Monday, August 15, 2016

Moth light alive

A few days ago, I posted this picture of a moth sunning itself on my front door to Facebook:

This picture calls to mind a passage from my (soon-to-be published in Spring 2017 by MSU Press) novel, Stories for a Lost Child, so I thought I’d share it here. This excerpt is from the chapter called “Putting Out the Light.” This chapter opens with with main character Fiona talking with her friends Dane and Strep on a summer night just a few weeks before they’re set to enter high school. Dane’s college-age brother, Chance, is also there, just released from a psych ward after his third schizophrenic breakdown.

The four friends are sitting at the picnic table in Dane’s backyard talking about life and religion and other of their teenage concerns when a moth flutters near the kerosene lamp they’ve lit, is drawn into the updraft from the chimney on the lamp, and burns up in a brief flash of light.

“Whoa, did you catch that?” Strep asked. “That’s what I call messed up.”
“Poor thing,” Fiona added.

“It’s not poor,” Chance stated flatly. “Moths can’t be poor.”

“I mean it’s sad that it died like that, so quickly.”

“But it’s something else now,” Chance said. “It’s not poor; it has died and entered the light.” He nodded at the lamp.

“And the light killed it.” Dane leaned forward into the lamp glow. “It’s not alive, it’s stupid. Brainless.” Fiona wasn’t sure if Dane was aiming this last word at the moth or his brother.

“Whether it was brainless, dumbful, or innocent, the light killed it and that’s evil. The light is nothing to be entered.” Chance took a drag on his cigarette and thought about his words. Light, Fiona knew from Sunday School, was supposed to be God. Chance seemed to be measuring that notion as he took another lungful of smoke. “Moths dying of light is evil and evil is the opposite of 'live,' just like the moth is now the opposite of alive.”

Chance leaned back but then rocked forward abruptly, pointing his cigarette at the lamp. “The light is evil, it’s the problem. Light is not life; light kills. It’s hungry and it pulled what was living in that little bug right out of its body and made it into a nobody, a no-body.” He began to rock more steadily, gathering force, and Fiona knew he was moving through that building that he said was inside him, a building full of a thousand rooms, joined by short hallways that branched off in a thousand directions. Voices emerged from some of the rooms, Chance said, but he could never find their bodies if he looked for them. The voices were no-bodies.

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