if Violet continued basking him in such warmth and affection that soon, maybe not this year but most likely the next, Caterpillar the frightened and cornered dog would emerge into Butterfly.

Hollow ached for Violet and Violet, in turn, ached for Caterpillar's recovery. Hollow hated himself for being jealous of nothing more than a dog but knew it could not be helped. He was in love with Violet and Violet would not be perceptible to anything of the sort without Caterpillar recovered and like a butterfly.

So Hollow himself commited himself to the cause.

Together they would walk Caterpillar, or rather, walk with Caterpillar alternating in their arms. Caterpillar's eyes would dart about the open world, full of smells and sights he had never seen in his short and frightening life, and together Violet and Caterpillar would try to show this weak little dog, broken over and cracked, how beautiful the life could be. Whenever another dog came near, Violet or Hollow would shield Caterpillar's eyes (Caterpillar seemed to hate other dogs), and hum any song they could think of, hoping to soothe Caterpillar's fear.

And then, one day, without warning or rhyme or reason, Caterpillar died. The veternarian said his heart just... gave from all the years of starvation and stress. Violet buckled down in the waiting room and cried so hard that a roving dog that was in for a neutering came over and licked her cheek. Hollow held her in the waiting room, on the floor where most likely a thousand dogs had pissed, and held her through the haze of the afternoon until the receptionist told them, rather sheepishly, that maybe, you know, they should leave.

Violet could not walk and so Hollow carried her, and her head slumped back a bit as she continued to bawl all the way to the park where Hollow set her down on a bench. She grabbed Hollow's jacket and cried into that, her eyes a frightening red, her nose running and her howls almost Caterpillar-like, as if she was purging herself of Caterpillar, trying to wash away the memory of the dog she had so desperately loved and tried to save.

Hollow held onto her, as she clawed his back with her fingers (her nails having been bit away in the waiting room), and held her in her anguish and muttered bland condolenses and cliché that sounded tired and stale to even his own ears. She cried and cried through the night until finally, near dawn, when Hollow himself was dozing slightly, delerious but stroking her hair as if by instinct, she ceased and fell asleep, her head nestled into the nook between Hollow's neck and shoulder.

He sighed, feeling so in love with her it was tangible and scary and as he cradled her as he would a baby, he kissed her forehead and her hairline and whispered into her ear, knowing that she couldn't hear him from her slumber, "I love you, Violet."

But, remarkably, she whispered back, "I love you too, Hollow."

And, as she finally sighed and truly fell asleep, his heart swelled and he thought he knew what killed Caterpillar. Not the hate and abuse and pain and suffering from his early life, but the love and compassion that he had felt near the end. If Caterpillar's heart swelled with love and affection as much as Hollow's was now, he had no doubt that the poor dog would not have been able to take so much from a heart that had been crippled so.

So, as Violet slumbered in the park, rested against a boy who loved her more than life itself, and dawn lightened and became day, Hollow sighed with contentment and thanked God for everything around him and the simple beauty in which he was letting him bask.