SPIDER • by Tom Kepler

Where was that damn flyswatter?

And it was, of course, nowhere at hand. Spavin hated flies. They had no place in the storeroom, and he killed them whenever he could. Spiders were acceptable since they were predators and fed on insects that would contaminate the food.

The fly obliged and landed on the stained surface of the desk. Spavin inched toward the fly. His pudgy hand moved with unexpected speed, and then he could feel the fly trapped inside the closed hollow of his fist.

Now, what to do with it? It was too far to the door. The window above the desk hadn’t been opened for years and was sealed with grime. Then Spavin saw the cone of the spiderweb in the corner of the window casement. Its open funnel was almost four inches across, and the white silk narrowed and curved to a dark hole where the spider waited, tucked into the crack between the wooden sill and brick.

He raised his fist and threw the fly into the web. It hit and stuck, struggling against the sticky fibers. Spavin was surprised. The web didn’t look sticky, but although the fly shifted and shivered the cone, it could not escape. Leaning closer, his eyes magnified by the thick lenses of his glasses, Spavin pulled back at the sudden rush as a large, brown spider surged from the hollow, hooked the fly into its grasp, and disappeared so quickly that spider and fly seemed a dream.

The rest of the week included bits of meat and a butterfly net nearby, only Spavin wasn’t interested in butterflies. The spider accepted all of his offerings, and so did the inhabitants of several other webs. He flung flies to them and with delight watched the spiders accept this manna from heaven.

The next week Spavin inaugurated a blog, first posting articles on the varieties of spiders found in everyday environs — namely, the spiders he was feeding. So fleeting were his glimpses, so quick and reclusive were the spiders, that he enjoyed gazing at the quiescent images on his computer screen — was magnified by his new knowledge. One lazy afternoon he realized he had forgotten his afternoon snack. Then his heart leapt and his eyes narrowed: not to worry!

The weather cooled and the population of flies thinned. The storeroom provided minimal heating; the window was laced some mornings with frost, and days filled with tedious work. Spavin no longer stalked the storage room on tip-toe, net in hand. He no longer peered with huge eyes at fat spiders rubbing their bellies against their prey, delicate legs turning flies, the exuded silk the finest of gossamer.

Life palled. Spavin grew his hair long and slicked it back, let his fingernails grow and then filed them to points, but his dissatisfaction continued. Then one day he saw window displays with their skeletons, ghosts, and cobwebs. A vision came upon him with the suddenness of a spider rushing from its hidden recess. He was overtaken, captured, reborn.

From the local hardware store he bought rolls of gleaming wire, an array of small spotlights, and a roll of duct tape. From the fabric store he purchased several yards of black cotton cloth.

He strung wires from the trellises on his front porch, placed lights, creating a sparse, pathetic web of wire that led from the first step of the porch to the front door, narrowing to the entrance. On his hands and knees, he crawled inside, puffing as his belly scraped the cement, thrilled with his creation.

Ordering two cases of spiderweb decoration, overnight delivery, Spavin finished by attaching the gauzy webbing to the wires, creating a cone of webbing as opaque as his desire.

Using the back door, he entered the house and sealed close with black cloth the upper half of the front doorway space outside the cone. Lighting strategically placed to illuminate the webbing, the interior of the house in darkness, the white cone was an invitation to fun and treats, just the right size for a youngster to enter and squeal with expectation. It was the real McCoy, the genuine article.

Tomorrow night was Halloween. Spavin stood in his kitchen, a whetstone on the countertop. He sharpened his boning knife, his belly gently rubbing against the counter’s sharp edge, dark smells of the night entering through the open door.

Tom Kepler‘s book of poetry, Bare Ruined Choirs (Wise Moon Books ISBN 978-0-9842734-0-9), was published in February 2010. The young adult novel Love Ya Like a Sister (ISBN 978-0-9842734-1-7) will be published by Wise Moon Books in the fall of 2010. A faculty member of Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, Kepler is currently seeking literary representation for a fantasy novel, The Stone Dragon.

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Every Day Fiction