Miracle of the Monarchs
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The Miracle of the Monarchs

Written 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.

JACKIE 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.

After 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.

But 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.

That 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.

Later, 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.

On 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.

That 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 hero.

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