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The Daily Tar Heel

A Story for the Itsy-Bitsy Spider

You see, I am a human.

We humans, you must know, are animals of diverse capabilities. We're complex, big-brained beings who with the slate of this natural world, a growing knowledge of its rules and - most importantly - an opposable thumb, have shaped our own grand version of it.

Our world has a likeness all its own. We inch through it with familiar instruments: system, progress. The trouble with our complexity, our progress, is it feels unnatural. How could the human, I ask you, wrought of the natural world itself, an animal no less, make something artificial with purely natural means?

All things bend toward the season, and I, like water, washing my hands at the faucet, in sunlight, rushing up through pipes beneath the sink, through darkness, out of the faucet and into light, over the hands and down the drain to darkness again. So it goes, to land, to sea.

Digress to the essentials:

Water and earth. First was water. Then came the earth from under the water. We made square huts, or round, and cities on earth but next to water. We made symbols, learned to speak for ourselves, with our tiny words, 'til tiny words came to mean things greater than we could imagine. Things like a god, like a black hole.

Or like water and earth.

How could we describe it? Those were our limits, on common ground.

But here at the faucet, on the high ground, I feel limitless. The power of this faucet knob, river dammed or flowing at my whim, and beyond, on the wall, sunlight on command, not sunlight really but a switch: Flick it and the lights come on.

It's got me thinking.

I've got my own small world in the bathroom. Water, light, earth. But there's more. There are things I've made that don't grow. It takes one to make one, like a bottle of hand soap. Who needs a bottle of hand soap but a human?

I didn't make the hand soap but a human did. A human made the hand soap for the benefit of my clean hands. Likewise was the hand soap made for the benefit of the maker since I paid money for it. Humans are a team like that. True, nature is a harlot full of unbending rules, who pulls us in and spits us out, only to pull us in again.

But nature too makes a team of infinite diversity. The question is, to whose team do we belong?

What I mean to say is, what is the difference between you and me?

Dear spider, our kinds have long warred. You've bitten, poisoned, laid your eggs, and we, true to form, have stomped, doused you in chemicals, untangled your webs with our dusters. We've tried to kill each other, you because you want to be left alone, and us because we demand complete dominion.

But there is a common ground.

There is an exception because you kill other bugs, bugs that don't want to be left alone, bugs that buzz in my face, eat my food, poop on my desk.

For this reason, I've allowed you to stay.

I've watched you growing on the wall, ever since your mother spun her web in the corner above my bed. She spun it, caught a June bug, and had you. Then I didn't see your mother. She liked to hunt outside. There'd been a freeze, and your mother didn't make it inside.

"Whence from the earth, and delivered unto it."

The crickets sang about your mother. I sang too with a low-pitched voice, and only to myself, but they called aloud into the air about this earth, about living on it, dying on it and about your mother.

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You were left, and I, stumbling in and out every now and then to sleep, with the pack on my shoulder, as you grew, spinning your web in the corner above my bed. Strange yarn, born of abdomen, spit corner to corner from your lips while your arms and legs braided.

Your first catch was an errant fly.

Humble, but food for two.

Then starvation, then a frost outside and the wormy ones wiggled indoors, and the moths hovering by the light outside the door, through the door and flicking along against the ceiling and the wall, blind, snatched up in your web.

Battered wings struggled against the fabric of it. You almost pitied the thing (though moths are ugly up close), as you descended upon your string. One shot of venom to the head, delivered by your teeth, and motionless. Now wrap it in your web. Now sleep.

Wake and eat and travel. I found you in the drain. I could have washed you away. I was pressing my face against the glass and I caught you, down below, looking up at me. You crawled across the sink and down along the wall just as I was fitting my cap.

They say there is a bond between us, because we like shadows. You like the corner, I prefer the brim.

I know. I've seen my brother take a vacuum and sweep the corner, and erase a whole year of history.

It made me sad.

I caught you in a wine bottle. I turned it on its side so you could escape.

Paul Tharp is a first-year law student.

Reach him with questions, comments at ptharp@email.unc.edu.

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