The Miracle of the Monarchs
by Charles Welty
Log Line: Discover the power of a dream.
Story in One Sentence: In this coming-of-age tale set in 1962, two
children in a small Iowa town long for deliverance from a nightmare during
the Cuban missile crisis.
Klaxons are blaring outside of Lincoln Elementary School as traffic moves
blissfully down the residential streets of Fort Madison, Iowa. Itís Monday
morning, October 22, 1962. The world is about to change, and not just for
two very special 10-year-olds in Mrs. Henselís fifth grade classroom.
PENROSE is a shy fifth grader who is perhaps what we might call in our day
autistic. Her friend CHARLIE MEEKS is equally shy. During a series of
"duck and cover" drills, which were meant to prepare students to survive a
nuclear attack, Jackie gets increasingly disturbed by the blaring sounds
of the klaxons and by the bullying of DELBERT MARTIN, his two thugs, and
some of the other girls who perceive Jackie to be different.
hearing an instructional module on the annual migration of Monarch
butterflies, little Jackie becomes obsessed with them. She makes a Monarch
butterfly costume for that Fridayís "show and tell" day. During subsequent
drills, she becomes more and more obsessed with them, hoping they will
come to take her away from her problems.
after the trauma of the unexpected start of her menstrual cycle during a
drill, catching her unprepared for this change of life, she withdraws even
further into herself. Later that night, she tells her parents at dinner
that the Monarch butterflies are going to come to their farm. "God told
me," she tells her very concerned parents.
night, Jackie dreams of Monarch butterflies.
Meanwhile, Delbert constantly confronts Charlie every chance he can get.
The bullying gets so bad, Charlie can hardly stand it.
Jackieís dream of Monarch butterflies turns into a nightmare as a nuclear
bomb detonates on the horizon, vaporizing the family farm, the
butterflies, and everyone she cares about. Her parents find her catatonic
in the morning. Itís a Saturday. They transport her to a local hospital.
Monday, Delbert confronts Charlie on the playground at recess. He taunts
Charlie, calling Jackie a loonie. But when his taunts turn to curses,
Charlie turns and knocks him on his butt. The other children cheer.
morning, Jackie awakes to find the shadows of butterflies on her window
shade. Elsa calls the doctor. He arrives, and is shocked at what he sees.
Tuesday morning, all the children are being loaded on to a school bus.
They each wear Monarch butterfly wings to show some support for Jackie.
Millions of Monarch butterflies have arrived at the Penrose farm. Jackieís
faith is vindicated. Now she fits in with all the children. Sheís a local