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Volume 17, Issue 2: Flotsam

The Killing Corner

Nathan Wilson

The Angel of Death, I assume, rarely showers. But that is what I am doing, and I am that angel. There's a whole Rome, an entire Egypt living in the corner, up above the shower head, and I shall descend upon it. If descend is the right word.

Our baby sitter, who went with us on vacation, announced that there were six spiders in the shower, and that they were big ones. There may have been eight. By the time I showered, twelve hours later, I believe she had shed blood, and only a few remained.
Spiders are a subject over which many members of the human race disagree. God, apparently saw fit to create them, but many of us aren't exactly sure why. Bug zappers could have kept the flying pest population down just as well, or lots of dragon flies, or a wider variety of Venus Fly Traps. But He gave us spiders. Eight legs, bulging eyes, occasionally jumping, occasionally lurking, and occasionally scampering like the dickens. Almost all of them do neat tricks with sticky ropes and their rear ends. Some make parachutes, others underwater caves, others weave dens, or only egg sacks, and some spread enormous nets to catch dew for photos on Christian posters. There's an aesthetic sense in these ugly creatures, and I know of at least one Greek woman who was turned into one.
God made spiders. My exegesis is not good enough to justify their wholesale slaughter. Spiders pose an odd problem of ugly for many, while others revel in their existence. Leg-spangled creatures that in some places grow big enough to net themselves birds or mice. The people who revel in spiders are usually a problem of ugly themselves, with their black, arachnid-emblazoned t-shirts.
I examined the situation and found that the babysitter had been accurate in her assessment. The spiders were large, and they were present in the shower in a definite plurality. I had never seen their kind. I had spent summers watching the abdomens of cat spiders swell up grasshopper by grasshopper until their three-horned backsides glared at me, looking very catlike with a mane of legs. But these Californian domestic shower spiders are new to me. Why the shower? I've never seen a real bug population in any shower. But they might be tropical spiders, imported into the country in the proverbial bunch of bananas. The shower provides comfortable humidity, if not food. But there is one spider who seems to have done quite well for itself. It is the biggest. Its long torso is not as slender as the others, and the enormous legs straddling the small corner web are also quite thick. This spider has a web scattered with small dry exoskeletons. The sort of bugs I would never notice in the shower or anywhere else, unless they were in my lemonade, and they are apparently the preferred prey. I examine the other webs and I find nothing. Not one carcass, not one kill. I do have scriptural precedent for this. Christ cursed the fig tree, and a few minutes later a mass burial of broken but twitching legs is performed in the toilet. Only one spider remains. The large faithful one. The one fulfilling the task assigned to it by my father Adam. Go to the showers, he said, and consume the small bugs no one notices. And the California Domestic Shower Spider did.
The babysitter complains, but is told that part of existence at the beach is being able to share the shower with a faithful spider. It, at least, was doing its job. The others are gone. My wife, who has shared bedrooms and showers with real bugs all over the world, says nothing. Her look is enough.
The babysitter was right. The spider was doing a job, but it was not doing its job. Days passed, and every morning, I stood and examined the web. The tiny brown bugs were no longer so tiny. My eyes, even in the steam, could make out distinct hair-thick legs sprawling symmetrically in both directions. Each little brown body had eight. Crabs have eight legs. Also octopi. This leggy California she-spider has eight legs. Little brown bugs do not have eight legs. According to all the literature and the internet, they only have six, along with two antennae and occasionally even wings. But not eight legs.
The terminology shifted. These were no longer little brown bugs. These were little brown spawn. The spawn of this thing above the shower head. Every day, those spawn grew larger.
I did not kill them right away. I wanted to watch them grow and graduate from kindergarten. I wanted to command them with the authority of Adam to all stay in their corner. Stay, or cease to be.
The vacation days are waning. I take one of the final showers. I am here for the great migration. The spiders have grown large enough and they are leaving. I command them to stay. Put blood on the lintel and stay inside. They disobey and I kill them, one by running one, with my fingernail. They are each half an inch wide now, from toe to toe, and they splay flat on the steam-slick wall and ceiling. The mother does not respond as Job. She is more of Pharaoh's mold, and she is angry. How long, Oh Lord, she cries. How can a perfectly good God and such a great evil pink thing coexist? She is too large for my fingernail. The shampoo bottle spreads her length, three and a half inches from claw to twitching claw.
Seventy-five dead, all told. Her firstborn, her last born, her everyborn. All but one, whom I leave confused among the dead, asking the big questions, becoming an atheist. He chooses the road to Hell. In the morning his web is empty. My mercy has been ignored, and a bite graces my arm.

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