Isaac’s Butterfly

An essay by Abraham J. Miles, provided by Dan Hart
Art by Leigh Legler

1991-07-07 – 16:00

My son discovered a giant green moth today. Its wing patterns are asymmetrical, with five-fingered jagged appendages peeling off the edges. It has three antennae protruding from its head instead of two. I’ve never seen anything like this and believe it must be a new species.

The autopsy and final determination will have to wait, however–Isaac nearly threw a tantrum when I reached for the ethyl acetate. He begged me not to kill his butterfly. He said we should study it instead.

Isaac is almost eleven–too old for such misplaced emotional fits. But the boy is sharp, and he is right that the moth seems to employ atypical aerial maneuvers. For now, I’ve agreed to keep the insect alive for further study.


1991-07-09 – 16:00

Isaac continues to call the moth a butterfly despite my frequent corrections. Much to my chagrin he has even given the specimen a name: Dave.

“Do you really think Dave is a new species?” My son never grows tired of the question. He ecstatically dances around my study, bursting with energy. “Do you think they’ll name it after us?”

I cautioned Isaac it might not be a new species. That we won’t truly know until after the autopsy.

Isaac’s eyes widened.

“Son, this is just like the frogs you dissected. Less, even. It’s just an insect.”

“You don’t understand!” Isaac scooped up the moth’s jar and stormed out of my study to his room, slamming the door behind him. He’s been in there over an hour.

I’m sure he’s fine, but I had thought I’d prepared him better for this turbulent part of his life. I guess no matter what you do, a boy’s hormones will rage.


Isaac's Butterfly

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.

Abraham J. Miles received a PhD in Entomology from UC Davis in California. After his wife died, he retired to the Montana mountains where he researches native ecosystems and collaborates on papers in his free time.

Dan Hart is a writer and systems engineer working, arguing, and hiking in Silicon Valley with his boyfriend. Dan maintains a blog and list of publications at He believes in the power of fiction as a tool to solve real world problems.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

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