‘Mum! Look! A spider! Kill it!’ Belly still working on my web, I goggle down at the small boy’s pink finger pointing at me like a huge, wriggling worm. Oh, no, I think. I’ve been spinning this web in a corner of the kitchen ceiling for ages and this little bugger here wants to wipe it out in a flash and, worse, do me in. Why do humans loathe us so much? We never do any harm.
A wave of relief washes all over me when I hear the woman say,
‘Oh, no, Niko. A spider in the house is good luck. It won’t hurt you. Go have your breakfast.’ The boy sits at a chair and sips from his glass of chocolate milk, his eyes still glued on me with curiosity and mistrust. I go about my work, wishing for a fly to be trapped into the web soon before I starve to death.
The woman is leafing through a newspaper, her pen nosing its way down the pages and then up again, occasionally making circles with it or drawing lines, as if weaving her own web there.
The man then comes into the kitchen, pulls a chair and sits across from the woman. She pours some coffee from a pot into a cup and offers it to him.
‘What are you looking at?’ the man says.
‘The small ads. I want to find a job. Get out of the house, feel useful, you know.’
The man looks at her straight in the eye and says, ‘We’ve talked about this before. You know how I feel. You are useful here. Taking care of your family. We don’t need the money. I can sustain you.’
‘It’s not for the money. I want to teach again. I love my job. It makes me feel alive and active.’
The boy is following his parents with his eyes, left to right, right to left, as if watching a table tennis match.
‘What’s wrong with you? You’re a mother now. Who’s going to take care of Niko if you’re not here?’
‘I can bring my mother to take him to and from school.’
The boy looks at her in dismay. ‘Oh, no! I don’t want grandma to pick me up from school. She’s got these huge false teeth that click clack when she talks and all the kids laugh at her. They call her the Dracula-gran.’
The man takes a noisy swig and says, ‘Who’s going to cook? I want fresh food on my plate. That’s one of the reasons why I got married, you know.’
‘I can cook in the afternoon and you can reheat it the following day. No big deal.’
‘On, no! I can’t have reheated meals. Look, Martha. Married women who leave their houses and go out to work either need the money – which is not our case, or desire things they shouldn’t. They become high-handed, think they’re the man of the house, take liberties with other men and soon divorce. You don’t want this to happen to us, do you?’ He shoves his empty cup in her direction and gets up. ‘I know you’re wiser than that and that’s why I married you in the first place.’ He marches out of the kitchen, the boy on his tail.
The woman folds the newspaper into four and makes to swat a fly that has been lingering for some time now over a couple of slices of cake in a platter on the table. One, two, three hits, but she still misses. The fly darts up the ceiling and in my direction, running for its life. Come here, come here my little one, I say, watching with keen eyes as it lands right into my web. Hurrah! Grub’s up at last! It writhes and wriggles, trying to extricate itself but I’ve done a good job. It won’t break free.
And, just when I can’t stop drooling over my delectable meal, the woman’s folded newspaper comes flying flat against me and my web, like a solid brick wall. I manage to scamper down the kitchen window and out of it in a safe niche, staring at my crumpled web on the kitchen counter, the fly still tossing and thrashing around, fatally trapped.