Drabblecast 351 – DoubleHeader XVII: Camille Griep



Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Cover for Drabblecast DoubleHeader of Camille Griep, by Alex ClawThe fiery orange sun hung high over the Bangkok skyline to the south. Professor Tina Montri rearranged her skirt and adjusted the alligator skin briefcase on her lap which held the presentation and research notes from her talk at the university. A breeze stirred on the back of her neck, warm and relaxing. She could almost fall asleep if it weren’t for her precarious perch at the top of a tree.

 

 

 

THE SPIDER
By Camille Griep

 

 

1. In the morning, you open your eyes to find a spider idling on the
ceiling above your bed.

2. From leg to leg, the spider is the size of your palm. Tegenaria
duellica: Giant house spider.

3. You slam your right arm across the bed in the same protective
motion made for the benefit of car passengers during a surprise
application of the brakes. The comforter deflates with a whumf,
wafting dust and sandalwood and feathers. The bed is empty. Your
partner is at work, en route to the gym, on the freeway, in Boston—not
there.

4. You curse your partner. You curse Boston.

5. When you were small, you believed spiders were born from bathtubs
because one or two were always located in the sunken jacuzzi of your
childhood home. To this day, you distrust faucets and drains. Bathtubs
require rigorous attention, as, you’ve now learned, do ceilings.

6. It is possible that you are still dreaming. “Good morning,” you
rasp. While disappointing, the spider’s silence is not necessarily a
conclusive result. In fact, you often dream of voiceless spiders in
forgotten rooms and secret passageways. Their webs, their legs, their
jaws represent something dramatic in your subconscious, though you’ve
yet to isolate the cause. To finalize the morning’s corporeality, you
squinch your eyes shut for as long as you deem safe, yet effective.
You open them again.

7. Bad: It is still there. Good: It has not dropped on you.

8. Keeping the spider in your peripheral vision, you inch yourself to
the right, to the middle of the bed, over a cold, partner-shaped
indentation, and to the other edge. One pointed toe is stretched
downwards until it reaches the smooth floorboards. You inhale through
your nose and dismount with a swift, twisting motion.

9. You realize you are naked. You cover your body with your arms and
hands, shielding yourself from eight probing eyes.

10. Jumping spiders have superlative arachnid eyesight due to
swiveling, telephoto lenses in their eyestalks. You are pleased that
this spider is not a jumping spider—and not only due to the visual
acuity.

11. T. duellica is known to meander through the house in the closing
notes of summer and overture of fall in search of a mate. Otherwise
they remain proximal to narrow, disorganized webs in rarely disturbed
locations. You wonder if this spider belongs to the molting skins in
the VCR cabinet. You shiver, remembering the little collection of
not-quite-spiders and how you ran to find something long to poke them
with.

12. The spider skitters three or four inches toward the windows. You
retreat backwards to the closet.

13. Your arsenal: Three hatboxes containing thirty-four years’
accumulation of bizarre haberdashery, three suitcases (two if partner
is in Boston), thirty pairs of shoes, two lamps, one kleenex box, six
hairbands, two economics magazines (one if partner is in Boston), one
vuvuzela.

14. You don a sweatshirt and pants with ribbing at the wrists and
ankles, respectively. Nothing too loose to prevent in-crawling, but
substantial enough to guard from T. duellica’s unique ability to break
human skin. You cinch your sturdiest platform shoes to stockinged feet
in order to better reach the ceiling. You add an old riding helmet to
the ensemble, just in case.

15. One economics magazine, two hairbands, and one vuvuzela are repurposed.

16. You crane your neck to see the spider from under the brim of your
riding helmet. You skirt the bed until you reach what feels to be a
good tactical position. You take aim with your weapon.

17. “I’m really very sorry,” you say. “But this is my house.”

18. Giant house spiders live out entire lives in their birthplace and
cannot survive the elements. If taken outside, they are fast enough to
beat a person back into the house. Wikipedia lists their top speed as
1.73 feet per second.

19. You close your eyes and visualize leaving the room for a cup of
coffee: when you return, yours is now a bedroom without a palm-sized
spider on the ceiling. The palm-sized spider is elsewhere, unaccounted
for. It finds a mate, builds a narrow, disorganized web in the ceiling
above your bed and procreates. Thousands of potentially palm-sized
spiders greet you each morning. A few leave inspirational messages in
their webs: “Some Human.”

20. You close your eyes and visualize striking the spider: it dodges
your blow, flies down from the ceiling, blinds you with green venom,
binds your legs with silk, and calls for reinforcements. You reach for
your cell phone, but it has been spirited away. The police arrive.
“Are you some sort of monster?” they ask. “This spider’s family has
lived here for 60 years! And what in the hell are you wearing?”

21. You close your eyes and visualize striking the spider: “Don’t,” it
shrieks. “I haven’t finished my novel yet!”

22. You close your eyes and visualize striking the spider: it dances
around your blows in eight tiny tap shoes singing “Mr. Bojangles.” A
talent agent appears with a contract. Soon after, you attend its
premier on Broadway. You are given free tickets and a front row seat.
You throw red roses.

23. You open your eyes and strike the spider: it falls, gutted and
curled, onto the grey sheets below. It looks much smaller now. You
collect it with a Kleenex and flush it down the toilet.

24. You look up at the smear on the ceiling. You are a murderer. An
inverse smear on the economics magazine will alert the world of your
cruelty.

25. A sorrowful buffoon in a tiny riding helmet stares back from the
mirror on the wall. Bleary eyes well up as it mourns the loss of
Spider Hemingway, Spider Hines.

