Sunday, March 28, 2010




1 a : germinate, sprout b : to breed or produce freely
2 : swarm, teem

i'm tempted to write about rampant reproduction—about how overpopulation scares me more than any other modern concern. i want to say that the idea of pregnancy repulses me, a parasite mutilating me from the inside out. i want to admit that raising a child is fascinating and tempting, but that no matter how selfish i am i cannot even fathom adding one to an already POLLULATED world.

but instead i will talk about moths.

i loved ghost stories as a child. i still do, i suppose, i'm just out of practice. my favorites were the Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories book series (with fucking AMAZING illustrations by Stephen Gammell). i bought these books from the Weekly Reader publication that was handed out at Racebrook Elementary. i was always thrilled when it was time to peruse the Weekly Reader. i kind of wish there was a publication like this for adults. i suppose they call it the New York Times Book Review. not really as fun.

aside from Schwartz, i had another book of scary stories that i picked up at a tag sale. i think it was called The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, but i might be confusing it with different book (i did locate the book on the internet, but i cannot find a list of its contents, so i cannot find out whether or not i'm thinking of the right book). it took a while for me to get around to reading it; i'm not sure why, i guess i just sometimes read and reread things that i enjoyed, pushing others to the side, assuming they would never live up to my expectations.

there was a really scary story in this book about moths. it may have been called "The Moth." i don't remember. i'm sure i still own the book somewhere, buried in a box of things at the bottom of a stack of boxes of things in my old bedroom in connecticut. but even the internet cannot help me access where that book is right now.

the story was about a boy who collected moths. he would capture a moth, suffocate it in a jar of poison, and then pin the dead creature onto a board with dozens of other moth species. he and his old, eccentric neighbor, another avid collector, would often compare findings. the old neighbor once showed him a picture of a beautiful, exotic moth, warning the boy never to capture that particular breed. he vaguely explained that the moth was a bad omen, and anyone who captured it would suffer great consequences.

one night the boy couldn't sleep. he walked down to his front porch in the middle of the night, poison jar in hand, and watched the moths bounce against the porch light. lo and behold (!) there is the omen—the exotic moth of doom. the boy was mesmerized by the moth's beauty. he took a moment to consider his options, and then deemed the old man's warning to be folklore and trapped the creature in his jar. he sat on the porch for a moment, watching it die.

what a wonderful moment. no turning back. as a reader, i was thrilled.

the next day the boy brought his discovery to the old man's house to show it off. terrified, the man told the boy to never come back, slamming the door in his face.

that night the boy began to regret his capture. he lied awake in bed, worrying about the omen, half-convinced he was merely being childish. he watched as a moth landed on his window screen. then another and another, until the entire screen was covered. the army of moths then pushed the screen in and began swarming the boy, attacking him from all sides. he tried to swat them away, but they were too dense.

the boy ran downstairs and outside, swatting relentlessly at the thick body of moths around his head. he was afraid to scream; if he opened his mouth they would surely fly into his throat, choking and suffocating him. he ran into the woods and was never seen again.

the story ends with a little anecdote about the boy being pinned up to a tree deep in the woods, in the moths' human collection.

when i think PULLULATE, i think of a screen covered in moths, about to collapse into a room.

but more importantly, where were this boy's parents? i don't recall them ever being mentioned in this whole story. these are the kind of parents that should not PULLULATE—breeding recklessly, leaving their child unattended to be foolish in his judgment, disrespectful to his elders, and ultimately killed by a swarm of angry moths. a shame, truly.

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