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16+ Language Mature Content

Drown the Spider

by MoonlightForest


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and mature content.

She caught it scuttling over the wooden plank that separated the upstairs corridor from the rest of our cabin. Its legs made quick work over the freshly-painted banister, like a pianist’s fingers working in rapid succession. Small nicks appeared in the paint where it had crossed.

“It’s a wolf spider,” She said, an invigorated glimmer in her eyes. “I can tell because it's all brown with fat legs. We should flatten it,” She turned her nose towards me and the rest of her body followed.

Marin was two years my senior, and noticeably neater. She wore long pleated skirts that kissed her ankles when she walked or sat down. Her skin was clear all the way across, warm and soft as the underside of a peach. Her hair was dirty brown but it swung over her shoulders in long cascades. Her mother would say differently; when Marin came home with her hair all twisted out of nervous boredom, Ms. Wendell would ask her whether she’d prefer to slum it up with the public-school city kids. That could be very easily arranged, was Ms. Wendell’s simple, malicious turn of phrase.

Marin’s eyes sloped towards mine with mincing anticipation. I delayed my reply by following the spider’s trajectory as it launched itself up the adjacent wall. “I know you’re not dumb,” She continued, pouting her lips. “You don’t care if it lives. Everything about spiders makes me nauseous: their spiny legs, their pointless crawling all over the place.” She slipped off one of her oxfords and chucked it up the wall. I watched in amazed horror as the shoe thwacked against the wall, leaving a scuff mark but just missing the spider as it hurried along, unaware of the flesh-colored, sock-footed predator that hovered beneath it— eyes wide as a caught fish fighting for thirty more seconds of oxygen.

“I don’t want to kill the damn thing,” I said simply, stiffening my shoulders. “It might be a stupid creature, but it doesn’t deserve having your shoe thrown at it.” Marin looked at me stoically, eyebrows knit together. I got the overall impression that perhaps she had judged the spider unfairly and I was the stupid one.

“Whatever,” She said, and used her ruler-thin forearms to hoist herself over the banister. She shook off the other shoe on her foot, armed herself with it, and stuck her leg out, which wavered like a surrendering flag as she took aim. I followed her movements listlessly, as a prisoner would watching a lumbering, shadowy guard.

Once Marin set her mind to something, there was nothing I could do. She may have been skinny as a coat-hanger wire, with recklessly bad teeth and and a glow to her normally stark cheeks, but her vindictive stubbornness overpowered these other traits. “Marin,” I said in a trickling half-plea as she used the left heel of her oxford to bury the spider. Seeing no creature emerge from the surface area around her palm, she removed the shoe from her grip like a stamp, slick with spider guts instead of wax.

“There, it’s dead.” She flung her shoe down onto the carpet and mounted the side of the banister facing me. “And it doesn’t bother me one bit.” Then, without so much as a glance at the squelched spider, she padded down the carpeted corridor in her socks and into the kid’s bedroom, where she began to strip off her clothes.

Marin wasn’t shy, and she proved it by letting me follow her inside. She cupped her breasts while straightening the straps of a fresh bra and spoke behind herself: “Pick something from my drawer to wear tonight. Your mom said she’d like to see us both in nice dresses.”

It’s funny— I don’t remember much of anything from the rest of that summer. Reminiscing back on the early 2000’s, I saw myself standing in a chiffon dress that Marin made me wear, scratching vigorously at the collar as my mother took a swallow of her lemonade with cayenne pepper, eyeing my stepfather as if to say, “I’m glad Bells chose a dress, though she looks horribly out of place. At least Marin’s well-suited to it.”

An entire decade, it seems, eluded me as I went about my own distinct life as an amateur reporter. My parents were dreadfully discouraging at first, since they saw me as the wallflower type— not that they were wrong, necessarily, but there were things about me that even my parents didn’t know….

....couldn’t know.

