by Peggy McFarland

Charlie is trying to make his way in the world, even though he doesn't posses his ancestor's spelling skills.

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Charlie left the farm, mostly to escape his heritage.  His great-great-great-great-great grandmother's penchant for pigs and rats worked for her, but Charlie wanted to travel and spin his own tale. 

After miles of heat and dust, Charlotte's progeny happened upon a remote structure with a tantalizing buzz.  He scaled the stone foundation to an opening.  He considered this new corner, but the setting sun's rays glinted upon shards, an omen to continue exploring.  Broken windows did not make for comfortable homes. 

He lowered himself into a subterranean room, then stopped and studied his surroundings.  Rustlings, buzzings and murmurs, along with a pleasant dankness—an enticing place for the kind of prey he needed for survival.  Yes, this could be home.

He climbed a table leg to a mahogany surface, clambered over brass handles and descended into a large box.  The bottom surface was soft, the walls cushioned.  Corners were necessary for the structure he aimed to build.  A centipede emerged from between cushions and padding, nuzzled its way toward a pillow.  Flies circled above, occasionally settling upon upholstered buttons.  It would be difficult, but if he could build his web, he'd feast.  He scurried to the indent and got his gland working.  Yes, it would work, he could establish the anchors around the buttons.  A hinge and the upper edge were more than suitable. A family of cockroaches convinced him; time to spin. 

Charlie spun his silken radii, spiraled larger and larger connections to his long, taut frame-threads.  He labored most of the night, reinforced sticky threads in anticipation for crawling delicacies. 

Abdomen aching, eight eyes bloodshot, eight legs sore, Charlie settled into the center of his web, proud of his handiwork.  Outside, the night bugs' lullaby faded and the first rooster blared to the world.  Background noise to Charlie, his attention remained focused on a moth gnawing its way along the cloth.  Come on... come on... Charlie thought, anxious to feed.  

So intent on his dinner, Charlie ignored the bat that glided in through the broken window.  He also ignored the bat's evolving shadow—wings snapping outward into a billowing cape, round body elongating into human form, dark face glowing pale in the predawn shimmer. 

Charlie bared his fangs, almost drooled, the moth wing one flap away from the first sticky thread—

Human-like fingers pinched the moth and flung it upwards.  The same brazen hand swiped aside Charlie's night-long labors.  Charlie scrambled, wedged his body behind a button's pucker and felt the weight of a head settle.  Hinges croaked.  Charlie was trapped inside blackness.

Charlie collapsed into misery.  Without blood, he would expire.  Without a web, he couldn't suck blood.  Within an airtight box, a web was pointless.  Charlie peeked out from his hiding spot. Adding insult to injury, the human-esque blob filled almost every inch of available real estate.  Charlie crawled onto the head.  If he wasn't so exhausted, he would start a new web anchored in the offender's hair.  A touch of his ancestor's moxie crept into his tiny brain.  He considered weaving a swear word across the snoring mouth.  Scurrying to the lips, he revved up his gland.  Empty.  Didn't matter, he was too exhausted to finish the task, plus he couldn't spell.  All he truly needed was to escape this coffin and find an airier spot to spin a new home. 

Charlie stopped, sniffed.  Warm blood, puddled in a dimple.  Charlie skated across skin, swung over a fang and dove for the blood.  The face shook.  NO! Charlie refused to be shaken off, not until he sated his hunger.  No time to spin and anchor.  Charlie latched on the rat's way—he bared his own fangs and chomped into leathery skin. 

Sour blood filled his mouth.  The taste was horrific!  He curled into a ball, slid off the face.  The body shifted, crushing Charlie's plump body, pinning a leg, tearing off two others.  A blacker black enveloped.


Even with six legs, Charlie could clamber and spring, spin and weave.  Penny Zuckerman destroyed every message, but Charlie didn't care—A-HA and STIL HEER weren't exactly poetry.  Plus, he'd have to move on soon, taunt a new family.  The Zuckermans were becoming pale.

The bathroom light glowed as Penny fumbled through the medicine cabinet for salve.  She scratched her angry red welts, screeched when she came upon Charlie putting the finishing touches to U R FUD. 

Her father-in-law Homer blamed his spider problem on a niece.  Penny would shout NONSENSE, but her husband, her children and every visitor to the Zuckerman homestead bore the same red welts.  Penny grabbed a can of Aqua-Net and screamed, "I GOT HIM!" until the rest of the family rushed out of their bedrooms, tripped over each other and chased Charlie.  Brooms slammed, newspapers smacked, household items crashed. 

A lamp crushed his engorged body against the wall.  Charlie shrugged it off, scurried into a crack and settled in until the humans retreated.  He could wait; he had eternity. 

Almost nightly, they squashed and smashed, swatted and sprayed, and every night Charlie wove a mocking web.  Charlie wondered if this would end. 

Maybe a Zuckerman—maybe another family—would look at a genuine baseball bat and get a flash of inspiration.  Maybe consider the wood, see a smaller, sharper destiny inside its bludgeon-form. Maybe that victim would think about the lost art of whittling, shave off chunks and refine the slivers until the clumsy sports equipment evolved into a sleek, sharp toothpick.  Then that inspired individual might sneak during daylight to the overlooked junk drawer, lift the old shoelaces, push aside dead batteries and toss out useless corks to aim that tiny weapon into the abdomen of Charlie, the vampire-spider. 

Charlie chuckled in his safe-crack, sure that inspiration expired with his ancestor and rarely flashed into human brains.  Tomorrow he'd crawl out, weave another word-web and scurry across snoring faces to gorge until his belly bloated.    




Copyright © 2011 Peggy McFarland

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Peggy McFarland lives in New Hampshire with her husband, three sons, and one neurotic dog. When she's not bemoaning the laundry pile, she manages Moonstones Restaurant in Chelmsford, MA. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in. Say you've read one of her stories, and Peggy will treat you to a delicious tapas.

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