We hated spiders as a family. I don’t mean that we sat around and said, “Let’s all hate spiders,” but, if the topic of spiders ever came up, we all agreed that we hated them. For instance, if my brother, Derrick, saw a spider, he’d say, “I just had to kill a spider,” and I’d say, “Ugh, I hate spiders.” Or if my dad saw a spider, he’d say, “Damn it,” and stomp on it. Then my mom would lean in a little and say, “Spider?”. My dad would nod and she’d say, “Ech, I hate them.” So, if my family did take a stance on spiders, we’d all hate them. So you’d think that we would’ve been okay with the lazy spiders, and I guess we were at first. When you hate something, and you can get rid of it quickly and easily, then it’s kind of satisfying. It’s worth it to have it, because you feel good that you were able to get rid of it.
Derrick was the first one to see one of the lazy spiders. At first, he thought it was dead, I guess. This is all second-hand from him, but I don’t doubt his story. He said that he saw the spider sitting there (and he noticed the little orange squiggle that all of the lazy spiders had), near the door, and he thought that it might’ve just been dead already, but he didn’t want to take the chance. So he picked up a shoe, he slowly went to it, and he smashed it. He said that it seemed to kind of brace or shrink down a little right before he swung, but it didn’t try to get away. “Maybe it was just stupid,” he said when he finished telling us. I think we were having chicken and mashed potatoes that night. It was a good dinner, and it wasn’t a great story, so we moved on to something else after he told us.
It was a few days before any of us saw one of the lazy spiders again. I saw it this time. It was right in the middle of the living room, which is weird, because for how little they moved, you’d think that someone would have caught it before the thing made it into the middle of the room. Or maybe it had lowered from the ceiling until it hit the floor. I stood there, looking at it for a few seconds. Spiders are always terrifying for me. If you go too quickly to get something to kill them with, then the spiders scurry off and hide. At that point, you can’t kill it, but you also know it’s there. That means you can’t totally relax; you always have to be partially watching.
So, I stood still while I thought about what I’d like to grab to kill the spider. Eventually, I decided to take off a shoe and slowly approach it. To my surprise, the spider didn’t move at all. Even when I got close, it didn’t cringe like spiders often do when they seem to realize that they’re too late in their reaction. Instead, I was able to just crush it and then wipe the bottom of my shoe on the inside lip of the garbage can. It was great, and I really was thankful. And went and told my brother. He was in his room, listening to music and playing one of those video games where you’re shooting a lot. “Hey,” I said. “I just killed the world’s dumbest spider.”
“World’s dumbest spider killed by the world’s dumbest sister,” he said, but not in a mean way, just like we always do.
“Whatever,” I said. “I’ll let you get back to your important business.”
“You and me,” he said, “killing machines.” I stood in his doorway for a few seconds. He seemed so relaxed, leaning back in his bean bag and blowing away the people that were coming at the screen. Little sprays of blood would come from their heads, and they’d make these noises that weren’t really pain, but more just dumb. I hated them for not showing a real feeling when they were gunned down. “You’re a dork,” I said, and I ducked out before he could say anything back.
That night at dinner, my brother flicked several peas in my direction. His aim was terrible, and my parents took turns yelling at him. I don’t think he was mad at me when he was sent to his room. I finished my homework, and I watched TV downstairs. It was all crap, like always. When I went upstairs, after I brushed my teeth and put up my hair and everything, I laid down in bed. I couldn’t sleep at first, so I just stared at the ceiling. There, I thought for sure that I saw a spider. I couldn’t tell if it had the sort of design on its back that the lazy spiders had. I couldn’t be totally sure that it was even there. Looking back, it had to be, but I wasn’t sure at the time, or maybe I just wanted to be able to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, it was still there. I know that I tried to convince myself that I had seen it in the morning and tried to convince myself that my memory tricked me into thinking that I’d seen it the previous night. Either way, I went downstairs to the kitchen. I smiled at my mom, who was cooking frozen waffles in the toaster oven. She smiled and said, “Morning.”
I mumbled “morning” back and grabbed the bug spray. I went back upstairs and sprayed the spider for a few seconds. I had to stand at an angle so that the spray didn’t go in my eyes and the spider didn’t fall on my face. I let it spray for a few seconds, then it fell onto my bed. It didn’t seem to move the whole time. I stared at it on my bed for a little before cleaning up. The spider’s little legs curled very slowly, but that was the only movement I’d seen it make the whole time. I used two Kleenexes to get it off my bed, then I washed my hands twice.
Things only got worse from there. My brother killed one spider a day for a week, then two a day for a few days, then he seemed to become obsessed with killing them. Instead of playing videogames, he would be walking a circuit through the house, holding a curled-up newspaper with dark marks on it. I tried not to see them, but I still would kill at least one a day. Neither of my parents said anything, but they had to have killed them, too. Sometimes my dad would mutter. I don’t know if it was about the spiders, but I’m sure that they didn’t help. “Son of a bitch,” he’d say and sigh.
The thing is, we’d all take it slowly. My brother would stare at them for up to ten minutes, just waiting for them to move. When he got bored or when our parents would yell at him to go do something, he’d slap them with the paper, but who knows how long he would have stayed there otherwise. My mom would see them, roll her eyes and then look around for something to kill them with. I only saw her do it once or twice, but I’m sure that it happened all the time. For me, I would try to ignore them, but then I couldn’t pretend they weren’t there. I wanted to scream. I’d hit them once, to kill them, then I’d either pound the place where the body had been, or I’d slowly grind down a shoe or a big hunk of paper that I’d then throw out. You could feel it in the house. I won’t go into the particulars, but you could tell.
Things got worse, too. After a while, my dad took up running. I mean, he’d always gone running now and then, when the weather was nice, but he started to go more than ever. Part of me thought that it was awful that he’d leave us, not protect us, but another part of me knew that there really wasn’t much to protect us from. He’d try to make up for it sometimes, taking us somewhere so we could be outside of the house or even just putting a hand on my shoulder and saying, “I’m proud of you, honey” without any real reason, but it still made it feel like he just didn’t know what to do. Mom’s been pretty consistent, still killing these things, but humming a lot more than usual. It’s kind of annoying and kind of sad. I watch her, and I don’t know what to say to her. I guess that wouldn’t necessarily be so different even if the spiders weren’t there. Or maybe they would be worse. It’s hard to say how else things could be.
As I woke up this morning, I was surrounded by them. They weren’t on me, which surprised me a little. I don’t know why. I suppose that all spiders are scared of people, and they usually will try to hide rather than crawl on people, though not always. But these have always been different. But anyway, I woke up, and there was one not far from my face. I sat up quickly, and I looked around, there were more than a dozen on my bed, outlining my body, like those chalk deals that you see on TV shows where someone’s been murdered. I could kill them myself, I know, and I could probably just get up and slide out without having any of them move. But I’m waiting. I’m waiting for one of my parents to come in. They have to, eventually. If I don’t come down, they’ll come in to check on me, I’m sure. And if I ask them, I’m sure that they’ll kill the spiders on my bed. And I’m also sure that the spiders won’t move towards me before then. That’s not how they work. It’s just a matter of sitting still.
Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Petrichor Machine, Moon City Review, and Bitter Oleander, among other places. His books include So Anyway… and In A Family Way.