Today is cleaning day, and as I clear away new cobwebs I am reminded of a silly short story I wrote about the first spider murders I committed here. When I first arrived, I had to quarantine in my house for a week, so this story is partially born out of that isolation. So, I present to you, The Spiders in the Corner Make a Joke :
As the eggs on the stovetop sizzle and sing, shooting droplets of grease onto the countertop, I take a sip of my morning tea. Green; not too hot; served with two spoonfuls of sugar. Once the yolk has masterfully transformed from its state of oozing liquid, into its not-quite-solid-but-definitely-something-new phase of life, it is scraped from the pan to the plate and sprinkled with salt. I pull the chair from the table, scrunching my face as I brace for the screech of the wooden legs on the tile floor because I can never seem to just pick up the chair no matter how gruesome the noise is.
I plunge the fork into the yellow pool and let it drip a little onto the whites of the plate before bringing it to my lips. Before I can return for the next bite, I hear a faint snicker. Swallowing slowly, I listen more intently. There it is again. More than one this time, maybe even five or six. I stand from my seat, barely even registering the floor’s complaints, and look around for the source of the sound. My eyes fall to the corner of the kitchen, just above the door frame, and seven little bodies, eight legs each, trapezing themselves from the webs and shuttering with laughter.
I shouted up at them, “Excuse me! What do you think you are doing up there?”
The largest of them, the matriarch, responded, “Oh, you know, just hanging out!”
Her family burst into another round of uncontrollable laughter.
“Where did all the rest of them come from? Yesterday it was just you and one other!” I call back.
They all snickered lightly as she explained how her dear Uncle was chased from his home, and how her precious cousins were too young to fend for themselves, and how her poor nephew had just been broken up with, and how her aging mother was visiting from out of town, and how she couldn’t possibly have left all with no where to stay. She continued to rave about how lovely my home was with its tall ceiling and empty corners, and how I almost never think to clean.
I stamped my foot indignantly. “I clean when it is necessary! I don’t have time to clean just for the fun of it.”
Another flutter of giggles from the corner.
Returning to the problem at hand I replied, “So you just invited your whole family into my home? What are they offering as payment?”
“Yes, payment! I’m not running a charity here! Every creature must pay their dues. The cricket on the door frame is the guardian of this home. He ensures that no one gets in who has not been invited, or poses a threat to my wellbeing. He also happens to be very wise, and provides me sage advice and council when I am in need of it.
“The lizard on the porch is in charge of keeping the mosquitoes at bay; she knows how their bite can harm me, and is diligent to keep them from feasting on me. She is also a wonderful encouragement to me; no matter how many times she may lose her tail, it always grows back in a week or two. Such a lovely reminder of the temporary nature of the problems of life.
“Now, the slugs in the shower are dearest of all. They keep me company while I do my lonesome tasks, and know me more intimately than any of the others. They never neglect to compliment me and remind me of my worth. I would not be who I am today without them.
“The ants in this very kitchen are my little janitors. They find any stray crumbs and deal with them hastily and efficiently. Yet, as you well know, they can be a bit overeager sometimes; coming for crumbs not meant for them and bringing more workers than necessary for the job.
“That is where you were meant to come in, Ms. Spider! Our bargain was that you would manage the ants and keep them from crowding me too much. Alas, look behind you!” I gestured to the line of ants marching up and down the wall directly behind the family.
“Not only are you neglecting to hold up your end of the bargain, but you have now invited your whole family into my home with nothing to offer me in return!”
I stomped away towards the closet, grabbed a broom, and marched right back to face them.
Not understanding the gravity of their situation, the matriarch squealed, “Oh, please don’t hurt us, my cousin has big dreams! He desperately wants to grow up to be a web designer!”
They all rattled with laughter, and at that same moment I brought the broom up to the corner where they resided and swatted until every trace of them had been erased.
I put the broom back in the closet, and returned to my eggs. Enjoying every bite in sweet silence, I cleared the plate.
As I washed my dishes, I whispered to the ants by the sink, “Ya know, I feel a little guilty about killing them. They do look genuinely crushed.”