Uncle Spider's Last Legs
— Where’s your glass of water?
— I need your help.
— Spider. There’s a huge spider in the sink.
Taylor sighed and got out of bed, rubbing his eyes in preparation for battle. He walked to the kitchen quickly at first, but started stalling as he got closer to the sink. In his list of favourite things to do at 5 AM, facing a huge spider would undoubtedly be ranked near the bottom.
At his first visual contact with the target, however, Taylor remembered that the word “huge” — particularly when applied to insects — had different definitions for Laura and for him. Instead of going into battle, he had been sent out to slaughter a monster barely bigger than the tip of his thumb.
— Really? Are you telling me you’re afraid of this little thing?
— Is it still there? Thank God! I wouldn’t be able to sleep with a spider in the house.
— Well, here it is. What do you want me to do with this poor thing? Kill it?
— Should I leave it here, then?
— Taylor, don’t you dare!
— Okay, okay. Let me get some paper towel. I’ll try to take it outside.
— Keep an eye on it! For God’s sake, don’t let it get out of sight!
— Done. Let’s see if it climbs onto the paper towel now. There we go… no! Shit, it’s so fast! It’s running away!
— God, no! Kill it! Kill it! Kill it, or I will kill you, Taylor!
All Laura could hear in response was the cushioned blow of Taylor’s right hand involved in paper towel repeatedly hitting the metal sink. Only Taylor was close enough to notice another sound: the haunting noise of the spider’s exoskeleton bending against itself until it broke. Only he could feel the wetness from the creature’s insides creeping through the paper and touching the skin of fingers. Only he could see how, in a matter of seconds, the perfect symmetry of the spider’s body gave way to a pitifully asymmetrical carcass which clung to the paper, glued by its own blood, twitching its three unbroken legs out of instinct even though there was no longer any point in trying to escape.
— Shit. I just made a big mess.
— Is it dead? Taylor, is it dead?
— Yes, it’s dead, okay? I’m throwing it in the bin.
— Close the lid! I don’t want it crawling out while we’re sleeping!
— It’s not going anywhere, trust me.
Taylor returned to bed with Laura’s glass of water in the same hand that had killed the spider seconds earlier. Instead of lying down, he sat facing the wall.
— Are you alright? Come here.
— You know I hate killing these things.
— C’mon, don’t be like that. It’s just a spider!
— It’s an animal, Laura. Okay? It’s a small living creature. It only wants to survive. Its life was everything it had, and I just took it for no reason.
— Taylor, don’t start.
— It was so small. What if it was a baby spider?
— Stop! Don’t be ridiculous.
— What if it got lost and mama spider is out looking for her baby, but now she will never find it?
— Or maybe it wasn’t a baby. Maybe that was mama spider herself. Maybe she was out to get food for her baby. Maybe there’s a hungry baby spider somewhere waiting for mum to come back, but I just crushed her and threw it in the trash.
— Stop! Enough, Taylor! You’re feeling bad and you want me to feel bad, too. You got what you wanted. Are you happy now?
There was just enough light in the room for him to notice the hint of tears in her eyes, the shame for getting worked up over his silly spider talk, and more than a tiny bit of anger. He had gone too far and now had to recover.
— Hey. Don’t feel bad.
— I’m trying to sleep, Taylor.
— Maybe it wasn’t mama spider or baby spider. Maybe that was just uncle spider, what do you think?
— Yes, that’s who it was. Drunken uncle spider, always looking for trouble. He got lost again and ended up in our sink.
— Are you really saying that?
— I guess it wasn’t such a big loss after all. He was always a burden to the family. I’m sure they will be better off without him.
— How can you be so ridiculous, Taylor? Remind me: why did I marry you, again?
— Because I make you laugh?
— I don’t know why I still laugh at your nonsense. Good night, silly.
— Good night, honey. Good night, uncle spider.
Buried in the darkness of the rubbish bin, uncle spider took his final moments of consciousness to reflect on the trajectory that led to his demise. His sister was right, after all: the drunken nightly escapades ended up costing his life. Still, in spite of his unfortunate destiny, he had no regrets. The vague hope of chasing redemption, the anger at his weakness, the guilt for not being the best son or brother: all the unpleasant thoughts and feelings which haunted his rare moments of sobriety dissolved in the powerful acknowledgement that he had chosen his fate and lived according to his own rules. In a crumpled piece of paper towel resting in the middle of the rubbish, uncle spider felt at peace with the universe.
Seconds later, he noticed a delightfully familiar scent. He didn’t even need his eyes to confirm he was resting right over a bottle of beer someone had thrown away earlier. There was still one small sip left at the bottom. In one last painful effort, uncle spider used all the remaining strength in his damaged body to finally unglue himself from the paper towel and reach his final place. Floating at the bottom of the bottle, feeling the liquid penetrating every wound of his body and mind, uncle spider twitched his legs for the last time.