“Oh, HELL NO!” Eloise exclaimed as she backed out of the bathroom. From a good six feet away, on the other side of the protective, invisible wall separating the hallway from the lavatory, the heavyset black woman trained her eyes on a spider the size of her pinky-nail. It was sandwiched between the white porcelain toilet and her cherished virgin-white tub, hanging from a loose arrangement of webs.

“George! George!” she shouted towards the living room. No response. Typical; George always fell asleep in front of the damn television. He’d fall into such a deep sleep that Eloise sometimes thought he had a medical condition. She had to think that. The alternative was admitting he was lazy and socking him in the jaw. That she could do; she wasn’t scared of any man. Spiders on the other hand…

Eloise grumbled and tried to keep one eye on the spider while the other eye looked for something heavy, but not too heavy, to accurately throw. Then she remembered George’s black work boots sitting at the foot of the bed in the adjacent room. While the lightbulb burned alive in her mind, she fixed her gaze on the little, dark arachnid.

“Don’t you move, not one bit. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, don’t you move. You stay right there,” she fretted.

She had to move, quickly. While the spider was still, her heart pounded. Eloise launched herself into the bedroom and snatched George’s black boot off the floor. Just as quickly she popped her head through the door frame. Behind her, something boomed. Eloise suspected she’d just broken the sound barrier, she was that damn fast. The boom was the sound of herself catching up to her own ears.

“Still there, eh?” Eloise twisted her lips. “Alright then, play games in my house,” she raised the shoe. One heavy foot tiptoed onto the vinyl floor followed by the other. Two more silent steps brought her within firing range. Eloise was a 250 pound ninja. She reared her projectile behind her head.

A snuffling sound rustled the air, as if someone had just woken up. “What the, huh? Whoa, whoa, whoa!” the spider hollered putting its front two legs up. “What the heck are you doing?”

Eloise paused for a moment, her eyes wide, so wide that her eyes almost rolled down the sleeve of her nightgown.  “Lord in heaven…”

“Yeah, whom I’d like not to see today,” the spider piped in an English accent. “You weren’t going to hit me with that boot, were you?”

Eloise, eyes still in their sockets, slipped sideways towards the boot in her hand. Then she looked back at the spider. “If I weren’t before, sure as hell gonna now.”

“Well, now, I just wouldn’t do that if I were you. I know us spiders can seem scary, but us lot get a bad rap, you see. We’re not that dangerous, well, except for females when they’ve been widowed. And those wandering brown ascetics. They’re wankers. But there’s really no reason to kill me, per se. I’m just a regular ol’ house spider.”

“I don’t like spiders and I don’t like talking spiders even more. So, you keep talking like thems your last your last words ‘cause they is,” Eloise warned as her arm tensed.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” the spider chimed again. “Now just hear me out. Kindly give me five minutes. That’s all I ask.”

Eloise relaxed her grip ever so slightly but kept her aim. The spider seemed reasonable enough with its proper English accent, but it was still a spider after all. “Five minutes. Start talking.”

“There a few good reasons not to kill spiders, my good woman. Perhaps you weren’t aware that in many cultures spiders are revered as gods, some gifted with incredible knowledge. And when we’re not busy being revered as gods, many cultures view  a spider in the house as a sign of good luck, better than a rabbit’s foot I dare say,” the spider explained.

“You know my husband, George? You ain’t no good luck spider, spider,” Eloise countered as she swung her hips.

“Okay, then how about the fact that I eat all the mosquitoes and flies that come into the house? In fact, scientists estimate that there are 2,000 fewer bugs in your home per year thanks to me.” The spider’s tone was quite proud of itself for this service. “Do you have any idea how much I save you in extermination fees? Why, kill me and you just might wind up with malaria!”

Eloise didn’t like spiders, but mosquitoes were just about as bad. More than a few times she’s had one buzz her ear while she was trying to sleep. She’d always try to wake George and have him hunt the offender down, but that man was useless. Though her muscles weren’t quite as tense as a minute ago, she was still a touch wary.

“Keep talking,” she prodded.

“That’s about it really,” the spider scratched its chin, “but we don’t get into your food like other insects. And we don’t bite you sort either, not unless we feel threatened, like when you’re about to roll over on us in bed.” There was an awkward silence. Maybe that didn’t come out right. “Wwwhat I meant was, we don’t get in your bed.” The spider shooed her away with a limb. “We don’t do that. Those are just urban legends. Ha!” Then the spider played it straight. “Honestly, we don’t do that. Ever.”

“Do you really expect me to come in here and do my business with a spider sitting next to me? ‘Specially one that talks?” Eloise raised the boot along with her eyebrows.

“We make silk!” the little black arachnid exclaimed. “I can see you’re a woman of good taste,” the spider twiddled its forelimbs as it surveyed her worn nightgown. “Wouldn’t you just love to sleep on silk sheets? I can make a set for you. Judging by your height…weight…It’ll take about a year. Give or take…a year.”

“You’re ‘bout as lousy a business man as some politicians,” Eloise responded. She raised the boot to its maximum altitude. “Last chance, sucka.”

The spider collapsed in despair. “Alright, alright. You win. You’ve got me dead to rights. That said, may I appeal to the kindness in your heart I hear all the butterflies talk about? They always talk about how nice humans are to them. Now, I know I’m no butterfly but maybe you can just take me outside? It’s the proper thing to do, isn’t it? I promise I’ll wait here while you get a glass so you scoop me up and return me to the outdoors.”

Eloise looked at the bathroom window glazed with frost. Air was invisible, of course, except for when it condensed. It was so cold outside, the pane of glass felt like it was trying to diminish all of the warmth in Eloise’s soul. She was stronger than that, though. Damn stronger than that. She lowered the projectile, curved her neck and snorted.

“Alright. I can live with that. I’ll go get a glass and you gonna stay right there. That’s what you said.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m going to stay right here. I’m an honorable spider. I give you my word,” the spider confirmed.

An air of approval left Eloise’s nose as she turned around and stomped off to get a glass from the kitchen. Once the bulky woman was out of sight, the spider dashed up the wall and into the air vent. It exhausted the spider’s immediate energy reserves but it pressed on down the shaft until it was out of Eloise’s reach, just to be safe.

Within the minute, Eloise had returned. She spied the empty space; loose strings of web left behind. “What? You better git back here, spider! You gave me your damn word!”

“Tut tut, Mrs. Ford. Can’t have you throwing me out into the cold. That’d be about the same as clobbering me with a boot.” The spider’s voice echoed throughout the ventilation system and sniped Eloise’s ear from all around. She couldn’t tell where the spider had gone off to.

“I’m going to call an exterminator!” Eloise warned the divine voice that surrounded her.

“Understandable considering my ruse, milady. But I assure you I’ll be long gone by the time the exterminator comes around. You see, you humans aren’t quite the compassionate lot the butterflies keep talking about.” The spider’s voice was fading as it receded into the dark recesses of Eloise’s home.

“Do they really say that about people?” Eloise asked as she lowered the boot to her side.

“Oh, absolutely. They’ll say anything to buy themselves some time. Can’t say I blame them. We all do it at some point in our lives, usually near the end,” the spider said from afar. “Well, ta now! Sleep well. Tell the queen I said ‘hello.’”

Eloise’s bottom teeth rose above her upper teeth. She turned around and shuffled towards the bedroom to put the boot back where she’d found it.

“Ain’t no one true to their damn word anymore,” she whispered. “Just ain’t right. It just ain’t right.”

 

All Rights Reserved © February 2017 John J Vinacci

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