Saturday, August 08, 2009

a bedtime story

once upon a time, there was a little girl whose devout mother was a janitor at a lonely desert church. every saturday night the little girl would accompany her mother to the church to prepare it for the next day's services. as her mother ran the vacuum and washed the windows, the child would dust the pews and the alters. she took particular care over the letters "this do in remembrance of me", and sometimes she would arrange the hymnals with just the right amount of space between them, but otherwise the little girl would simply wait in whatever place she was put, as there was some inexplicable need to keep all the individual doors and rooms locked as they were entered and exited.

this little girl did not mind being left alone in the dark house of the lord, since for all she knew this was something that all little girls did on saturday nights. only one thing troubled her in the dusky church - the moths. apparently these moths were quite the religious zealots, since they congregated by the hundreds on the walls and passageways of the church.

one room above all others filled the little girl with horror and anticipatory dread - the nursery. the windows there were broken just enough to allow the holy insects to flock inside, and they alternately fluttered in thick clouds through the room and covered the nursery walls like so much breathing wallpaper. inevitably the little girl would be escorted inside to wait for her mother to clean that particular wing of the church, and although she attempted to protest (but quietly, since her mother was very adamant about the constant need for locked doors), she would end up sitting perfectly still in a rocking chair in the furthest corner from the windows, praying that god would keep the moths from brushing against her in their frenzy to get at the overhead lights. apparently god was busy killing puppies and hearing the prayers of more important people, since the moths always tormented the little girl unmercifully, to the point that one desperate night she turned off the lights in a misguided attempt to calm the creatures. unfortunately for the child, this only caused the moths to brush against her hair and cheeks and naked arms in the darkness, the sound of their furry wings whirring in her ears until she crumpled to the floor in a heap of defeated tears, trying vainly to cover her head with her little hands to keep the insects away. her mother discovered her still lying on the floor in the darkened nursery some time later, and turning on the lights, she chastised her daughter for being afraid "of a few bugs."

no matter how the little girl tried to explain to her mother how the multitudes of repellently furry little creatures made her skin crawl and her mind lose all reason, every week she was sent back to the nursery to wait...sitting in the rocking chair, her eyes closed and her little hands clenched, listening to the sound of a million tiny wings drown out the hum of a far away vacuum cleaner...


this is a repost of something i wrote some time ago and published on the internet elsewhere. i was recently asked again why i have a debilitating fear of moths, and i thought it would be easier to put the story up than to tell it properly aloud. despite the fanciful language of the piece, it is all quite true, and the memories of that moth-filled nursery haunt me to this day. we all have our little hang-ups, i suppose, and mine happens to be this...

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