The spiders sat with fine hairy legs splayed in all directions. Some hung in the web. A few were sprawled on the floor, and two juveniles’ long legs stuck to the drywall. They were hypnotized by the sight of the long legged ancient story teller, nearly two weeks old, about to speak. It was New Years Day and they were in the loft of a big house located in the heart of the Midwest.
Steve, otherwise known as The Reverend, was preparing to spin a yarn that would likely be passed on, generation to generation.
He rubbed his fourth and fifth legs together, a habit he’d picked up when he was just a couple of minutes old, and softly began.
It started when the humans dragged an evergreen into this very house. They stood it upright in a large stand and hung lights and glittery balls all over it. It would have been a great spot to place a web, but they were always messing with it.
We were all home for the night - Mom, me, and my brothers, Ralphie, Carl, Jack, Luke, Evan, Jarod, Pete, Gabriel, and a few others. I‘ve forgotten many of them after this much time. Music drifted into the kitchen, from the loft speakers. I remember hearing the click, and then thunk, as someone turned on the burner of the kitchen range that we lived behind.
The human woman set a kettle filled with water on top of the flames. She placed two mugs on the counter and into them scooped sticky white goo that she’d pulled from the freezer. I was hoping she’d set that spoon down so that the ants from behind the trim would come running out and get caught in it. They are so dumb but it's fun to watch.
She poured something dark into a tiny glass, dumped it into the cups, repeated it with another dark liquid, filled the cups with steaming water, sprinkled something powdery on top, and hummed her way into the living room to join the human man.
The human man was good about leaving crumbs out for us. Not her. She was too stingy, always wiping surfaces with that dishcloth. We never cared for her.
“What was I saying again?” The old spider scrunched his forehead.
Oh yes, all at once the hair on all of my legs sensed tension in the air and the humans began arguing. Clinging to the wall, I crept behind the refrigerator to the corner so that I could see them.
“We need more lights,” the human woman said, and stood back squinting.
“You’re crazy,” the human man barked back at her. “If you need more lights, then you can remove the ornaments and put them on yourself. You say the same thing every year!”
"Why don’t you just put enough lights on it, so that I wouldn't have to say anything?”
I wanted to get a better look at the lights, so I crept further out and jumped onto the wood floor that leads to the living room. It was kind of thrilling being out there. I felt brave and free under the open ceiling and I have to admit that I agreed with her. Not that I’d ever seen a tree with lights, but if you are going to put lights on a tree, I say the more the merrier.
I was so busy staring at that tree and listening to their voices going up and down with the fire crackling in the wood stove that I didn’t realize the human woman was going to spin around as fast as she did. I scrambled to get out of her way, all my legs slipping from under me on the polished floor, but I managed to throw myself under the fridge in time.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” piped a small voice from the audience. It was Little Harry. His eight big round eyes were out of proportion with his still short and stubby legs. “My Mom says we are not to walk around in the open. Not unless it’s dark out.”
“Your mother is a smart lady,” agreed The Reverend, and he continued.
The human woman stomped past. I saw her toes go by. I think she was looking for a garbage bag when she opened the cupboard door under the sink and screamed, “Ahhhhh, there are mice in here. We can’t have mice! Your mother is coming!”
“Honey,” the human man answered impatiently as he fiddled with a light bulb on the freshly murdered tree, “there can’t be any mice under there; the exterminator said he got them all.”
“Oh really? Then why are there feces? Dead mice don’t poop!”
“And why are you worried about my mother?” he said. “We‘ve been married twenty-two years. I don’t think she’s coming here to inspect.”
“Your mother always comes here to inspect!” she snapped back and then her long blonde hair disappeared around the corner along with the rest of her and Armageddon was under way.
Mom wouldn’t let us to leave our nest, the ancient spider said. He uncrossed his front legs and slowly stretched them. Arthritis was setting in.
We stayed put for hours. I thought my whole life was going to pass me by listening to my brother John sing one hundred tiny spiders on the wall, take one down and pass it around, ninety-nine tiny spiders on the wall. I couldn’t take it anymore and tip-toed away when he finally fell asleep at twenty one spiders. The others were out cold. I figured if I were to get food for everybody Mom couldn‘t be too mad at me, and maybe I’d catch a glimpse of Narvanna, the girl who lived behind the Dieffenbachia Plant. She had legs like you wouldn’t believe.