26. But. You were swift and merciful. Resourceful. Self-reliant. You
made your own weapon, for chrissakes.

27. And there is nothing you can’t do today. You strip the sheets,
re-stack the hatboxes, vacuum the VCR cabinet, fix the faucet in the
bathtub. You buy yourself a plane ticket to Boston. You don’t pack the
economics magazine.

 

 

ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK
By Camille Griep

 

 

The fiery orange sun hung high over the Bangkok skyline to the south. Professor Tina Montri rearranged her skirt and adjusted the alligator skin briefcase on her lap which held the presentation and research notes from her talk at the university. A breeze stirred on the back of her neck, warm and relaxing. She could almost fall asleep if it weren’t for her precarious perch at the top of a tree.

Tina would have climbed down from the tree if a crocodile wasn’t swimming beneath it, one yellow eye trained on her well developed calf muscle. And the croc wouldn’t be swimming underneath the tree if Bangkok hadn’t flooded. And she’d be at the airport already if she had just gone to the hotel to pack instead of taking a tuk-tuk around the city for a last few hours of sightseeing. And now, who knew when she’d get home. If she’d get home.

Fish, flowers, park benches, teddy bears, coffee cups, stick brooms, rice containers all floated by in the roiling waters. Still the swimming sack of teeth waited. The only sound Tina could hear was water, swift and pregnant with debris. She clicked her heels — what did she have to lose — but instead of being transported to LA, her right shoe fell into the water below.

#

She’d only meant to close her eyes for a few moments, but the sky was streaked with sunset when she opened them again. She tensed remembering where she was and grabbed the slippery bark of the tree, her remaining shoe splashing into the murk. The splash was followed by a chomp and a slap. She peered down at the water. She was thirsty. She wanted her shoes back. The crocodile, she supposed, had other plans.

“Hey!” Tina shook her briefcase. “See this? Go away or I’ll make you into a pair of gloves.”

“I highly doubt that,” said the croc.

She must not have woken fully from her nap. Still, she answered. “You ate my shoe.”

“It dropped on my head.”

“Because you’re sitting under my tree. Why don’t you go away?”

“Is that what you’d like? I, myself, would like a bite to eat.”

“I want to get down. I want to go home. I think our goals are mutually exclusive.” Tina shifted on the branch.

“Maybe,” said the croc. “Maybe not. Maybe I don’t eat you if you grant me a wish instead.”

Just what she needed: a talking crocodile with demands. “I’m not a genie, I’m a woman.”

“Pity. But women are delicious, so either way I’m ahead.”

“Fine.” When she woke up, she’d make sure to write this dream down. “What is it that you want?”

“I want to live in Florida.”

“Florida? But… why?”

“Well, I have a lot of cousins there, and I’d like to spend some time at the Magic Kingdom to visit the Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“We have one of those in California, too.”

“California is no good,” said the crocodile. “I’m trying to get away from the smog.”

“I’ll take you all the way to Florida, but I’m afraid I can’t set you loose in a theme park.”

“Well, it’s a start. To compromise!”

#

By the time Tina climbed down from the tree, the floodwaters were only ankle deep. The croc sat at the base of the tree with a ballet flat hanging from each of his long incisors.

“Thank you,” said Tina. She picked the shoes off of his yellowed teeth and drained them of the detritus collecting in the toes. “You’ll have to switch places with my briefcase so that I can carry you. Can you curl yourself up small?”

The crocodile began to turn around in circles, faster and faster until he had curled himself into the size of a tote bag.

“Here, now, you’ll have to swallow my things.” She fed the crocodile her presentation files, her thumb drives, her leftover fried rice, her sunglasses, and her lucky pen. She fished a phuang malai, shedding jasmine and marigold petals, from the base of the tree and looped it over the croc’s snout. “Bite down,” she said and he grabbed ahold of the garland and tucked his snout into a pocket near his belly. Tina picked up the croc, now a lumpy, flower handled tote bag and squished off in search of a way to the airport.

She didn’t see her empty briefcase float away, or the happy tail that sprung from its handle.

#

A fur-clad tourist next to Tina woke her up when the seat belt sign came on for the descent into Miami.

“My, what a wonderful bag you have,” said the woman. “Did you get it in Thailand?”

Tina nodded and patted the bag’s warm, clammy exterior. She hated to leave the crocodile here in Florida, when he made such a nice bag. After, all, who else could claim to have such a unique piece? Maybe she’d just keep him a month or so, until she could find a nice preserve. He could eat all of the lunch leftovers she never finished.

“Can I see it for a moment?” asked the woman.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Tina, her thumb tracing one of the curved, yellow teeth just under the garland handle. It was indeed a unique bag.

“It’s not as if I’m going to take it anywhere.” The woman huffed to herself, gesturing to the airplane cabin.

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean….” Tina felt queasy. “It’s just that all of my presentation notes are inside. I’m very protective of them.”

“Well, I can understand that,” said the woman. “You never know who you might be dealing with. I suppose I’d never let anyone try on my leopard coat.” She ran her hands down her sleek torso.

“That’s probably a good idea,” said Tina, hugging the bag to her middle. She leaned toward the man on the aisle until she noticed his snakeskin belt. Perhaps she’d stop in Miami after all.

Play
The Spider first appeared in On The Premises, July 2012
One Night In Bangkok first appeared in Every Day Fiction, March 2013.
Episode Art:  Alex Claw

Twabble:  “We found the secrets to eternal life. No more ageing, no more death. The only problem now is, we are running out of brains. ”  by  drewdidthis


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