portion of the artwork for Kristina Ten's story

The Dog and the Moth
Kristina Ten

The man is watching TV with his dog when a moth gets into the house.

It’s unusually hot for a night in September, so the man has the kitchen window open. The moth flies in and immediately loses control of its faculties. It flails wildly against the sill, then crumples to the floor in a small brown heap. From the living room, it looks like a used paper napkin that didn’t quite make it into the trash.

The dog’s ears prick forward. It turns its head slowly away from the screen.

The moth is agitated. Outside the window, it knows itself by its surroundings. The tree is a tree, the leaf is a leaf, the moth is a moth. Inside, there is no logic. The trees are made of metal and their leaves are glowing bulbs. The moth starts to flutter toward them but then there’s the dog.

The dog moves like a natural killer. The man has never seen anything like it—his dog, a lap dog, two square meals a day and a plush bed and its own Christmas stocking. In seconds, the dog is stalking across the kitchen tile, its body so low its belly sweeps the ground.

The man stands up from the couch without muting the TV program. It’s a sitcom, and above the laugh track, he hears an almost imperceptible growl. The man clips the dog’s toenails every month, but now he sees in its eyes the potential to be ruthless.

The man has heard lepidoptery is a dying hobby, but butterfly collections can still fetch a hefty sum on the auction block. The wings are bright and fragile, and you can hardly see the pins stuck through them. Their patterns make faces at you. There’s something civilized in the study of it.

When the dog pins the moth’s wings under its paws, there’s nothing civilized about it. But, the man thinks, there is something terribly captivating. The whole scene is a specimen: the dog’s teeth rapping against the tile. The moth’s unsteadiness gone steady could easily be mistaken for calm.

Some moths refuse to be eaten. They evolve to look like twigs and bark. They mimic poisonous spiders and stinging wasps and even bird droppings. To eat a moth like that, the man thinks, you’d have to be crazy. But this moth is not an impersonator. This moth is, according to its surroundings, not even a moth.

The man doesn’t know what to do. He stands in the threshold of the kitchen staring at the moth and the dog. He doesn’t want the moth to die. It came unaware into the yellow square of the house, probably on some stray wind, tissue thin and frantically alive.

He doesn’t want the moth to die, but he doesn’t want to rob the dog of anything. In the dog’s snarl is an ancient hunger. He loves them both, but what can he do? He’s known the dog a little longer.

The man thinks for a fleeting moment that the dog might look at him for permission.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 51 | Spring/Summer 2018