Moth Shakes

The moths have been vexing me for the better part of a year now.

Last winter when they were bad, I cleaned out all the cupboards and found a large bag of flour that had become a moth colony. I saw it, then immediately closed the door and took stock of the physical sensation that had overcome my body, a brief episode of moth shakes, a fluttering kind of shiver travelling up my spine.

It’s a certain kind of creepy feeling inspired by seeing that number of insects living in such an intense clump. It’s not scary like scream-and-jump haunted house scary. It’s not creepy-crawly shivers like with the leggy bugs – centipedes, spiders. It’s not the “get it off” of leeches. And they don’t even really swarm, just flop about kind of erratically, drawn to the light by some invisible tether.

I’m not particularly scared or grossed out – well, the fact that I had scooped flour out of that bag without noticing the subtle webbing lacing its way up the side of the bag just a few weeks before, and baked bread with it, and ate that bread, I felt a little leery of that. But not the moths themselves. There’s just a lot of them, in a delicate clump, hiding in the dark.

I threw out the flour, scoured the cupboard, and moved on. The creepy feeling didn’t linger.

Tonight I found something that put the flour bag to shame. A small tin, cute and vintage, whose contents were absolutely unrecognizable. Opening the lid, all I could see was dark grey and whispering wings. It was a solid mass of moths that wouldn’t even budge when I turned it upside down over the garbage can. Mom looked over me and said, “Why are your shoulders up? Put your shoulders down, we have to take them outside.”

She reached one gloved hand into the tin and pulled out a clump of moth-matter, pale white beneath, flour, webbed with nests. Down they fell, in chunks, some fluttering, some now compost.

I couldn’t describe the feeling that kept spreading out from my spine, across the back of my skull, down my arms and legs. I felt like I was made of moths, shaky sparkly moths that were trying to escape the center of my body, out, out, to the light.


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