5. THE RECLUSE
The old woman had lived alone for the last ten years. After her husband passed she didn’t go out much. This resulted in a strange and fateful relationship with the brown recluse spider residing in her basement.
She relied on the kindness of neighbors to fill her freezer and pantry for the winter and made daily trips down the rickety stairs, carefully dodging the cobwebs hanging from every beam.
In the corner was an old freezer filled with food from her neighbors’ gardens, along with venison for stew. Directly above the freezer was a brown recluse spider of considerable size. Since it had been years since the old lady could bend her neck back to see the ceiling beams, she didn’t know he was there…..
The day she slipped on an ice sliver and landed face up, she definitely noticed it.
As she laid waiting for the pain to subside, the spider slowly descended on a silver rope….slowly….getting closer and closer to her face. The old woman was terrified. She couldn’t move; and if bitten could not rise to call for help.
As last the spider touched down on her cheek with two spindly legs, then all eight.
The old woman braced herself for a bite and the sure death that would follow. But the spider only sat there on her cheek, unmoving. When the woman recovered from her fall and was ready to move she dared not. It might upset the spider, or frighten him into biting her.
The old woman sighed at her silly predicament. Her breath released slowly, causing the spider to take hold of his glistening rope and crawl back to his hiding place behind the ceiling beam.
Astonished at the spider’s retreat, not to mention his mercy, she decided to thank him. She began catching small insects from the kitchen door screen and suffocating them in a canning jar. Her daily trips to the basement would now include leaving these thank you treats for the recluse. Every day she would look to see the treats wound up with web near the ceiling, and she would smile.
She was happy to do this small favor for her new friend.
This routine went on for some time and it amused the old woman. She now had a little companionship. She would sometimes tell the latest gossip to the spider as she opened the freezer door to fetch the day’s food. She knew it was silly but she didn’t care.
One night as the old woman was sleeping upstairs a thief broke the basement window and crawled in, stepping onto the freezer for balance before easing himself onto the floor. The flashlight in his hand was pointed toward the stairs before he turned it off. He didn’t see the silvery thread growing longer and longer as the spider came down, aimed at his neck and ready to bite.
The spider was happy to do this small favor for his new friend.
By Lisa Mathisen
Animal lovers-rejoice! This is the one you’ve been waiting for. An anthology of all the non-human protagonists from previous volumes in The Glimpse Series plus twelve new stories. Written in her well known flash fiction style, Mathisen takes us on a journey into the animal and insect worlds, embracing them with humor and surprise.
If you never thought you could look at a cockroach with empathy, you are about the be proven wrong