The Buttered Fly Effect Added£1.59
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(A short story of 5210 words)

The Buttered Fly Effect


by Peter Jump

When feisty 35-year-old Jane decides to confront Fear 37 she soon finds herself adrift in a sea of chaos. In a rundown hotel in Dawson Creek, Canada, to achieve her goal she must contend with crazed middle-aged bikers, drunk oil workers and a hippy called Ralf. Will she survive to face Fear 38?

And so I get to Fear 37: Starting a conversation with a stranger. Actually, in coffee shops or movie queues or waiting rooms or even at the supermarket checkout I'm fine. I can do it anytime with anyone and it's no big deal, enjoyable even. But in a bar or a tavern or a pub or a bierkeller or even just a hotel lounge and that's it, I can't do it. Probably I can get through life perfectly without ever having done it, but it twists me up inside when I'm sat in one of those places and can't do it. That's because I know I'm not doing it out of fear, rather than choice, and like the man sorta said, there's nothing to be more afraid of than fear itself.

It's obviously not because I'm shy. It could have something to do with concerns over rejection, a little like my election thing. Or it could be that by me making the first move, I will never know if he or she is capable of making the first move, and therefore I can never really be sure if they are the kind of person worthy of my attention. (I have no time for wimps!)

But mostly I think it's because through a small, simple act I could be setting off a chain of events that will lead to disaster for all concerned. I don't mind doing something big and complicated that ends in disaster, as the outcome fits the cause and could have been foreseen. Like setting up a new business providing mobile fish pedicures to women in retirement homes, only to find the fish have picked up a bug that gives the old dears septicaemia and you end up dealing with a class action suit. Unlucky, but not unpredictable.

Doing something really small and getting that kind of result – such as leaving the butter out for two minutes on a hot day while you answer the phone so that a fly can land on it and get stuck, then not noticing the fly as you butter your toast, then getting food poisoning so that the next day you can't make a job interview so you don't get the job, and don't find any others and end up running out of money, losing your house and then being divorced by your husband/wife who was depending on you to be the bread winner – that really scares me. It drives home we live in a chaotic world where small actions can have totally unpredictable results. The idea that the principle of proportionate cause and effect we live by is little more than an illusion gives me the willies, and I don't want to be reminded of it by talking to some redneck stranger in a bar.

It goes like this: start a conversation in a setting that's not alcohol related and it's no big deal, just adults exchanging information or passing the time. Even in a sea of chaos there's zip chance of anything bad coming of it...

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