“Kill it, Daddy.”

He looked at his little girl, stiff and wide-eyed on the hotel room cot, with the covers pulled up just below her eyes. The contours of her nose, mouth, and chin under the taut sheet gave her face a shrink-wrapped look.

"Pholcus phalangioides," by Olaf Leillinger (CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Pholcus phalangioides,” by Olaf Leillinger CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“Oh, I don’t think that’s really necessary, do you? That spider won’t come anywhere near you. I bet he’ll be in the exact same place in the morning.”

The wispy cellar spider across the room braced itself between the wall and ceiling. It had, no doubt, picked up some threads of intent in the conversation. In fact, the man thought as he looked at the wispy, almost non-existent creature, it had a sort stiff, wide-eyed appearance itself as it hung there apprehensively.

“Kill it,” the child reiterated.

He was struck by how out of sync were her dispassionate tone and her posture of mortal terror. He knew the spider would probably not be there in the morning. After a night’s sleep, and in the girl’s excitement over the day ahead, however, the spindly menace would be forgotten. Getting her to go to sleep with it there was the thing, though.

He walked into the bathroom and pulled a plastic drinking cup out of its wrapping. He looked around the room and, finding a stiff card listing listing the free cable channels on one side and the pay-per-view on the other, he dragged a chair from the kitchenette over to wall under the spider’s position.

It was definitely starting to look tense now.

Standing on the chair, he easily imprisoned the spider in the cup as it attempted to flee across the ceiling. Sliding the card between the rim of the cup and the ceiling, the father completed the construction of the cell.

“What if we turn this cup over, like this…” he said placing the overturned bathroom cup on the small dining table, “and put something heavy on top.” He balanced a coffee mug on the cup and turned to his daughter. Then, the last thing we do when we leave in the morning is set him free. Everybody lives happily ever after!

The child pulled the sheet even tighter over her face and shook her head violently in the negative several times.

The father’s eyes searched the hotel room for some form of clemency, some escape for this spider. The nearly spent daylight seeped in around the drapes, and he got up and walked over to the window. Pushing the coarse fabric aside, he saw that the lowest section of the window did, in fact, slide open sideways.

He unlatched the pane and needed both hands to heave the stubborn aluminum frame to the left. The muddled roar of street sounds, seventeen floors below, rushed in to the room. Unseasonably crisp Autumn air followed immediately after. The man glanced over and saw that the girl’s expression had grown troubled.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” he said. He went on to explain about exoskeletons and mass to surface area ratios. He discussed the parachute design of the spider’s form and how it could drift gently down to Earth and land unharmed. He worked to convince her that the spider probably wouldn’t even be afraid on its nearly 200-foot vertical journey. Amazing thing, Nature! Best engineer there is.

The girl would not look at him, but stared straight up at the ceiling.

The father picked up the cup and turned it right-side up. He walked back to the window and, sliding the card off, quickly thrust the cup out the opened window. The spider made no move to escape the bottom of the cup. He turned it upside down and gave it a light shake. Still, the spider clung to the plastic. He gave it a quicker, jerkier shake, and this time, the spider was dislodged.

The man leaned his head out and looked down. For a couple of floors, the spider did actually display the described properties of a parachute. It drifted straight down gracefully, maybe even fearlessly. He didn’t know. A gust blew just as the spider was almost lost to sight, and it was carried away. It would land on dark, late-October sidewalk with a little under four hours to find shelter before the temperature dropped below freezing.

The man shut the window with some effort, and turned to his daughter, who would still not look at him, would not look at his pathetic, apologetic smile.

The girl felt a tear slide down the side of her face and settle in the entry to her ear. She could not make sense of the rage that welled up inside her chest and would not for decades.





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