It was a magnificent morning. I recall the sun was streaming in through the dining room windows making lines across the floor. Half an hour later, I found an unattended web in the foyer. I poached a nice supply of eggs with no remorse. Anyone who is stupid enough to build a web right out in the open like that deserves to be robbed. That’s what my mom always said. That’s why we lived in the dark and the dust behind the stove.
I was on my way home, carrying all of those eggs, when I heard a loud rumbling. I couldn’t believe all of my eyes. A hose with a brush was coming right at me. I dropped those eggs in the middle of a huge tile and scrammed for the area rug under the table. I crunched into a ball and rolled under the edge. If I'd had a chest, my heart would have pounded right out of it.
I wasn’t alone under that rug either. There were several Asian Beetles and my cousin Judith were there too. They pushed each other further in so that I could be completely concealed and even managed to uncurl a few legs. I’d never liked Asian Beetles up to that point, but realized that they didn’t have to help me. I thought that maybe there was more to them than their spotted, hard shelled, surfaces.
I dozed off in the loud, stale, air, out of boredom.
After a bit I awoke to complete silence. The machine had finally been switched off and I began to stretch as much as I could in the confined quarters.
Then the evil blonde human woman started clicking around on the floor next to me. She began pulling the chairs off of the rug and sliding them across the tiles. It was unbelievably noisy and the ground shook. The human man, who had never done much more than watch people run around in shorts, throwing balls at hoops, on the thing that the human woman calls the idiot tube, showed up and began to help her carry the table into the living room.
We couldn‘t imagine what they were up to, first a tree with lights in the house and now this? But we knew it had something to do with a mother coming and the not so dead mice she’d screamed about the night before. They were acting very strange.
That gigantic carpet was pulled up from over us and there we were, in plain view, half my legs still stuck behind my head.
The human woman let out a nasty scream, like we were vermin or something terrible and flipped the switch on her sucking machine.
We all tore off in different directions. One of the beetles tried to fly, but was pulled out of the air. I heard his high shriek as I galloped toward home.
The oven and the refrigerator were sitting in the middle of the room. I came screeching to a halt. My head felt as though it would explode. There was an indescribable noise. The wind picked up. I thought I heard a train coming and then I was spinnining through darkness.
“Were you scared?” whispered Little Harry. He was all eyes.
“I didn’t have time to be scared,” Steve answered and continued.
I was twirling through a dark shaft that smelled of mangy dog hair, and carcasses, closing most of my eyes tightly and holding my breath. Something sharp sliced through my leg. It might have been a Dorito or dried pasta. It hurt so bad it took my breath away.
Then a round object, like what humans call a coin, hit me. I saw it whizzing through the air toward me and then everything was still.
Some time later I heard whimpering. I couldn’t imagine who it was or where it was coming from. As I lay listening to it in the pitch black, it grew louder and louder. My head throbbed, my leg ached and my mouth was like paste. The whimpering continued. It became so loud and annoying that I finally opened an eye, and it ceased. That’s when I figured out it had been my own voice that I’d been listening to. As I lay there in pain, the memory of the oven sitting in the middle of the kitchen haunted me, and my eyes brimmed with tears.
I pulled myself free from the thick, heavy clot, made of hair, food, sand, and broken eggs; my stolen broken eggs. I was missing part of a leg, and I couldn’t see it anywhere.
He held up his short, front, right, leg, to his audience, proving that his story was legit, ignoring the gasps. He loved drama.
I tried calling out, but only squeaked, the aged one continued. I saw a light and clawed my way through the debris toward it. When I reached the top of the mountain I heaved myself up and just sat there still in shock. I stared ahead, smoothing out my legs. I kept rubbing them, one leg, after another leg, after another leg, and then all over again.
A rustling near me broke my trance and I saw a daddy long leg, feeling around the air above the hole I’d created. I took a hold of it and pulled it. Out popped Twiggy. Some of you might remember her.
He looked about and saw the juveniles on the wall nodding and winked at them.
She was in bad shape at the time, with two missing legs and three swollen eyes, right in the middle of her forehead. I can’t say that my attraction to her was immediate.
