Is there such a thing as a garage spider? Maybe the landlocked version of a dock spider? The habitats are not that different so it made sense to Delia that the monster the size of a baby fist played some vital role in say, keeping flying bugs out of the bicycle spokes or snaring infant garter snakes. A potential ally, then, one that could be placated or even retooled as an assistant to keep the natural world in its proper place.
The spider’s name was Heywood.
But Heywood was utterly unaware of Delia, much less the girl’s quest to tame a wild animal. A smallish wild animal when compared to a raccoon or a bear, but something wild all the same.
Delivering snacks (half-dead mosquitoes) and then full meals (juicy deer flies) had no effect in socializing. It was hard to tell if the bugs fell to the floor, dried up like dead leaves or got eaten, which would be a minor victory. She then tried single Rice Krispies (her favorite talking cereal) and bits of hamburger, really tiny morsels, but these were too heavy to be suspended ended up ant food on the garage floor.
She tried to appeal to the creature’s vanity, making spider selfies and then coloring the legs turquoise. She made videos with clever subtitles at second-grade reading level and sang the “Ittsy Bitsy Spider” for the soundtrack. There was soon an Instagram feed of magnificent webs (she had been using Instagram since before she could talk, showing the pictures to indicate what she wanted for dinner, which was always mac and cheese in classic Kraft orange). She curated a Pinterest collection of other similar spiders at work and play, a Facebook page so her spider could earn significant cred when Indian Lake holds its town-wide spider fest (with captive beasts in jars, not free specimens). There was so much to do to help this arachnoid become a trusted friend.
Perhaps the toughest task for Delia, who was just six and barely master of the ABCs, was taking a toothpick to painstakingly connect filaments of the bandanna-size web near the automatic door opener. The goal was to spell “some pig,” just like in Charlotte’s We, but the strands wouldn’t connect past “so me.” This was hard work, especially from the ladder where she precariously exercised the penmanship she really didn’t know. So me what? she wondered. So me a pair of purple clown pants?
All the while Delia was focused on domesticating, even training, Heywood. But it helps if the creature in question wants to be domesticated. What’s the upside of toiling for a little girl rather than just being a grown-up spider with a free life to live and maybe babies to raise? The cost/benefit scenario was weighted on the cost side, no pluses in sight.
When Memorial Day came the whole community went berserk for garage sales. Mountains of sad little toys and chipped china appeared in front yards. Delia’s dad cleaned the garage, sweeping out the cobwebs that had accumulated all winter to prepare for selling what had been desirable but was now detritus. Near the motor for the door opener he spied Heywood’s handiwork though of course he had no idea this came from a special spider.
Delia screamed, “Heywood!”
Her dad shouted, “Buzz off!”
Delia said, “You forgot his middle initial.” Which was of course, U.