Short Stories

Brunhilde’s Web

Four weeks in- that’s when they say the bush crazies start. I can’t figure out why the light is blue, but I remember the blue fly on my tent and feel triumphant. I’m still sane. I swear at the hundreds of blackflies that have found their way inside. A mosquito stranger hums through their midst. I see a new visitor, from where I lie in my sleeping bag. An eight legged inhabitant scurries from some unknown corner. She pauses in the middle of the tent floor, clicks her fangs together, and continues to a new hiding place.

“Oh hell no,” I moan.

I take careful stock of the inside of my workboots before pulling them on, still frozen from yesterday’s snowfall. Time to head out into the bush and make some money.

Later, reloading my planting bags with hundreds of bastard jack-pine seedlings, Doug comes out of the clearcut. Lighting his smoke as he stands in a puddle in the flammable forest, he brushes a spider from his flannel and says

“Spider season,” good naturedly.

“Bastard blackflies,” I say. “Maybe I won’t kill my tent spider.”

I’m climbing over the slash back into my piece. “Tent spiders are good luck!” Doug’s voice carries over the barren land. Every second is cents. I move through the cut, planting.

She appears again that night as I’m reading. In the circle of my headlamp she looks less threatening.

“Brunhilde,” I decide. “I propose a truce.”

She is still. She knows the quick movements of her too-many limbs are unsettling.

“Eat the blackflies, stay out of my sleeping bag, you can stay.”

She graciously acknowledges, scurrying away to the far corner where her web is blooming. I don’t see her for days at a time but her web grows and changes. The blackflies are lesser in number and the lunatic hum of the lone mosquito has ceased. Well played, Brunhilde. I thank her out loud before going to sleep.

The spiders I meet in the clearcut are family friends. Sun fucked on a 35 degree day, I ask the inhabitant of a tamarack tree’s web if she knows my friend Brunhilde. I stare into her eight eyes until my crew boss finds me, parks me in the shade and gives me a gallon of water and a peanut butter sandwich.

My spade makes a pocket in the ground and a hundred spiders come out. They scurry across the duff, my boots, my spade. They’re all shades of brown and black and grey and I can only see them on the soil because of their bright white balloon-like egg sacks. I watch one break open, see a thousand baby spiders rush out and turn the ground dark.

“Nope, nope, nope.” I’m talking to myself as I run.

Brunhilde appears that night while I’m reading, her back luminescent with a white egg sack.

“Nope!” My book flies toward her before I can think about her family, her lovely web. She’s a smudge on the back “East of Eden”. A neighbor shouts into my tent

“Everything ok in there!?”

It is, but it isn’t.

Brunhilde’s web hangs empty in the morning, crystalline with dew. The buzz of a single mosquito sings loud in my skull.

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