Fireflies and My Mom: A Short Story Pt. 1


Mahawa Bangoura/

“They’re more than insects. They’re beetles. I know, because I did a project on them in third-grade.”

   Darkness scares my younger brother. He says he doesn’t like the world being covered by a blanket; that’s what darkness feels like to him. When the sun left a stain of yellow and pink across the sky as a goodbye and the moon appeared at the corner of the sky, he always stayed inside with Papa, nestled under a blanket as they watched the vibrant show of light.

   Not me. No, I love the pitch black night, because it allows a beaming yellow glow from those insects that fly around lighting up the sky.

   Well, they’re more than insects. They’re beetles. I know, because I did a project on them in third-grade.

   I remember standing in front of the blank SmartBoard with my small packet in hand, waiting for my boisterous class to finally quiet down. Mrs. Ingram put her two fingers up in a peace sign, which meant to be quiet.

   When everyone finally paid attention, I started talking. I told them everything I knew about my favorite critters, even about how much I loved to wait for the sun to leave, so I could go chase fireflies with my mom.

   “Do you keep the fireflies?” a big, blue-eyed girl asked me in my class that day. 

   I said no. I let the fireflies go, because they have a home and family to go to. But before I set them free, I’d wait until I had at least enough shining fireflies in my jar to show to my mom. 

   My mom is an artist. She draws many different things and it’s cool how she can make people suddenly appear on a blank paper. Whenever I showed her my full jars after chasing ‘til my heart’s content, she would make me sit in the grass, as she quickly sketched me in my favorite sketchbook, which had a yellow butterfly on the cover.

   “Come here,” Mama would whisper as I trudged through the grass and plopped down next to her.

   I clutched my jar in my hand as Mama pointed her long, slim fingers to the moon. Just like the fireflies, the moon glowed confidently and its silver luminance calmed me. 

   “The moon gives fireflies magic,” Mama said as she held me close to her chest where I heard her the thud of her beating heart. “Yet, we don’t know which ones have magic. But if you catch the right one, one day it will grant you a wish.”

   “Really?” I had beamed.

   “Yes,” she said as she brushed her fingers against my cheek. “But listen, my dear, be careful what you wish for. Wishes are so close to our heart that they reveal how we truly feel.”

   I said that I understood, with the newfound goal of finding that one firefly. It can help me do everything I want to do. Like no more homework. No more chores, and I’d finally get to eat that strawberry cupcake in the fridge before dinner. I was determined to find that special firefly, but as my days blended together, it became harder and harder.

   I didn’t have time to catch fireflies, because I had to do homework. If I wasn’t doing homework, I’d rather play with my friends, chasing them across the street before the yellow lamplights brightened the houses next-door. Fireflies started becoming a dream, a blur of memories; something I used to do when I was younger.


   Now, I am ten. I’m in the double digits. I don’t believe in baby things like fireflies that can grant you wishes anymore.

   Now when I get home from school, I stay inside playing Subway Surfers on my iPad as Mama and Papa teach my little brother how to chase fireflies and catch them in the jar. He lost his fear of the dark, once he found out it didn’t have claws that’d wrap around his little body.

   He can chase fireflies. Not me, though.

   One day I came home with a note from school. From Mrs. Ingram.

   The note was scribbly, her handwriting melting together, and ink sliding across the paper. I didn’t have the heart to show Mama or Papa. If I did, I knew they’d take away my iPad: my favorite thing in the whole world. So, I didn’t tell my parents and crumbled up the note in my hand before throwing it in the dirty hamper.

   I don’t know how, but three days later, Mama found the note. Now, I’m in a heave of trouble.

   Mama’s voice is a cloud of anger as it floats around me, scolding me. Her smooth, brown face worn with smile lines is twisted up in disappointment as she grits her teeth and dangles the note in my face.

   She repeatedly asks why I hadn’t shown her. I’m too full of shame and embarrassment, and all I do is pout, shrinking under her before she takes her long thin fingers and points up the stairs, banishing me to my room. I run up the stairs with a big blob of tears blurring my vision, and I drop on my Disney princess bed when I reach my room.

   I don’t know why I’m crying. Is it because I feel bad that I didn’t tell Mama? Or is it because I wish Mama took my side instead of Mrs. Ingram’s?

   I don’t know how I feel; my emotions bounce in my chest, and I gulp in a breath before letting it out.

   No, I tell myself. I walk up to the mirror on my closet door. I stare at the reflection; a girl with ash-brown curls gracing her forehead stares back at me. The strands of my hair climb through the air around me.

   Mama is wrong. She didn’t even let me tell her why Mrs. Ingram wrote that note. Goosebumps ripple up and down my arms as the chilly air wafts through my room, my open window creaking from the force of the wind. I walk to the window and aim to close it, when a firefly suddenly glows in my face. 

   It’s like a scene out of Tinker Bell without the pixie dust. I smile at the little firefly before cupping my hands around it. I don’t know if this is the special firefly, yet its glowing heartbeat, dimming and brightening in my cupped hands signifies that it is.

   I don’t know what I’m wishing for. I don’t know if I should wish for anything at all.

   Yet the words slip through my mouth as I whisper, “I wish Mama would disappear.”

   When I open my hands, the firefly’s glow dims. It’s not as bright, as if it wished I hadn’t said that.

   I didn’t mean it. So, I tell that to the firefly and wish again.

   “I wish Mama wasn’t mad at me,” I plead, but the firefly doesn’t seem to want to hear it, and floats away. I sigh again before sitting on my bed. Night creeps up on me, until the sun gleams in the sky the next morning.

   It’s Saturday. On Saturday, Mama makes happy pancakes with deep smiles that stare at you before you chew them away. She also makes fluffy eggs that remind me of clouds. She knows how to make a Saturday breakfast and I hope she still isn’t upset with me from yesterday.

   I hop down the stairs, running to Mama. I’ll tell her that I’m sorry. I’ll explain that I didn’t want to make her upset by hiding the note. I plan to explain everything, but when I reach the living room, it’s only Papa and my little brother on the couch, eating pizza.

   Pizza for breakfast? Mama would never allow that.

   “Where’s Mama?” I ask Papa as I wander around the empty kitchen with no sight of my mother’s lean frame. I meander into the living room in the hope of spotting her necklace glistening from the sun’s reflection.

   But there’s only Papa. And my little brother.

   Papa smacks his lips, the tomato sauce from the pizza on the corner of his mouth as he says, “She’s gone.”

   I gasp. Gone? Not gone, gone right?

   Then, I remember last night. Me. The firefly. Oh, no! Mama isn’t gone. She’s wished-away.

   I wished her away!