The Boy Who Loved Spiders
“Mother,” the boy said, “come see what’s in my room.”
She followed her happy little boy to the spider waiting in the corner above his bed.
“It’s so pretty,” he said.
From the tip of one spiked leg to the other, it was the size of a dime. Its web was thin strands, barely visible in the afternoon light that filled the boy’s room. She made a mental note to sweep in the corners more often.
“Can I keep him?”
The spider took up residence in a jar that had once held peanut butter. It was just a house spider. What harm could it do? Besides, it was endearing when he told the grown-ups he wanted to be an arachnologists. He always added, “Because spiders are so fascinating.”
The grown-ups, mostly friends from the university, told her how lucky she was to have such a brilliant little child. He was only seven, after all.
The house spider died. The boy wept for him and replaced him with a brown recluse. The boy studied it for hours. The black widow came next. After school, the boy put the jars on the floor and stretched out in front of his spiders, his chin propped up in his hands. He stared and stared, patient, as if waiting – and it was odd.
“Maybe you’d like a real pet?”
“Like a scorpion?”
“No, sweetheart, a nice dog or a kitty.”
“I’d rather have a tarantula,” he said. “You know that some tarantula spiders get so big they can eat birds?”
He’ll grow out of it, she thought, but more spiders came. He captured daddy long legs in the garage and in the basement. He found others outside. Once, he found a plump spider with a lime green body. It had to be tropical and she wondered how it had survived in Colorado? He named it Ivan and kept it in a fish tank.
The collection grew. So did the boy. His changing body magnified his strangeness. His legs and arms remained gangly, inches too long for his body. What few friends he’d made no longer found a room full of captured spiders appealing and they stayed away. The isolation should’ve wounded him, she thought. Wouldn’t a normal boy feel lonely? At least sometimes?
“Mother,” he said one day. “Come see what’s in my room.”
She dreaded what she’d see. But she remembered when he was small and precious and his voice filled her with beautiful thoughts. She followed her son, ignoring his jittery walk and hunched over posture, as she’d trained herself to do. She stepped into his room.
“Oh,” she said.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
The web was fresh. Its thick strands glistened against the late day sunshine. Funny, she thought, how something could look so strong and so fragile at the same time.
She jumped when he touched her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, mother,” he said. “We never eat the parent…”