Dreams of Fireflies

Today’s prompt from the NaNoWriYe DreamWidth is another picture prompt.  I couldn’t figure out how to connect it to my other story, so it’s a little vignette set while my kids are at camp (like the octopus picture prompt was).


Gilbert looked over at Erik and Gretchen and frowned slightly.  They were staring out the cabin window, watching something.  After a few moments, some of the other campers joined them.

“What’s going on?” he asked, as he joined the children at the window.

Gretchen looked over her shoulder and pointed out the window.  “There’re lights in the trees, Papa,” she said, her voice filled with wonder.  “Like the ones that were in the cave!”

Smiling faintly, Gilbert nodded.  Madeline had told him about catching fireflies in jars when she was young.  Having grown up in Berlyn, his own children wouldn’t have had that opportunity.  He didn’t doubt that they hadn’t seen such things until that moment.  For a moment, he considered letting the children catch the fireflies.  Then, he had a better idea.

“Science,” he said.  When the children looked at him in surprise, he chuckled.  “Erik and Gretchen’s mama used to catch those flies in jars when she was your age.”

“That wouldn’t be very nice to the flies, Papa,” Erik said, frowning.

“I agree,” Gilbert said, ruffling his hair.  “How would kids like to make firefly jars that don’t entail catching the flies?”

“Yes, please,” Camellia said, bouncing up and down.  The other campers were nearly as eager.

Gilbert chuckled softly and looked over at Tim and Madeline.  “I’ll get the supplies we need and you can get them settled,” he said.  Then, he hurried out of the cabin and headed off to the building where they kept their art supplies.  He found the jars and paints he would need.  Then, he made a quick stop at his vehicle for the most important ingredient.  He was glad that he had some of the powder with him.

When he returned, he set out the supplies and held up the jar he’d gotten from his vehicle.  “Zinc sulfide glow powder,” he said.  “I’m going to mix this with the glue.  Then, you can paint the inside of the jars with the glue – like there are flies inside it.”

“Will they glow forever?” Natalia asked, leaning closer to him.

He chuckled and then shrugged.  “You’ll have to charge them with regular light to activate the phosphorescence, but… yeah, the glow will last for hours and be rechargeable,” he said.  “So, that means they’ll last a really long time.”

He finished mixing the glue and powder and then sat back while the campers got to work.  Some of them put scattered dots in their jars, as if the fireflies were resting in them.  Others put dots and streaks, as if the fireflies were zooming around in the jars.

When the glue had dried, Madeline sent the campers outside with their jars, so that they could enjoy the glowing inside them. Erik laughed as he compared the light from his jar to the fireflies that were flying around in the trees.  “It looks the same, Papa,” he said, looking over at Gilbert.

“Fireflies use bioluminescence, like the glow worms in the cave,” Gilbert said, his voice soft.  He shrugged.  “The greenish color is what they find most attractive, so that’s the color they make.”  He didn’t get into the details of the females glowing and the males not glowing.  That could wait until the children were older.

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