An invisible threat lurks outside, microscopic yet bigger than I can comprehend.
I tell myself that I’m safe at home with my daughter. I miss my students in the classroom, but I’m blessed with technology and tea in our cozy home, isolated from the world. The giant can’t get us. It’s become a mantra.
A shrill cry shatters the morning peace. I peek in the living room where Caroline was doing morning yoga under the guidance of a bubbly Youtuber. Rather than swaying in a lazy tree pose, she perches on the ottoman, glaring down at the floor.
“What’s wrong?” I shuffle toward her, already anticipating the melodrama.
“Spider!” she wails.
I suppress a chuckle and squat to peer below the furniture.
“Watch out! There it is!” Caroline shrieks.
I follow her pointing finger and zero in on the dainty, nearly translucent arachnid as he capers away.
“Ah, that’s just a cellar spider,” I explain. “He can’t hurt you. He’s probably more scared of you than—”
“Mommy! It’s getting away!”
Sighing, I MacGyver a trap thanks to her daily messes of craft supplies. For once, I’m grateful for the stray sheets of construction paper and an empty cup that normally holds crayons. Eight legs ripple over the pink sheet, and I imprison the spider in plastic .
“Tada!” I hold the bounty toward her, and Caroline hops from her perch.
“Are you gonna kill it?” She inspects my work with a frown.
I pause before the kitchen door. Memories replay in the cinema of my mind. I was cruel once.
“When I was little, I stepped on a spider. It was slightly larger than this, but your grandma promised me it was just as harmless. You know what she said? ‘Imagine if some big foot came out of the sky and smooshed you!'”
Caroline’s eyes grow round, then she laughs. “Good thing we’re all staying inside, then! The giants can’t step on us!”
I grin at her. Since school closed a week ago, I’m doing my best to make her life enjoyable, magical even, but the uncertainties about Covid-19, and its effect on our lives, weigh on her young mind.
When she tugs at the paper, I scold, “Caroline, stop! I’ll drop it!”
As warned, the makeshift cage slips from my grasp. The cup thuds on the floor, and my daughter lurches forward. I freeze, fully expecting Caroline to smash her slipper sock on the hardwood. I wince, unsure what I dread more: her impending guilt for having snuffed out a life, or the possibility that she would revel in it.
Instead, she drops to her knees and peeks inside the upset container.
“He’s still there!”
My pulse calms. I join her on the floor. “I guess this can be our science activity for the day, huh?”
We bow over our tiny captive. The spider grips the rim, hanging upside down like a delicate chandelier.
“See?” I whisper. “Poor guy is worried you’ll eat him.”
“Ew!” Caroline giggles.
“Shall we put him out?”
She wrinkles her nose in thought. “What about the virus?”
A vise inside my chest tightens a notch. I stroke her silky hair, relieved at the turn of events despite her worries. “Remember? The animals should be okay.”
“But… just in case. You said he’s a cellar spider.” The invertebrate takes a tentative footstep from his shelter. Caroline jerks backwards but remains observant. “Let’s put him in the basement.”
Her compassion warms my heart. “I like how you think, Sweet Caroline. You go back to your yoga, and I’ll relocate our new friend. He’ll be our ally when the other bugs wake up!”