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The Spider

We've been watching a spider in the corner of the porch all afternoon. One of those giant hairy green flies is stuck way out on one edge of the spider's web, and for a long time, the spider just sort of danced around it, waiting for the fly to tire itself out. The fly would buzz round and round in circles, but it was still stuck. It was already here when Mommy yelled "go outside and play" at us before we were even finished eating lunch.

From inside the house, we can hear mommy and daddy screaming at each other. I'd be more embarrassed if we weren't crouched down behind the big scratchy juniper bush that sits in front of our front door and prevents people from selling things to us because nobody ever trims it, so you can't get to the door from the walkway without it grabbing at your clothes. But you can get out the door and it's like being in a little cave where the clucking tongues and shaking heads of the neighbors can't reach us.

I don't know what they're screaming about. I've become so adept at pretending I can't hear it that it's become true. I'm captivated by the fly, flying frantically in circles and humming bzzzzz bzz bzzzzzzzz some kind of fly code for "help." The spider sits, the invisible tips of its feet touching the invisible strands of its web, as though the fly is a puppet that the spider is playing with before lunch.

The screaming comes in waves. Sometimes it dies down altogether and when Mommy comes back for us, she's smiling and pretending that nothing happened, and we pretend too. She asks if we had fun, and we say that we did, even though she can see that we're crouching right here on the porch where she left us.

The fly has stopped moving. The spider slowly makes his way to him, testing each strand of the web before moving out over it. When the spider finally reaches him, he buzzes weakly for a second. The spider's thin legs touch him on all sides, measuring him as though for a suit. Then the spider draws himself right up to the fly.

It's quiet in the house, but Mommy hasn't come out for us yet. The quiet doesn't mean anything. She could come out and tell us to get in the car. That happens all the time. She says "Get in the car, we're going to go see Grandma," and we get in the car and she sings baby songs in a wavery voice for the half-hour it takes to get there, and then we're sent to play outside at Grandma's. It's not so much different there, except Grandma has oleanders, and if she sees us getting anywhere near them, she bangs on the glass of the kitchen window and shouts a muffled warning at us.

One time she came out and she had a black eye and a fat lip. There was a smear of blood on her chin, and it was mixing with the snot running out of her nose. I thought she'd tell us we were going to grandma's, but she just sat on the porch sort of moaning and hugging us. We tried to comfort her, but we were both afraid of getting her snot on us, so we sort of patted her hair and said "shhhhh, mommy" very quietly, and it made her cry harder. I think that she didn't want Grandma to see her black eye. I don't know why. Maybe Grandma can't do anything about her black eye.

Even if we get really close, we can't see whether the spider's fangs are actually in the fly or not. The fly isn't all wrapped up like we thought. On TV, the spider wraps the fly up first, real fast, and then sucks out his blood later. Not this spider. This spider has been sitting on this fly doing whatever he's doing for at least five minutes. I want to go inside and get my big magnifying glass, but I know better. Instead we both get as close as we can and look at the spider and the fly. The spider's face is next to the fly's metallic green belly, and I am looking hard to see any signs of the belly collapsing in on itself, but it's not.

Sweat is dripping into my eyes. It's still quiet inside, and I wonder if maybe both of them left without us. If they forgot us. The garage is on the other end of the house and since our house is on the corner, it faces the other street. I peer through the bushes to see if any of the neighbors are out. I don't want to go out and see the old lady next door watering her lawn, because she'll yell at me for my parents yelling. She tells me to tell my father not to be such an asshole. I nod my head and wonder whether she realizes that if I ever uttered that word to my father, he would kill me with one swipe of his giant fist. But the old lady's not there.

I steal under the bush and along the side of the house. Even before I get to the garage I know they're still there because the screaming has just moved to the back of the house. I creep back to the porch, careful not to let them see my head in the windows. The fly is still there, definitely dead now. There are a few more bits of silk near him, but the spider isn't wrapping him up in a cocoon like on the TV show. He's drawing it out for a long time. Maybe he's never going to do it. He doesn't have to tell anyone his plans for his fly, does he?