Killing of Spiders

I wasn’t always afraid.

Dawn Gernhardt

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A rainbow of sunlight caught in the moist spider’s silk. Creatures vulnerable, mysterious, and ancient. Instead of protecting the arachnid’s fragile beauty, I cannot help myself. I wasn’t always afraid of spiders. But now, I panic and involuntarily scream with surprise, then kill them. You’d think they’d be afraid of me, by now, and not the other way around.

How could a giant display aggression towards the tiny and powerless? I could let them squeeze back into the cracks of their lives or shuffle the daddy longlegs outside. But, I continue to crush these creative weaving animals. The legs, so delicate and fine, but carrying something deadly. When the spiders pierce and inject venom into their victims — the wolf, recluse, or grass variations common to interiors — they satisfy themselves without the risk of a struggle.

The eyes, all seeing but not speaking. There are no words in the exchange between us. The powerful yet fearful versus the unwanted intruder. A smack of force. The scuff of tissue.

The distress started in childhood.

I slept alone for the first time in someone else’s spare room at age four. My mom in her room. My twin sister in another room. Me, closest to the street and front of the house.

“Just a few months until we find another place. He’s barely home,” our mother said to herself, raw from divorce.

Nowhere else to go. Though, he’d molested numerous children in the family as a teen and young man. Older, now; a girlfriend, now; his own children, now. A release from his demons; after all, he’d been sexually assaulted as a child, too. Why do some men continue the cycle, but most women seek to stop? Or do they? No. No more sacrifices would be made to him in our family. Our mom didn’t think her brother’s invitation could be a trap — letting us live with him. He couldn’t still be catching flies with his honey. He’s almost never there.

The white sheet over the mattress glowed at night from the lamppost shining in from the street, behind the oak tree. The branches swaying in the lonely midnight breeze. Bare of leaves, boney shadows of limbs crawling on my temporary bed. The spidery form and motion kept me awake, liminal, confused — dreaming or reality. Disjointed webs of…

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Dawn Gernhardt

A writer: nonfiction in Random Sample Review and Pink Panther Magazine and humor in Defenestration, Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. Working on a novel.