In Spring of 2016, I began working on my first-ever profile on a man named Francis Yurt, a local jazz musician at a club called the bayou. I had to acknowledge that I’d never been to Salt Lake City before, not even on special assignment; consequently, I found bar-crawls in the cultural hub of Salt Lake to be much tamer than what I was accustomed to back home in Portland. In all the years stretching from the age of fourteen to twenty-four, I had never once left home, nor had I picked up any sport other than wiffle-ball on rainy days.

Upon my return from the interview, my mother presented me with a bit of mail that apparently had gotten wet at its edges, forcing the letters of its return address into a tangle. I opened it and discovered an invitation to Marin’s wedding. The letter was printed in neat calligraphy, as to be expected from Marin, and upon further inspection, it was not just an invitation to attend but to be a bridesmaid.

Marin was to be wed in New York City, in a bustling plaza zigzagged with red carpets, red balloons, and red tape. Buzzing billboards and screeching advertisements in Times Square would remind the bridesmaids of their light sensitivity and surprising proclivity for quiet afternoons. Afterwards, reception was scheduled to take place at the Laugh Gagzz comedy joint, where colorful, experimental, and fizzing mixed-drinks were sure to flow all night from canisters and bar taps. But before that, before any of the vows could be exchanged or dresses fitted, the bachelorette party took place: one that I never could have dreamed would so drastically alter my life course, or the lives of those around me.

Marin organized her extravaganza around the landmark of Coney Island. She and four other slender-bodied women who I did not know tramped over soggy wooden boards in their cheap plastic heels, ones with loose gems and straps that could be discarded at the end of the night. I followed along closely but refrained from bumping shoulders. Something about my training as a reporter inclined me to be the sober one, though my own marriage had its share of bumps and I certainly could have used a round.

It was towards the end of the night, after a man with a waxy mustache and strangely feminine hips tried to seduce her and I simultaneously, sloshing his drink on us in the process. Her hair was pulled back unusually close to the scalp, and her face had a strange sallowness to it to which bar light did no favors. She hiccuped next to my ear and grabbed my shoulder tersely, eyes flitting back and forth. Her stare lingered at an adjacent 4-seater booth containing a cluster of her far-gone friends.

“Bella, izzy, isabelle,” She said, her breath floating into my hair. I got the faint scent of a fruity bar drink from her slurred speech. “Boy do I love you, honey.” She leaned in so close to me that I could feel strands from her ponytail tickling my chin in long brush strokes. “I’m going to cap you for the night,” I said, forcing a laugh that stuck to my throat, rattling in its aimless impression.

“No”, she said, jabbing a finger into my forearm. “No no no no, not a chance…” She hiccuped again— low and somber, like a long-haul truck trundling over an empty road, and drew lackadaisical circles over my skin. I looked around at all the abandoned purses swung over the backs of chairs, their open mouths flooding with muted yellow light. It was here at this bar with Marin’s arm stooped over mine that I became acutely aware of my desire to fizz away as easily as a roofie tab placed in someone’s drink. If only one could be so inconspicuous.

After scoping out the bar scene I swung my glance back over to Marin, who was reeling on the edge of her seat with huge, unblinking eyes. “I know I’m getting married tomorrow, and that’s really fucking exciting.” She flung her arms around me. “I never thought I’d get married. I’m fucking ecstatic that he proposed; I thought I would die waiting. But as far as the wedding, I can’t convince myself to get up and go— that everything will be fine, because it’s not fine. Not really. Honestly, it feels like I got affected by a poison. I feel physically sick just being near him. This life of mine—the choices I’ve made—are telling me I’m not allowed to be happy. That maybe it’s not in my life plan.”

She buried herself into my chest and began to weep. Her bachelorette tiara stabbed me in the ribs as I held the back of her neck, tried in vain to soothe her. And out of the corner of my eye, while she was blubbering about being unhappy, while her friends were laughing from miles away, I saw a spider scuttle across the floor. 


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Points: 200
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Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:11 am
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holyshiitake wrote a review...



