Black Petals Issue #77 Fall, 2016

Spider Line
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Archangel-Fiction by BP Editor, A. M. Stickel
Drop-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
Essence of Andrew-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Lupine Savagery-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
Smith's Emporium-Fiction by Tony Lukas
Spider Line-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Surviving Montezuma, Chapters 3 and 4-Continuing Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Apsara-Fiction by Jessie Johnson

Fiction by Paul Strickland

blackwidowspider.jpg

Spider Line

 

By Paul Strickland

 

Creepy crawlies

 

 

Members of the Glulamton Naturalists’ Club noted, after years of conducting Christmas bird counts, that a number of warmer-climate birds that usually flew south in the fall were now over-wintering in the area.

At first they were delighted, then puzzled, and, finally, concerned. Were these birds just taking a chance that long -40 spells would not return? Or did they instinctively know something? Was that something good, or bad?

One advantage of living in the sub-boreal North, with its bears on hiking trails and highway-crossing moose, had been not having to deal with poisonous spiders too. When some black widow spiders, usually associated with hotter dry climates, appeared in Glulamton homes in the mid-1990s, the response was that they’d likely traveled in grapes imported from California.

But Joe was troubled when he read in one nature magazine that the poisonous spiders had venom much more powerful than necessary to kill or subdue a large insect or small animal.

During Table Topics one night, Joe assured members of the Glulamton Toastmasters that no black widows lived in nature north of Wiccan Lake on Highway 97. It was too cold there in winter, and, in any case, the more moist sub-boreal forest wouldn’t accommodate them.  

        “So we’re safe here north of the Spider Line?” club member Reinhold Kohlke asked. Joe persuaded him that was the case.

 

In a couple of years, though, Joe was proved wrong. These arachnids advanced north of Wiccan Lake, past Coronel, to establish themselves north of Glulamton.

One warm summer evening Joe noticed the tiny black forelegs of some creature spinning a web under the baseboard heating unit near the door to his balcony. It soon made a brief appearance, and there was no mistaking it for anything but a black widow, given the characteristic red hourglass symbol.

 Joe ran to find his old baseball bat to smash the intruder. But, smart and quick, it retreated into the metal inner workings of the baseboard heating unit. Next, Joe sprayed a cleaning compound on the area of the unit where he’d seen the spider. He had no confidence, however, that the ammonia-based spray had any effect in evicting his unwelcome guest.

He felt uneasy trying to sleep that night knowing the spider was in his suite somewhere, probably unharmed. He remembered from childhood his great aunt telling him she’d gotten up one morning to find a black widow at the foot of her bed.

I wish I hadn’t watched Arachnophobia in the 1990s, he thought. Why does ugly malice always win?

 

The End

 

 

Paul Strickland, pauldstrickland@gmail.com, of Prince George, BC, Canada, wrote BP #77’s “Spider Line” (+ BP #73’s “Cold Surprise”; BP #71’s “Lust” and “Washed Away”; BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past”; BP #69’s “Ghostly Good-Bye”; BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride”; BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight”; and was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes” and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is a senior freelance writer in Prince George, BC, who was a newspaper reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies. Born in Los Angeles, Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before moving permanently to Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic career. He turned to freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09, and has since published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.

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