Fast Eddy has preacher boy Jack right where he wants him – riding shotgun in his three-quarter ton ’63 Chev, running down a little-used gravel track at 35 miles per hour. His plan is to reach town at around seven, pick up a few supplies and be back before any enforcers of the provincial statutes are aware of his activity.
“It’s the ideal speed,” Eddy says. “Any slower and the vibrations would compromise your fertility. Any faster and we’d be in the ditch right quick.”
It’s not the speed so much or the dust and fumes that cloud the cab that has Jack worried. Rather, it’s Eddy’s hand at the wheel, jerking to the left or right at odd moments.
“It’s the Monarchs,” Eddy says in way of explanation, making yet another swerve to emphasize his point. “They’re pesky little buggers this time of year. Could ultimately lead to our demise but I like them. I’m doing my bit to preserve the population.”
Jack clutches at the dash with one hand and searches for a seatbelt with the other.
“Scoot on over if you’re nervous, son,” Eddy says, patting the bench seat beside him with grizzled laugh. “I repurposed the belts a year or two back.”
It’s only then that Jack raises his eyes. They’re moving sunward. Not far ahead are dark, fluttering forms, rising from the roadside, some moving across the lane itself.
“They’re Monarchs, Jack, and there’s been a lot more of them this year. My radio, you know, the CBC, hasn’t taken note so I’ve done a bit of research myself. Phoned a fella at Guelph near nervous as you,” Eddy says.
“Seems I’m not the only one that’s noticed more Monarchs this year. Reports are coming from all over – ‘sightings are up throughout their range’ is what he said, to be exact.”
“The butterfly population is recovering?”
“May be, but this fellow – an ecologist – says what I’m seeing is just ‘anecdotal’. That means real science is needed, namely a count this January in their wintering grounds down Mexico way.”
“Did you ask him why they were threatened in the first place?”
Eddy gears down, eventually rolling to a stop, reaches beneath his seat for a small bottle, unscrews the top.
“Didn’t bother asking him that. Wouldn’t have answered anyway I figure. Swig?”
To the astonishment of both, Jack complies. Eddy follows. The dusty remnant of their passages catches up with them. A small bird calls, a plaintive sound.
“Might be just part of a natural cycle,” Eddy offers, with snort.
“But Eddy, isn’t it more to do with loss of habitat, or maybe even the chemical sprays or that seed treatment thing?”
Eddy shoots his friend a sidelong glance.
“Now don’t go getting all smart with me. The habitat thing makes sense. Monarch butterflies need milkweed. That’s all what the larvae eat. Chemicals though, that’s a dangerous subject. Even for a preacher. More so for that scientific fellow at Guelph. There’s a lot of money at stake.”
Jack is about to respond but Eddy cuts him off.
“We’re wasting gas, idling away, and God know this old wreck takes enough of it. My advice, just preach the wonders of butterfly and bird. And here, have another drink.” ◊