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Sept 14, 2022

child's play

A.J. Van Belle

She offered me the brick, but I said no. Her flaxen head bent over the sidewalk, awash in oven-hot amber sunlight. She pounded the brick on the caterpillar’s golden tail end. Peeling the insect’s searching, wheat-plumed head and front legs and ruined back half from the concrete, she dropped the caterpillar into a lemon-hued bucket under the downspout at the apartment building’s corner. A smear of blue-green insect guts remained on the pale-yellow sidewalk. She laughed as the larval butterfly spun and spun in the water.

A. J. Van Belle's writing has appeared in journals and anthologies from 2004 to the present. A biology professor in the Boston area, they often draw on their science background to inform the world-building details in their fiction. Currently, in addition to writing full time, they teach undergraduate courses on climate change. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ajvanbelle or at

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