The descriptions in this short story are absolutely stunning and paint a vibrant picture of the characters' appearances and actions. One of my favorite descriptions is the one below:

"I watched in amazed horror as the shoe thwacked against the wall, leaving a scuff mark but just missing the spider as it hurried along, unaware of the flesh-colored, sock-footed predator that hovered beneath it— eyes wide as a caught fish fighting for thirty more seconds of oxygen."

That being said, I think the description could be even stronger with a few changes in wording. For example, when you say "hovered" the first thing I think about is hovering or floating in the air. But when paired with "beneath" I became a little confused and then spent a second trying to fully understand what it was you were trying to say. That might've just been me in particular, but if you changed "hovered" to a different word such as "lingered" I think your description could be even stronger.

I also really enjoyed the overall vibe of this story; the vibrant descriptions and the lively, personality-driven characters. I would suggest tying in more of the background information (Marin's and Bella's relationship, Bella's previous work as a journalist, possibly even Bella's relationship with her parents) to the main purpose of the story as well in order to strengthen the overall flow. There were times when I asked myself, "Why does this matter?" because I couldn't understand how what I was reading related to the overall message of the story. For example, Bella's work as a journalist didn't seem to really add anything and distracted me from the real purpose of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this short story and hope my comments were helpful in some way! Thank you so much for sharing your words and ideas with us :)




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Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:08 am
holyshiitake says...






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Tue Feb 25, 2020 5:17 am
EternalRain wrote a review...



Hi there! This review may just be a little rambly, but I really wanted to review this because I thought it was a really neat piece! So, here we go.

Wow, what an interesting short story. These are the types of short stories I love reading - ones with beautifully developed characters in such a short span and full of weird (in a good way) symbolism. I thought the descriptions were beautiful - I loved the sprinkling of similes throughout the story that really helped characterize Marin’s personality.

Marin and Bella both stood out to me in different ways. While Bella is the narrator, Marin definitely feels like the main character here - though, maybe her stronger personality is just making me think this way. Marin was so so interesting though. I loved her prim and proper and a bit careless attitude, and the scene where she kills the spider is just amazing.

I’m trying to piece together the meaning of this. I’m really intrigued by your description for the piece - “Which one is right?” I think it’s deeper than just a spider - but at first thought I thought Marin choosing to squash the spider (representing all her bad choices in her life) led to her ultimate questioning of everything. Buuuut I’m not so sure!! Bella doesn’t necessarily seem sad or unhappy - but she certainly doesn’t seem happy either.

And then: the spider at the end. I’m wondering if that’s just to represent the more choices down the road? Overall, I think this piece is about morality, fate, and how our choices lead to consequences (but I could be totally wrong).

That’s just my interpretation - even if it wasn’t your intent I hope it was helpful in some way. Now a bit more constructive feedback:

- First, I somehow didn’t realize this was set in the early 2000s. I thought it was much earlier than that - I don’t have an exact decade, but I would say before the 80s. LOL I have no idea why, but I think the ~vibes~ and tone in the first section really were different than the switch to the section. Just a thought though.

- The fact that it’s a “wolf spider” is very interesting to me. I looked them up (I was curious!) and found out that they’re venomous, which ties to Marin’s “poison” comment at the end. I do wonder why, though, Bella wouldn’t have been afraid? She seems to refuse killing the spider but doesn’t really make any other comment besides that. She also doesn’t stop Marin at all - mostly just observes - although I think that’s just a bit of characterization on her very bystander/observer character. This bit that Marin said also confused me a little:

“I know you’re not dumb,” She continued, pouting her lips. “You don’t care if it lives.


I just don’t get it? Maybe I’m not connecting the right things, but I don’t understand why she would say Bella doesn’t care if it lives and then it hops over to Bella saying she doesn’t wanna kill it.

- Lastly, I’m a bit confused about Bella’s choice as a journalist. Throughout the whole story and narration, she doesn’t display much curiosity at all (a trait I would assign to a journalist) - in fact, she sort of seems the opposite.

Okay, that’s all my thoughts! I feel like I rambled a lot (I’m sorry!) but I hope this was helpful in some way. I really loved this story, and if I totally missed the meaning, I would love to hear what your initial hope and intention was in writing this.