She told me that she and her family had lived a closet until their web had been attacked by the man and a broom. She’d witnessed the tragic event and had been wandering aimlessly since. She’d been sucked up from underneath the sofa. Said the humans pulled it away from the wall!
“It’s those filthy rodents,” she said. “They leave their droppings everywhere and screw things up for the rest of us. We have nothing to do with them pooping in cupboards. I find it just as disgusting as the human woman does. Why do we have to suffer because of those dirty bastards? And why is there a tree in the house anyway?”
We sat looking out the clear window into the dimly lit closet. I’d been there before, but on the other side of the window. It’s where the dog food, recyclables, coats, and the loud machine is stored.
“We’ll get out of here,” I told her. "We have to."
She nodded, nestled against me, and we slept for a bit.
With just a sliver of light streaming under the closet door we began our journey. Twiggy clung to my neck as I dragged her to an opening. The window was slick and I had to grip with all my might to keep from sliding back onto the pile. We reached the top, hoisted ourselves over the edge and stood inside a long black cylinder.
“I’m afraid of the dark,” she said. “I don’t think I can do this tunnel.”
I razzed her about that. Who ever heard of a spider that was afraid of the dark? She kicked me and I thought about leaving her there, but she held on to one of my back legs and we began groping our way along a ribbed terrain. Suddenly we were jarred loose. We thought we heard a train coming and the wind picked up again.
“Hang on tight,” I yelled, as we flew into a tailspin and landed back on the pile of trash.
“Get under here!” I screamed, digging a new hole in the massive pile of lab hair, and I followed her in.
Then there was a fresh scent of pine needles. I poked my head out to see a blur of giant green sharp sticks circling through the air. It was like I was in the center of a funnel watching massive objects whipping around like they were nothing. It made me understand just how insignificant we all are in this great universe.
Then a giant stink bug named Earl hit me in the face. Oh my God. He sprayed too. I was knocked back into the hole, where Twiggy was sitting on a soft chair made of cotton balls, with all of the legs she had left, crossed. Earl followed me into the little room.
A few minutes later three Asian Beetles, Ho, Chi, and Min came crashing in. We crouched under a ceiling made of litter and waited for the storm to end.
What a predicament. Three Asian Beetles, a stink bug and two crippled Daddy Long Legs. Hardly a crowd you would expect for dinner.
The Asian girls had been busy making themselves a home in the soft pine needles below the lit up tree when they got caught in some high winds and then found themselves next to us in the debris.
Earl had been basking in the sun on the window sill, the way he always did, and was caught by surprise when a large shadow blocked his warmth and suddenly he was flying through darkness.
Eventually the storm above came to an end and there was peace and quiet, but not for long. We were being tossed about and turned on our sides. Earl crawled out to take a look and came back with alarming news.
“The woman is carrying us under her arm!” he screamed. “She‘s going to throw us out. We are all going to die!”
For a large, strong and prehistoric looking creature, he was really a chicken. He got the Asian Beetles all upset and they began crying and bowing to each other.
Twiggy’s eyes and mine locked at that moment, all sixteen of them. That’s when I knew she was the one for me. And then we were dumped into the trash can, landing on top of an orange peel.
Earl seemed to be beyond his fright and was nibbling on the inside of the skin.
“It’s the best part of the orange for you, you know,” he said.
The Asian girls were nowhere to be seen.
We called out, “Chi, Min, Ho!“ but got no response. We had to make a move without them. Garbage bags are carried outside into the bitter cold and the one we were sitting in was pretty darn full.
With heavy hearts we began without them. Earl was the strongest and had the best traction. He carried Twiggy and me to the top on his back. She had her legs were wrapped around my head, but I didn’t mind.
It took a very long time to reach the rim, and the kitchen was a very busy place when we finally got there. We were able to slide down the backside of the waste basket and then ran as fast as we could, Earl in tow, and slipped into the heat register under the cabinet, below the sink. The warm air felt wonderful. Freedom felt even better. I glanced over at the stove, back in its rightful place, and felt a twinge of sadness.
There were little human feet and hands rolling a tennis ball to the big dog who usually just liked to lie around on the floor.
There were extra chairs and stools around the breakfast bar and the table, which were draped in cloths and set with shiny silverware and fancy plates that I’d never seen. There were candles and elegant wine glasses and bowls with steaming mashed potatoes, and I could smell gravy. My mouth watered.
