Clair McFarland: Of Summer And Sunsets And Battles With Millers

Clair McFarland writes: "The Husband has had enough. He wakes the Shop Vac and darts through the house, sucking the millers into their roaring tomb one by one. 'DIE, YOU SAVAGES.'

Clair McFarland

July 01, 20225 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s miller season, but some of y’all call them moths.  

Dark and furry, millers are just butterflies’ homely cousins who didn’t get asked to the ball. They congregate instead at my window, insanely tempted by their soul mate: a reading lamp.  

Silken breezes float the tang of rain past that window, but I dare not open it because the millers will pour in through a rip in the screen. So I sit near the pane to hear rain sift through the withered lilacs, sending their dead fragrance into the night like a second, fleeting youth.  

Millers are a summer constant. Their blurry purr is a surer sign of twilight than the oily horizon itself. When the sun rises again and their polite derby slows, they cram into some unimaginable crevice of architecture and nuzzle each other to sleep.  

I sigh.  

My middle-born son careens down the hallway barefoot and in green pajamas, clears my outstretched legs in one bound, balances on the couch arm, throws open the window and cackles. The millers pour in like the wicked witch’s possessed monkeys, churning our post-pancake air into a dusty tornado.  

“What the heck – “  

But Middleborn has no time for my calculated questions. His eyes ablaze, he thrusts a tiny Altoids tin into the hairy brown cloud.  

“Gottem,” he says with a grin, snapping the tin shut over a dozen fat moths and running off to offer my first-born son an “Altoid.”  

That’s when the big, sweet twin wanders past me into the kitchen. He opens the refrigerator. Its light switches on.  

“No, don’t –“ I splutter. But it’s too late.  

The miller cyclone swoops into the open refrigerator and Big-Sweet, ever helpful, simply beams and shuts the ‘fridge.  

“Now they’re trapped,” he says.  

I slap my forehead.  

Middleborn returns, holding a miller by the wing.  

“Hey Mom,” he says. “Why does it feel like it’s just made of dust? Like, why does its wing sorta flake off in my hand like that?” 

“Because – “ 

“And Mom,” continues Middleborn, “is it a boy or a girl?” 

I scour my brain for anything on moth anatomy.  

“It’s a – it’s a – “ 

“NASTY BROWN VAMPIRE!” bellows The Husband, charging from nowhere with a Shop Vac under his arm. “And I’m sending it back to the crypt, where it BELONGS.” 

“Aw but Dad, they’re just millers,” protests Middleborn, who befriends monsters with ease.  

But The Husband has had enough. He wakes the Shop Vac and darts through the house, sucking the millers into their roaring tomb one by one. Then he scours the open window’s frame, where the heart-shaped moths cling with their pathetic limbs to crumbling delusions of summer eternal.  

“DIE, YOU SAVAGES,” commands The Husband.  

He vacuums them from the screen and frame, nods and switches off the Shop Vac.  

“Um, Dad –“ begins Middleborn.  

“That’s what you GET,” mutters The Husband. “Filling up my house. Pooping on my window – “ 

“DAD,” says Middleborn again. “They’re on the other side now.” 

On the far-left end of the large picture window a miller flock has blackened the view. The Husband opens that pane and sucks Middleborn’s new friends into the abyss.  

Then more millers crawl onto the far-right window screen, so The Husband vacuums those up. Then again on the left. And again on the right.  

“Where are they COMING from?” asks The Husband, amazed at the mysticism of miller physics. He seats himself across from the window with the vacuum hose braced across his knees like a shotgun.  

“It doesn’t matter,” he tells the millers. “I’ve got all day.”  

Three hours pass.  

The Husband has clotted the Shop Vac’s openings with paper towels and duct-taped the hole in the window screen. He dusts off his hands and trots to the ‘fridge, whistling.  

I walk through my living room with absolutely nothing fluttering in my hair.  

Middleborn swats me gently on the arm. “Pssst!” he says.  

I lean toward him.  

Middleborn smiles, reaches for his pocketed Altoids tin with one hand and points at the reading lamp with his other. There, as relaxed and entitled as summer’s chosen minion should be, perches a miller.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter