Drunken butterflies careen through pine trees. (Six Word Story #15)

That is my six word story summary of the second to last chapter of John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday.

Although it has nothing to do with the plot, which takes place in Cannery Row in Monterey Bay, California, Steinbeck takes us on a field trip to nearby Pacific Grove in this chapter. In Pacific Grove millions of butterflies gather every spring and spend a week getting sloshed on pine tree resin.

What makes this even more amusing is that Pacific Grove “is not only a dry town, but ardently dry… the fact that the visiting butterflies came to the dry oasis to get drunk seemed a little unfair, but the town solved this, first, by ignoring it, and then, by hotly denying it.”

This random butterfly scene reminded me that the second to last chapter of Cannery Row has a random chapter about a gopher. Hmmm. Do I detect a pattern here? I wondered if I had accidentally started reading Watership Down. A six word story about this gopher scene would be:

His provocative squeaks didn’t attract females. (Six Word Story #16)

I know the gopher probably symbolizes something (Doc, perhaps) and his intricate burrow might be a microcosm of Cannery Row. If I went back in time my 20-year-old English major self would probably want to write an English paper about that, but fortunately here I can be more whimsical than that and move on and talk about Fauna instead.

Fauna runs the whore house in Sweet Thursday, but it’s more like a finishing school. Like her predecessor Dora, she’s quite endearing, and gives the following advice to Suzy before a date:

1. They ain’t no way in the world to get in trouble by keeping your mouth shut. You look at every mess you ever got in and you’ll find your tongue started it.

2. Lay off opinions because you ain’t really got any.

3. There don’t hardly nobody listen, and it’s so easy! If a guy says something that prices up your interest, why, don’t hide it from him. Kind of try to wonder what he’s thinking instead of how you’re going to answer him back.

4. Don’t pretend to be something you ain’t, and don’t make like you know something you don’t, or sooner or later you’ll fall on your ass.

5. They ain’t nobody was ever insulted by a question. The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.

6. Before you say something, say it first to yourself and kind of dust it off.

7. Don’t never start a fight, and if one starts, let it get going good before you jump in.

8. Talk about them. If you see something nice or good or pretty, tell them. Don’t make it a fake though.

9. Thing people like most in the world is to give you something and have you like it and need it.

Fauna turned whores into proper ladies. (Six Word Story #17)

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