The Passing of the Scavengers

Warning to the squeamish reader: Skip the unseemly second paragraph of this story)

The first sign appeared twenty years ago, early one Sunday morning. A man in his fifties, an active fun-runner, set out before first light to drive from his domicile in the capital to the regional city of Ballarat. The annual Courier Classic, a tough 14-kilometer run in late summer was calling once again. The drive to Ballarat called to mind his ancestors, Nanny and Papa, who met and married there, one hundred years earlier. He smiled as her drove, for Nature was smiling on him. The highway wound between pleasing hills, plunged down through gullies and valleys where mists slowed his car, and for a time he moved as in a dream. Then the sky pinked at his left side, the sun announced itselfand the road straightened and levelled out.

The runner relaxed. He felt a pain, a sharp tightening in his lower abdomen. This was followed quickly by an urgent spasm in his rectum. He pulled over, climbed a fence, hurried to a shrub and relieved himself of his pain. He looked down and about him and found himself solitary. He listened: no sound. Of blowflies, the customary attendants at such ceremonies in his past, he saw and heard none. His ablutions completed, the runner returned to the car in a deep perplex. Where were the scavengers? Perhaps the long drought…

Years later, Moth Season came but the moths failed. Every spring, ever since the family moved in, a plague of kitchen moths would arrive and set up camp in the kitchen. Here they’d feed and breed. For six to eight weeks the moths would occupy the pantry and scavenge on farinaceous remnants. Their visitation provided a diversion. Unless one were an omnivore, one had to separate particles of moth from particles of Muesli. The hunt demanded close attention, a kitchen moth and a muesli particle being of similar hue. A helpful giveaway was the occasional fluttering of a wing in the cereal.

Moth Season would see our runner become a climber. The breeding moths liked to do it hanging from the ceiling. Each morning the runner descended to the kitchen, looked about him and above, climbed the kitchen benches and reached for the maggots cocooned above. Maggots are not everyone’s cup of tea, aesthetically speaking. Of course your Moths Senior probably look upon their unborn young with undiluted pride. The tastes of creatures differ. In Nature there seems to be space both for the polluting species (to which our runner-climber belongs) and the scavenger species. That’s the plan, but for seven years Moth Season has come but the moths have not.

Last week a juvenile rat lay down and died beneath the runner’s clothesline. Looking innocent, he lies where he fell, odourless and unattended by truant blowflies. The posture of the deceased, resembles that of the foetal human.  The runner hangs out the washing, the sun shines, the wind blows, Nature is busy. Later the runner returns and notes his rodent guest still at rest. The rat waits upon the crows, but the crows fail.

The Scavengers have passed from the Earth.

5 thoughts on “The Passing of the Scavengers

  1. My top three fears as a 7 year old were-

    1. Bushfires (it was 1983; the year of the Ash Wednesday fires);
    2. The seemingly massive huntsman spiders that seemed to enjoy finding a home in the cornice immediately above my pillow on the top bunk;
    3. The moths that invaded our house every summer and the horrible sensation of their beating wings, too close to my ears, in the dark on summer nights…when I was already hyper-alert to the threat of the aforementioned huntsmen spiders.

    I recently happened upon this article and though I don’t miss the moths, I wouldn’t wish them extinct
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/18/a-995-decline-what-caused-australias-bogong-moth-catastrophe

    PS- my husband, who runs, can absolutely identify with paragraph 2 of your post and carries an emergency roll of tp in the car.

    Like

    • Dear Michelle M

      it’s good to be in contact.
      When you are seven it’s understandable to fear alien, ugly creatures. When you reach my age the realisation dawns that in more than seven decades a huntsman or a moth has never killed a human. In a lifetime in medicine i’ve never treated mothbite. Huntsman spiders do bite – blow flies and other small beings. It is wise always to fear bushfires.

      very best

      howard

      Like

    • i like my wife

      i like you

      my wife’s thoughts, like your thoughts, are reasonable and understandable

      what i believe is lacking in you both is a fondness for the grotesque

      love

      doff

      Like

  2. My wife is this blog’s First Reader. A private person, she prefers not to publish her responses. On this occasion she reads and expostulates: IT’S REVOLTING!

    In fairness to the author, he did warn the Reader.

    Like

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