We're arm in arm up the sidewalk when my daughter gasps, catching my elbow, her "No Mommy, stop!" halting me mid-step. I look down to discover a huge furry moth nearly underfoot, so stock-still I think surely, it must be dead. Leaning in for closer review, Sadie and I both catch a slight body quiver, but our excitement dissipates as we realize its leg is broken. The two of us make a grim, silent eye pact to do what we can to save it, or at least make it more comfortable dying.
We use a stick to try the slide-pick-up method, but the twig's too thick, the moth's grip too stubborn, as if it'd already settled on ending things here, on this miniature stretch of sidewalk, unable to face starting over elsewhere. We search around for leaves, but they're all too papery to bear the moth's weight. Sadie wonders if there's anything in my purse, so I fish around, producing an apple juice-stained envelope. We alternate prodding and protecting, one pushing while the other says "Be careful!" or "Not too hard!" then both pull back, startled, as the moth's body begins quaking, violent shudder-spasms that somehow remind me of putting our dog to sleep, making me inexplicably sad.
Our moth is dying and I begin to accept it, the stunned field medic giving up on compressions. "Maybe I should just step on it. Put it out of its misery," I think, unaware I've said the words aloud until I see Sadie's face contract in horror and disgust, shouting, "NO!!! Don't KILL it!!!" The foxhole mate who will not see.
Just then, my husband doubles back to find out what could possibly be keeping us. He crouches down, successfully swiping the moth from ground to envelope in one confident motion, resettling our fallen soldier on some ivy in one of those ankle-high, fenced-in sidewalk tree plots, the best we can do, given the circumstances. He walks on ahead as Sadie and I slowly follow, looking back over our shoulders. "I feel bad," she says. "Me too," I begin, "but at least he won't get squoosh--" "Mommy! LOOK!!!" Sadie screams. "He's FLYING! LOOK!!!"
And I swear it's true, as big as a bird and as effortlessly high, until he's cleared the building, levitating long enough for us all to see, flaunting and fluttering and flitting back and forth to a tall neighboring tree, like some sort of crazy Icarus/Lazarus hybrid, burnt the bright orange-yellows of the sun, crashed to earth but now risen -- still rising -- on the faith of one true believer.
"See, Mommy?" Sadie yells, bouncing triumphantly in place. "He doesn't need a leg! He has wings!"
And in the moment, I don't even care if they're only made of wax.