Peace,
~ EternalRain






Hi EternalRain,

As far as your constructive comments, I think the point I was trying to get across in the piece was Marin's complete lack of empathy/understanding towards Bella. The fact that Marin assumed Bella would want to see the spider dead just further illustrates that Marin only sees the world through her specific lens, and expects Bella's views to be in accordance with her own. That was just my take on it... especially during the bachelorette party scene, Marin expects that Bella views the closeness of their relationship in the exact same way she does. Still, you make a valid point. I feel as though Bella's character isn't necessarily full round, because her timid nature during her adolescence seems to contrast with her career being made as a journalist. If I were to do it over, I would emphasize Bella's consideration of consequences and allude to an interest in journalism further down the road.

I like that you immediately understood where I was going with the spider metaphor. Ultimately, Marin's executive decision-making proved to be her downfall in terms of her marriage. Because Marin had a knack for "jumping the gun" in her teens, she ultimately followed the same spiral and found herself unhappy later in life. Hence the allusion to poisoning.

Your comment tells me that you're a thoughtful reviewer. I'm grateful for your feedback and I hope to hear some more of your brilliant and insightful commentary in the near future! :) Cheers



EternalRain says...


Ah, I see - with that comment, I can definitely see how that%u2019s contributing to Marin%u2019s impulsive and fairly inconsiderate behavior. And woohoo, I%u2019m glad I got the meaning! I really liked this story and I%u2019m glad my comments were helpful.



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Mon Feb 24, 2020 12:02 pm
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MeherazulAzim16 wrote a review...



Hello Moonlight,

Here's my understanding of the story: I don't think Marin had been cursed by the spider. I think the spider scuttling across the floor in the end symbolizes something different: everything about Marin that led to her flattening the first spider — disgust, indifference to someone else's wants, cruelty etc. — is what has led her to this point in her life where she has to second-guess whether she actually loves the person she is about to marry, where she feels out of place. Important to note that, despite their differences of ideology, Bella's married life seems to be going down a bumpy road too. It should be logical conclude that the squashing of the spider didn't give Marin, or at least her alone, any form of bad karma.

But when Bella sees the second spider, what does she feel? Does the sighting lead her to feel sorry for Marin or is there a sinister undertone (satisfaction at seeing Marin miserable)? More importantly...

that I never could have dreamed would so drastically alter my life course, or the lives of those around me.


We don't get a clear resolution. How exactly does seeing Marin in that mental place, and seeing the spider affect Bella? How does it change her life course and why would it have anything to do with the lives of other people? I would have loved those answers.

There are some other threads in the story that don't really unfold. For example, the mention of Bella's profession and her interviewing of a specific individual named Francis. I was expecting a pay-off in the end, e.g. her journalistic skills being useful.

I don't understand (could be my fault) what their relationship actually is. Are they just former roommates, or are they step-sisters/half-sisters?

Also, Marin seemed to be disgusted by spiders. The way you painted her, it's a little had to believe she would do the squashing herself, watch it's guts flow out and come away with such a cold reaction.

But I wasn't expecting the spider to die so soon. I thought the story would mostly be about two characters arguing whether they should actually kill it. For me, the shock landed well. The story definitely had a strong beginning. Some of the descriptions were beautiful—

Its legs made quick work over the freshly-painted banister, like a pianist’s fingers working in rapid succession.


And...

she used the left heel of her oxford to bury the spider. Seeing no creature emerge from the surface area around her palm, she removed the shoe from her grip like a stamp, slick with spider guts instead of wax.


Rather sad and disgusting but beautiful. The development up to this point was tense. I was rooting for the spider. Even as the narration ran "she removed the shoe from her grip..." I was hoping the spider escaped somehow. Welp, it didn't.

It's just towards the end that some things didn't satisfy me. At the same time, I do like abstract endings that leave room for speculation.

That's the review! Keep on writing and have a wonderful day.

~MAS





He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.
— Friedrich Nietzsche