polyphemus

Flopping helplessly amid the pumps and cement islands of a state highway gas station.

Miss L slept in the backseat while I pumped gas and watched it; it was as big as my hand, and clearly lost.

I knelt to inspect it and it fluttered away, toward a young truck driver at the diesel pump who thought I was looking at him. He nodded and touched the brim of his cap.

I woke my sleepy girl and we went to the bathroom and returned a lost credit card that we found on the dirty cement outside of the convenience store. When we came back, the moth was back, on its side by our car, exhausted.

I picked it up as gently as possible and we looked at it – brown furry body and creeping legs as it feebly tried to escape. Enormous feathery antennae waved, alarmed, and beautiful wings – adorned with prominent eyespots of primitive black, blue, and gold – were frayed.

“What should we do?” Miss L asked.

We carried it across the burning asphalt and up the embankment, truck drivers watching us without much interest, and set it down in the shade of a cluster of scrub pines.

I don’t hold out much hope for its survival but we did what we could.

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polyphemus moth

Named after the giant Polyphemus of the Odyssey.

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