“The Package”—Winner of the 2012 Revolution House
Flash Fiction Contest (inaugural)
The Package by Jeffrey Kingman
She stands for two hours on six legs of plastic while her mother’s ankles are tied with a spider’s thread. Mom can’t respond very well. What can I do? The wallpaper isn’t a comfort anymore.
The FedEx guy waits and waits at the door, finally signs his own name. From the carpet, the girl sees the top of his head through her living room window. The shrubs are no help, hiding him. It’s tiring.
She topples, her two hours up, the six legs extracted from a multi-spigot spinneret invented by silly people, too weak to hold her, made up of little plastic segments.
She gathers up her legs to go answer the door. He says he wants to talk to her mom.
—The spider’s got her. —Don’t you help her? Help! He thinks I don’t help her.
Leading with her unsteady gait, she shows him the goliath bird-eater—big as a Rottweiler, has her mother pinned, its eight legs undulating. The girl points with her sleep-tingling hand, wonders what the man will do. He presses his palm on top of the spider’s round body. It looks over its shoulder at him.
—You shouldn’t do that. —Why? Does it bite?
And the mother says, Don’t bother about me. The spider turns back to her, licks her face. A grunt of disgust comes from the mother’s throat. The man punches the spider in the center of its roundness. It ignores him. The girl totters, almost falls. He moves to help her but she waves him off, glares at him.
—So you think you’re tough? —I once took a bite out of a fish. I’ve seen the top of his head, so I know he’s got one.
It gets late in the morning, but time has no stake in it. They stare at each other. My legs are an embarrassment, their flimsiness... I can’t have him looking at them.
The spider moves up a little on the mother, centering its weight on her chest. Her voice is hoarse, breathing labored. Don’t bother about me! He’s leering at me—not polite. If I let him, he’ll think the sun is shining through the living room window. I can't let him get away with it. I’ll have to make him turn around.
—Where’s your package, UPS driver? —[red face, no reply]
Didn’t contradict me. Not so tough. He turns, seems about to say something to her mom, but then puts on a superior expression and walks out. As he goes down the walkway, the girl can see his curly brown hair bobbing up and down above the shrubs.
With folded arms she considers the overgrown bird-eater. She musters up a big voice.
—That’s enough ... Get off. Will you get off!
The spider gets off and goes and sulks in the corner.
The mother removes the silk from her ankles, rubs them. She takes a deep breath and fans her face with her hand. She catches her daughter’s eye. Green with amber flecks.