As Reservoir Mum cleans some cereal off Tyson and the boys alternate between eating their breakfast and punching each other I am dragged into a zombified state by the repetitive stupidity of a moth skittering its way from one side of the kitchen window to the other, and while I am aware of its motive – to reach open space, the light – I can only feel a mixture of bewilderment and disgust at its inability to either find a different escape route, or give up and die.
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, Rita Mae Moth,’ I say, bringing its existence to the attention of Archie, who says, ‘Can you catch it for us, Dad?’
‘Can I ever!’ I reply, as I lean over the sink, cup my hand and trap it against the window.
‘You got it Dad!’ Lewis yells.
‘Not quite, Lewy,’ I say, ‘Moths are very delicate. You have to be super super careful or you’ll damage their wings, rendering them useless. Look n’ learn!’
Taking my other cupped hand I press it to the window and then gradually bring both hands together as I feel for the feathery flapping of the moth’s wings on my palm before creating a perfect fingery, skin-prison for the little guy. With the moth safely secured I turn to the boys and make a tiny peep hole between my hands. ‘Have a look at this,’ I say, ‘We should make a little house in an empty plastic bottle for him.’
‘It’s on your finger, Dad,’ Archie says, and turning my hands over I see a pulpy gooey mess of moth.
‘Ugh, you fragile bastard!’ I say, shaking it into the sink.
‘Did you kill it?’ Archie says.
I nod, ‘It won’t get any deader, Arch. Oh well, it’s just a moth.’
Reservoir Mum angles her pregnant belly between me and the counter and says, ‘Try telling that to its Moth Mum.’
Although I laugh at her comment, I feel a shiver run down my spine and as I look through the window I see a largish shadow moving over the lawn. When I lean against the sink and gaze upwards I see only blue sky.
‘Well, I’m off,’ I announce, picking up my gym bag and kissing the boys and Reservoir Mum goodbye. ‘Don’t worry, Arch,’ I say, as I pull the door closed, ‘Ill catch you another moth when I get home. They’re everywhere.’
I’m listening to Run DMC’s It’s Tricky as I make my way through the back streets towards Bill’s joint, which currently houses my personal gym. My shoulders are killing me and my back hurts and as I tap my hands against the steering wheel my calloused hands register a stinging pain. Still, I feel good and I want to accomplish an 600 pound squat before I die. As I turn into High Street, Reservoir, the dark shadow returns, passing slowly over the bonnet of the car. Leaning forward I see nothing.
The music in my iPod is not doing it for me, strangely, and so I turn on the radio and shuffle through until I find something that has the potential to lift my mood into the psychostratosphere. I settle on ‘From The Music’ by Potbelleez and grit my teeth but find that my mind is drifting away from the gym towards my novel ‘Hello Joe’ which is being read by yet another agent, and I wonder if she’s reading it right now, and as my hips start aching from twenty-five years of squatting I contemplate that I am only one big injury away from failing my 600 pound goal, and after twenty years of writing I am only one letter away from yet another rejection, but despite this I grip the steering wheel harder, and just as there is a strange thud on the roof of the car, I feel a familiar resolve within – I will never stop trying for the big squat and will never stop trying for the published novel. I will simply never give in.
Suddenly, I become aware of a strong odor that reminds me of butter menthols and wet dog and turning slowly to my left I find I am shoulder to shoulder with an adult-sized moth.
‘Mind if I smoke?’ she says.
Her wings are poking through two slits in her AC/DC jacket. The jacket is denim, which is fine – even though I prefer polyester as a material – but it’s way too small and as she struggles to reach forward to fill her cigarette paper with tobacco her back bulges and threatens to tear the material. Her tobacco pouch sits in her lap very close to her knees and covers most of her thighs thanks mostly to the large furry belly spilling over the top of her elastic black bike pants.
She’s a real sight and my initial horror is replaced by nothing more than a leering contempt. ‘So you’re obviously from Reservoir…’ I say, as I pull up to the traffic lights and wind down the window.
She turns her moth-shapen head in my direction and gazes at me through one of her bulging helmet-sized eyes. ‘You and my son were not so different, you know,’ she says.
‘Yeah… said a moth to a man,’ I answer, sarcastically, as I consider the fact that Archie is really going to jump for joy when I bring this monster home.
‘Said a Reservoir Mum to a Reservoir Dad,’ she replies, popping the cigarette in her mouth and pushing in the lighter in the console. ‘So, RD, how’s the powerlifting?
I am unsure of her motive, but I can’t resist, ‘It’s going great. I’m back into it. Aiming for a 550 pound squat by Christma…’
‘Hmmm, done that before have we?’
‘Yeah, more than a few times, but…’
“Oh right… and how long you been powerlifting now?’
‘I dunno, 25 years or so.’
‘Shyeah,’ she says, as she takes the lighter from the console and starts puffing away, ‘And how’s that writing stuff going? How many books you up to?’
‘And short stories?’
‘Two dozen or so.’
‘Impressive, RD. Very impressive. And what have you had published?’
‘Published? Umm, well… I’m not really good at sending things out… but… a couple short stories. Around ten poems.’
She snorts out something moth-ish and says, ‘So you’ve pumped out about a million words and only had a few thousand published? Sounds to me like you’re banging you head against a….’
‘Hey! I see where you’re going with this, smart mouth…’
She swivels, as best as she can, towards me and hisses, ‘Why don’t you just give in…’
‘Because you don’t just give in, okay….’ I say, as I press myself up against the door to put as much space between us as possible.
‘Why not, you stupid bastard. Why can’t you just give in?’
I feel close to rage but it’s rising from an emotional undercurrent that Reservoir Moth is milking with her unorthodox probing psychology. ‘Because if I stick with it… I mean… if you keep at it… I dunno… one day I just might get there.’
I consider punching the moth in the face to see if the same pulpy gooey stuff that came out of her son, comes out of her, but suddenly I get an image of her son banging into the window again. Just millimeters away is the open air, the wide spaces, the light. I’m aware of a great sense of longing. I’m aware of a furious, unrelenting determination. I feel passion. There is also sadness and a sense that time is running out. The world around me suddenly turns a little dreary. ‘What would he have done… your son, if I’d opened the window and let him out?’ I whisper.
Reservoir Moth shrugs, ‘Flittered about. Mated a bit. Nibbled on some things. Produced some offspring. Searched for the light… my son wasn’t that different to you, you know.’
The rage bottoms out. Reservoir Moth – the unmitigated scoundrel – has revealed something to me. I feel resigned to the truth as I acknowledge the absurdity of writing stories and the pointlessness of powerlifting, but even as I acknowledge this, I know that there will be no reprieve from my obsessive drive towards them.
I pull into RD’s Gym carpark as Reservoir Moth sucks the last of her cigarette down and then eats the butt, before turning towards the window and headbutting it. She headbutts it again and again and again and continues headbutting it until I put a finger on the electronic button and wind it down for her.
When she turns back, she nods at me, and as she prepares for flight, says, ‘We’re all just trying for the light RD, you’re just putting a different shade on it.’