When I got out of my car Friday morning, this moth was lying dead on the concrete beside my car. I thought he was gorgeous. Even with a trickle of ants taking away from his body whatever was edible for them. There wasn’t much left. His body was empty already, fleshy parts no doubt eaten by a bird. I did think it was a little odd that his wings were so intact if it had been a bird that got him. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I took a couple of shots with my phone.
If work had been slower, I might have given Polyphemus more thought. I didn’t know his name then; I might have looked him up like I did today. (He was surprisingly easy to identify.) He did cross my mind briefly at some point when I was cursing myself for not having my camera and missing out on the chance to get better pictures. Somehow, I decided that if he was still there, I’d scoop him up and take his dessicated corpse home to photograph. I didn’t expect him to still be there when I left. He was. So I scooped him up and brought his dessicated corpse home to photograph.
This is an adult male Polyphemus moth. The eyespots on his hind wings are beautiful purplish smudges with pale centers. He has large, bushy antennae and is about five and a half inches from wing tip to wing tip. Polyphemus is in the same family as the Luna moth, another bug I make every effort to photograph when I see them. Adults only live for a week. They don’t eat. They can’t. They have no working mouth parts. This fact, for some reason, fascinates me.
And now I’m going to connect this random story about a pretty dead insect to writing.
Stories are–should be–as ephemeral as Polyphemus and Luna. They have to end at some point in order to have any kind of impact. This is a problem I have with American TV. Take Supernatural, for example. I love this show, but it’s been picked up for a seventh (or sixth, I can’t remember) season. I don’t doubt they’ll tell good stories, but at some point, the saga needs to wrap up (before they fuck up and jump the shark, or the shark demon in this case). Because TV isn’t about telling stories. It’s about making money, and it’s sad that story takes a back seat. Movies can actually be worse than TV when it comes to knowing when to quit. Not every movie needs a sequel, and yet, we get them. 28 Days Later did not need a sequel. Especially not a shitty one like 28 Weeks Later.
I suppose I’m thinking about this because I’m getting closer to the end of a series of stories I’ve been working on for close to six years. There’s always been some indication that there’s more for this character after this last story, but now I’m wondering if I should bother. The original set up for this second series has been tossed out the window with changes I’ve made to the story I’m writing now. Not that this would make a hell of a lot of difference to the stories in the second series. But will the end of the first be lessened by the existence of the second? Well, yeah, given how the first is going to end. Hasn’t that poor character been through enough? I think it’s time to let him rest. I can still tell the stories. I can use other characters. In fact, there’s one sitting in the notebook at my elbow right now who arrived recently and doesn’t exactly have a place to go yet. I think he may be perfect for the job.
All good stories end. And it’s okay for stories to end. It’s okay to let characters die. With any luck, they’ll leave beautiful corpses that will be admired long after they’re gone.