No matter how conscientious you are, no matter how hard you try to prevent it, it occasionally happens: you eat a moth.
It happened to me one summer evening on what, within the protected confines of a planet-destroying automobile, might have been one of the loveliest stretches of time and place in the history of the universe.
The 15-mile portion of US Highway 10 from Wadena to New York Mills, Minnesota, doesn’t provide scenic wow on most days, but this summer sunset rimmed every cornstalk and pine tree with the gentle glow of slowly burning coals. I had plenty of time to appreciate the sights and come up with metaphors, because I was making the trip on a 1-speed cruiser bike with nearly flat tires. I had been desperate to see a movie, and (long story) this bike was the only way. The last bit of the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky turned a smothering soft purple, and I nearly cried out Bravo! This was scenery, man — superfine Turner stuff.
Then they came out: the bugs.
They were every size and shape, from invisible gnats, only detectable as drizzle upon the cheeks, to moths the size of Mao’s Little Red Book. Mosquitos attacked, and it was time to move move move. I stood up on the bike and plowed through a sea of flying chitin, my glasses murderous cowcatchers.
What with all that exertion, I had to open my mouth to breathe, and that’s when it happened. There was a piece of paper, I thought, flickering in my mouth. It was so dry I thought it might be the spent skin of some kid’s firework — they had been setting them off for days, and occasionally the burnt papers drifted down like big black snowflakes. My swallow was purely instinctive, and then the moth was gone. I didn’t even know what species it was.
It still amazes me that something can be so dry and yet so alive. I sure wouldn’t want to live in a world without moths. You?
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