The human woman called for everyone to “Come and get it,” and a crowd like we’d never seen came rushing into the room. They were all smiling and laughing. They filled their glasses and made toasts to family and friends and Christmas. They bowed their heads and thanked the Lord for the meal they were about to eat.
It was really quite beautiful and hard to understand. These humans had murdered a tree to hang lights on and had annihilated our families and friends because they couldn’t catch some mice. It was all so senseless.
After the meal, the human woman and an another one with lines on her face and chubby ankles cleaned up the kitchen. They seemed in a hurry and didn’t notice the gigantic drop of gravy that had landed in the rug right by their feet and right in front of me.
When they turned the corner into the living room, we began to feast. Just then, Min, Ho, and Chi came buzzing through the air and landed in the soft rug next to me.
We were all so happy there together, like a family. It was truly a magical night. I even forgot that Earl stunk to high heaven. There we were, all of us sharing that pond of gravy. This would not have been possible without having been trapped in that machine which forced us all to look beyond our differences.
With full bellies we strolled in a line to the edge of the wood floor, right past the big old dog who had collapsed there with a bow stuck on his forehead.
The humans were gathered around that tree, tearing paper off boxes, wadding it into balls and tossing them joyfully at each other. After watching the show the humans didn‘t know they were putting on, the six of us snuggled in the heat register. We heard the door creak in the night and watched the human man carry the garbage bag out to the bitter darkness.
Twiggy and I eventually moved to a nice quiet neighborhood, up here in the loft closet, behind rolls of decorated paper and empty boxes. We'd planned to raise a family, but we were never blessed with any eggs. We lived a dream life in spite of it, keeping in touch with Earl, Ho, Chi and Min. I’m the sole survivor. His voice broke, and the old spider stood silent for a moment. But the reason I'm here today is to warn you of the danger that lies ahead.
“What danger?” squeaked little Harry, his huge round eyes bulging.
"I’m not trying to scare you, Harry." "I’m just here to inform everybody what I’ve been studying," he went on to say.
I've been watching the movement of light rays my entire life and there is a definite pattern. I predict that we will have very warm, even hot periods, as the sun moves closer to us. So hot that humans will open windows.
Steve heard a scoff in the audience and went on. But as the sun moves away from us, the earth will become cold once again outside those doors, and this holiday named Christmas will be back, lit up tree and all.
“That seems a little far-fetched,” said Clyde, arms folded, hanging upside down from his web.
“You don’t have to believe me,” answered the Reverend narrowing a couple of his eyes, but just so you know, the last time I checked, there was mice poop under the kitchen sink. There cannot be mice poop, a tree in the living room, and a mother coming. Mark my words.
Harry gasped and held his hands and feet over his tiny mouth.
Don’t worry, Steve said to little Harry, you’ll have time to grow into your eyes and legs. The destruction I’m talking about is far into the future according to my calculations; another twenty-four to twenty-six lifetimes away.
“You know all of this from some stupid light rays?” mocked Clyde.
That is only part of it, Steve responded calmly. I have heard bits and pieces of stories such as mine throughout my long life. But the most convincing clue of all would be the container of glittery balls and lights, and the tree stand that I live near. The humans are obviously saving that stuff for something. Otherwise she would have thrown it away. She doesn't like useless crap around. I've heard her say it more than once.
The spiders, including Clyde looked back and forth at each other in silence, and then breathed big sighs of relief when they realized that the wise old daddy long leg was convinced this thing called Christmas was a long way off.
If the Reverend had more time he would organize a group and call it PETI. People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects. But like so many of us, he realized too late in life what he could have done. He would have to leave that job for someone else. Maybe someone who'd listened to his story today.
And then he gave a nod and winked his four left eyes and began to amble his way back home where he would finish out his final moments in a pile of tissue paper. There he would curl up and dream of that frightfully magical night once again and wait to join the others who had already passed over to the other side of the great web of life.
3 responses to “Dead Mice Don’t Poop – A Christmas Story”
cute story. do i have to feel bad when i vacuum now? lol~earl!
Good luck getting to sleep after you hurt a poor little old stink bug that’s minding his own business on your window sill.