A Domestic Lepidopterist
by Natalia Theodoridou
After extracting the sphinx moth from the mother's deepest fear, tucked away carefully within the smallest chamber of her heart, the lepidopterist held it in the light, trapped between a pair of forceps. It fought, kicking its legs, its wings fluttering, almost transparent, tinted gold.
"Paonias Excaecata," the lepidopterist said. "Very rare. It nests in the most tender corners of the human psyche and hides from sight the ones you love." She put the insect in the open killing jar that lay on the table before her and sealed the lid. "There. That should do it." She turned to the mother. "What's his name?" she asked.
"Tommy," the mother said.
"Tommy?" the woman called, her voice trembling. "Tommy love, come here. Stand next to Mummy."
The moth struggled against the invisible agent that was snuffing out its life. It wasn't long before it lay helpless at the bottom of the jar. Its hindwings jerked one last time.
"Magnificent creature," the lepidopterist whispered, but she realized the mother was no longer paying her any mind. Tommy had reappeared at her side, a bit worse for wear than his usual self, the lepidopterist suspected, but otherwise whole and healthy. And visible, at last.
The lepidopterist put the jar with the specimen in her sack, collected her payment of three gold heads and retreated discretely, letting mother and son enjoy their reunion.
Orphan children pestered her on the street on the way back to her home. There seemed to be more and more of them every day lately. One of them had found shelter under the stairs by her front door a few weeks earlier. "Mother, give me something to eat," he'd say. "Mother, take me home." She'd often entertained the thought. She had come this close to taking him in, but she'd changed her mind at the last moment. Her science required her full attention. And with this new and mysterious infestation that plagued her home--no, she had no time for children.