The Art of Pivot and Flit

Dear Septimus,

I’m certain you’re surprised by this letter, but an extraordinary revelation has reached me, and in part it is thanks to you. Yesterday evening, as my sister Rachel placidly embroidered and described her day, I found I heard the songs of moths that danced above the mantelpiece. Their bawdiness is inexhaustible. Whilst a pair warbled obscene duets, a third flapped vile wings and swooped towards my pompadour. My hand slapped up a second too late, creating an updraft that drove the creature into my ear.

The little thing’s scream vibrated my cochlea. I shook my head, hoping to crumple her antennae, but that only prompted shrieks more deafening.

Aware of Rachel eyeing me askance, I hissed at the moth to calm herself.

In response, she rudely spat, “Wing spreader! Soul spiker!”

I had no doubt she referred to my pastime of collecting butterflies, which some believe to be souls of the deceased. She muttered of the net she’s seen me carry. To feel her dread, you’d think it a blood-soaked sword.

Rachel asked with concern after my health. I lied that I was perfectly well and excused myself to bed.

Eager to placate the insect in my ear, I vowed to henceforth indulge my passion for lepidoptery only in pursuit of butterflies, never moths. At that, her fright did subside.

In the darkness, I listened with intrigue as my moth detailed the freedom to be had if I learnt to exploit my femininity. She sighed of love, of lust, of things I’ve never dared consider, and described flirtations – the art of pivot and flit, not to mention the alluring power of fragrance.

And I recalled you, the chorister I adored who betrayed me. For seven years you moaned my name as though it scorched your mouth but turned to others to sooth the burn.

That’s enough to sour any woman.

What if I were to collect men as I gather butterflies?

It’s a shocking idea, yet one that makes my heart waltz. Having experienced your callousness, I’m certain a man would be just as agonized to be dallied with and abandoned.

My moth has taught me I have that power. At that thought, I confess, I feel a dizzying thrill.

My dreams last night brimmed with nectar-rich blooms and sweetly rotting windfalls.

When dawn came, I woke to find my moth gone. I would mourn her if it wasn’t for the glimpse of one shadowed wing beyond the windowpane.

I fold this letter to resemble a moth’s wing and hope it will reach your hands and heart. Too many I’ve sent you without response – surely all cannot have been lost!

Today I vow no more letters to you and no more moths for me. Instead I shall seek pleasure in studying butterflies and pinning the hearts of men.

I owe you deep gratitude for contributing to this plan.

Yours in earnestness,

M. F.

Judy Darley

Judy Darley is a fiction writer, journalist and occasional poet from Bristol, UK. Her fiction has been described as 'shimmeringly strange', possibly because she can't stop writing about the infinite fallibilities of the human mind. Judy is the author of three fiction collections: The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Judy’s words have been published and performed on BBC radio and harbor walls, as well as in bookshops, museums, cafés, caves, pubs, a disused church and an artist’s studio. Find Judy at;

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.