5 thoughts on “Shadow Moths by Cate Gardner


    “All the same, Check picked up his bag, which was no weight at all. It only contained socks and hope.”

    Some writers have the knack to turn the throwaway line (or deadpan caprice or straight-faced fantasy amid otherwise humdrum or seedy life) into haunting nightmares as well as dry conceits. Cate Gardner, in my experience, is one of those, and here she takes her knack into confidently understated overdrive.
    Check checks into the hotel, and follows and is followed by shadows, and by a helpmate chambermaid – from, for me, some off-kilter alternative Wonderland – a helpmate in garnering him a puppeteer’s job at the end of the bus route.
    The work’s deadpan throwaway straight-faced loop of a musical ‘dying fall’ ending is just that. As if Wonderland becomes – or always was – reflected in or by or from a desiccated leminscate Glass Darkly “…raining as ashes.”


    “The moths he referred to were the girls who flirted with the guys in uniform.”

    This story affected me deeply. It reminded me of my own mother’s true stories of her young womanhood when she, too, frequented such bars described in this story; this was during the Second World War; she often walked home in the darkness of the blackout sometimes beset by a Blitz raid; she eventually met my soldier father in one such foray; she passed away a few months ago.
    This story, although with its own deadpan futuristic quality, with blood moths of Blitz or desiccated confetti messages of balm, turned to raining ashes, I imagine, in its deadpan darkness. This, otherwise, is also a beautifully oblique dystopia of war, of ghosts made and moths as quick-read, quick-red ‘objective correlatives’ for a nightmarish, but human-touching, vision. We shall all apply this vision separately for our own purging purposes, I guess. It also has that gestalt pattern of a leminscate loop already adumbrated by the first quick-read of puppet shadows above.
    It is always 8.15 a.m. – the time I happened to ring my mother’s landline every morning in recent years. I was her only child.


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