The silhouette splashed across the drawn blinds like some monstrosity out of a B horror movie. I nearly dropped the wineglass I was washing into the sink.
I reached over to pull the blinds up expecting to see something of tarantula proportions, but instead, perched nonchalantly on the glass between the screen and the window, was a rather pretty little spider with a perfectly compact body in the shape of the number 8. A vivid orange marking decorated his back. The late afternoon sun had caught the spider's shadow and enlarged it exponentially through the drawn blinds, nearly giving me a heart attack.
“You could have warned me,” I told him. “Sitting there, looking like Shelob spread across the window like that. Scare a decent person to death.”
“I'll give you three wishes,” the spider replied.
I paused, the wineglass I was washing still in my hand covered in sparkling bubbles.
“Spiders don't grant wishes,” I said. “That's what genies are for.”
“You see a lamp around here?”
A smartass spider. Even better.
“I wish you'd stay out there,” I said.
The spider raised his two little front paws up to his brilliant green fangs and appeared to give a polite bow.
“Your wish is my command.”
And with that my after breakfast guest crawled up the glass and disappeared at the top. I wasn't about to be fooled into believing in a wish-fulfilling spider just because he could talk and disappeared at my command. He probably didn't want to get squashed, though I'm not the spider squashing sort. It's true I prefer them outside. Upon finding one of the little buggers in my house, I drop a shot glass over it and then slip a small piece of paper under its little feet. Most of the time they sit on the paper and patiently wait for me to take the entire contraption outside where I gently drop them into the garden. They usually break their fall by releasing a single thread of their beautiful silk. The smaller ones I leave in the house. As long as they clean up the bug population, they are free to stay, provided they remain out of sight and don't try to join me in bed.
Sometimes it's a toss up who gets to the spider first, me or the cat.
This guy, though maybe not B movie-sized, was large enough that he made me slightly nervous about welcoming him in my house.
A week later I walked into the kitchen to make an espresso and there in the middle of the white tile of my counter top sat my green-fanged, orange-decorated, little friend. He appeared to be preening, admiring his reflection in the stainless steel side of the espresso machine.
“Good morning. May I offer you a cup of espresso?” he said as though his taking up residence in the kitchen was the most natural thing in the world. He gestured to the espresso machine with his two front paws like a maitré d showing me the best table in the house. His orange marking almost resembled a bow tie though it was on the wrong part of his body. The rest of him was dotted with white like a tiny tuxedo.
I stared at him momentarily perplexed and speechless.
“Two wishes,” he said.
“I thought I wished you to stay outside,” I told him.
He rubbed his two front legs together thoughtfully. “Well, you did. And I did. But you still have two wishes left.”
“That's why you're here? To grant me my wishes?”
“I waited in the garden, but you never came,” he sighed. “You do know, I hope, that I haven't got all the time in the world. It's almost winter and I have plans for Halloween.”
No doubt to pose in somebody's fake spiderweb and scare the heck out of the trick-or-treaters. I briefly considered using him as my own prop in an art project.
“Don't even think about it,” he said.
“Do you have a name?”
“Fred,” he replied, tapping his front legs one at a time on the tile. “Just call me Fred.” Tap tap tap. “I'm a Bold Jumping Spider.” Tap tap tap. “We're good luck.”
“Well, Fred, you are quite pretty, but I'm not sure I want to share my house with you.”
“You're stuck with me for now,” he said. “At least until I find a mate. Then I'm afraid it might be all over for me.”
“You'll grant me any wish?” I asked. “Any wish at all?”
“Within reason,” he said, scuttling sideways in a little dance. “I mean, I can't bring George Washington back to life or bring Russell back to you, but you know, there is your artwork to consider and it's really not that bad.”
I regarded the spider. “How do you know about all that?” Not many people knew about my art. I had all but given up at this point and kept it as a secret indulgence just for myself.
“Dream weaver,” he said, waving his paws at me, though I knew spider silk came from the rear. “We know everything.” He sat up on his rump, balancing himself on his two back legs. “I am the embodiment of your creativity.”
“Don't let my cat see you doing that,” I said. “Behaving like a circus act would get her all excited.”
“Don't be rude,” he countered. “And stop changing the subject.”
“How did you know about Russell?”
He gave a smirk. “Everyone knows about Russell, my dear.”
I supposed he was right. I had loved nothing as much as my art and Russell. But back to the subject at hand.
“All right then, I wouldn't mind selling my best piece for a million dollars.”
“Small steps, my friend, small steps.”
“A gallery show?”
“Is that an official wish?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming. Please try to restrain yourself.”
As I mentioned before, I had all but given up ever being a professional artist. I was enthusiastic about my art, but the enthusiasm of others for it left a lot to be desired.
I glared at him. “I wish for a successful gallery show.”
“Your wish is my command,” Fred said baring his green fangs in a grin.
“Thank you. But now, Fred my friend, you are out of here.” I grabbed my shot glass and tried to drop it over him. He jumped sideways into the sink, achieving some pretty impressive air. I panicked thinking he was going to fall right down the drain.
“Fred! Are you trying to kill yourself?”
He glared at me with his spider goggles.
I managed to get the shot glass over him after a few more hops around the stainless steel of the sink and slipped a piece of paper under his feet.
“This hurts me more than it does you,” I said as I carried Fred, the glass, and the piece of paper out into the garden. I set Fred free among a beautiful spray of late blooming roses.
“I'll be back,” he said as he crawled off on his irregular gait, looking for a meal. I pitied the grasshopper he was sure to unearth.
Nine months later having just returned from a very successful art gallery tour, I noticed a beautiful fuzzy spider with emerald green fangs and an orange marking on his back sitting calmly on the counter beside the espresso machine.
He seemed larger and quite well fed.
“Hello, again,” he said. “Still got one wish.”
“Fred, I haven't seen you in quite some time,” I said.
“You've been getting on quite well,” he said. “Congratulations on your success. My work, however, is not yet finished. You're still spinning your web. You still have the one wish.”
I thought about what he had said regarding finding a mate. “Fred, I wish you a long and fruitful life.”
“Your wish is my command.”
The next morning when I got up to prepare an espresso, lined up along the edge of my kitchen sink were six little black spiders with perfect little bodies in the shape of the number 8.
“Good morning,” they said all together in their tiny high-pitched voices. “You have three wishes.”