For those who don't know, Christopher J. is a lovely little spider I met some time ago. Full of the wanderlust, he began the adventure of a lifetime in the forsythia bush in my front yard. I didn't expect to ever see him again, but he came back, with a very big story to tell. I thought you might like to hear it, too...
If you haven't read the first few installments of the story, you can find them here:
If you remember correctly, at the end of the last installment, Christopher J. was just about to share how his new friend, Julius P. Crickman, saved his life... for the first time...
“My goodness! What on earth happened?”
Christopher J. stood up, balancing carefully on five legs. He took off his bowler hat, wiped his brow with a hanky from his vest pocket, and replaced his hat. “It was really quite harrowing, I have to say. I still find the memory rather stressful.”
“I can imagine. Do you need a moment?”
“No, no. I’m fine.” He began to pace the length of the nightstand drawer, took a deep breath, and started. “As I mentioned, I met Julius P. for the first time under the forsythia bush. We chatted for a while, waiting for the temperature to drop, as it was so terribly hot. Having just decided to start our journey in the lush garden across the Great Dark Divide (Narrator's note: I determined quickly that the Great Dark Divide is the street in front of the house), we were planning our route, when we heard a tremendous rustling in the forsythia!”
I leaned forward, anxious to learn what might have caused the rustling.
“Suddenly, we heard a frightful squawk and were very nearly trampled by a rather… portly… sparrow. Julius P. knocked me out of the way, or that bird would have surely used me as a stepping stone and squashed me flat!”
“Ah, is that how Julius P. saved your life?”
Christopher J. shook his head solemnly, his eyes wide. “Oh, no. It got worse. Ever so much worse. It wasn’t long before we were to discover just why the sparrow was squawking and trying to make his way through the forsythia.”
Our spider friend sat back down on his Kleenex bed and fanned himself before going on. “We were completely discombobulated, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I was just about to ask Julius P. what on earth he suspected was going on, when his eyes got wide and he pointed to something behind me. And then… and then… I felt it.”
“Felt what, Christopher J.? Felt what?!” I was on the edge of my seat.
Poor Christopher J. was sweating, clearly distraught at the memory. “It was a paw! A great, heavy paw! Upon my back! My legs went out from under me and I was suddenly flat upon the ground, unable to move! It was terrifying! I craned my neck and turned my head to see what had me… what was, I was certain, going to eat me!”
“And? What was it?”
“It was the Beast of the Garden! The fiercest creature to prowl our corner of the world! The monster of which legends are born!” Christopher J. had clearly given this “creature” a fair amount of thought.
“But, what sort of creature, exactly, is The Beast of the Garden, Christopher J.?”
Our 7-legged pal leaned forward, looked left and then right, as if to make sure The Beast was not within earshot, as if simply speaking about him could summon him right into my bedroom, and he whispered, “A cat.”
“A cat? Oh. Oh. I see. What does this cat look like?”
“He’s huge! And orange and white, with beady eyes and enormous paws! Have you seen him?”
I nodded slowly (and possibly a bit guiltily, I have to admit). “Um, well, yes. He’s, you know, sort of, um, my cat.”
“Your cat?!” Christopher J. squeaked in alarm and disbelief. “Your cat?! But how? How can you – you, a kind and caring soul – be associated such a creature? Such a beast?!”
“Well, he’s actually quite nice, Christopher J. His name is Pedo.”
“Pedo?! No. No. That’s simply far too benign, too gentle a name for this beast!”
“It means fart in Spanish,” I offered up helpfully.
Christopher J. snorted derisively. “While I don’t find it completely inappropriate that he’s named for flatulence, I do believe the name the birds have given him is far more appropriate.”
He whispered, somewhat reverently, I thought, “they call him El Diablo! The Devil!”
“Oh, dear. That seems a bit extreme… a bit, well, hyperbolic… don’t you think?”
“Hyperbolic?!” Our little spider friend threw up his arms, clearly beside himself, and knocked his bowler hat clean off. He watched as it sailed across the nightstand drawer. “Oh, dear me,” he said, shaking his head. Taking a deep breath, he picked his hat up, put it back on, and said, more quietly and calmly this time, “have you seen the carnage? Have you witnessed the bodies he leaves in his wake?”
I nodded sadly. “I have, actually. Sometimes right on the front porch. But it’s his nature, you see. Cats are hunters.”
“But he does it for sport!” Christopher J. spat the word out disgustedly.
I really could not blame him for being upset. While I certainly love my cat, I have to admit that I’m not so keen on the whole concept of the ‘Circle of Life’ when it comes full circle on my doorstep.
“I understand, Christopher J. I do. But please do go on. What happened when you realized it was The Beast, er, Pedo, who had you flattened?”
Christopher J. took a deep breath, eyeing me with clear doubt on his little face. I could tell he was wondering if he could trust me now, given my connection to The Beast of the Garden. I was afraid he wouldn’t go on after all. Thankfully he did.
“Well, I was terrified, as I said. Certain The Beast was going to eat me, I cried out for Julius P. to run! I thought that if my travels were over, at least my friend could go on in my memory.”
“That was very gallant of you, Christopher J. And did he?”
“No! That brilliant cricket saved me! He leapt right into The Beast’s face, landing squarely on his nose! The Beast was so startled that he lifted his paw, allowing me to wriggle loose. He slammed it down again on my leg but I was able to pull free.”
“Was that how… um…” I pointed to the stump where his 8th leg had been, not wanting to ask the question out loud.
“How I lost my leg? Oh, no. That was a different situation altogether.” He stood up and began pacing again, as he went on with the story. “The Beast swatted at Julius P., knocking him to the ground. The poor chap was stunned, so before the paw came down again, I wrapped 4 of my legs around him, intending to drag him deeper into the forsythia, away from The Beast's reach. And then?! You’ll never guess what happened!”
My heart was racing now, worried for my little friend and his little friend. “What? What happened?!”
“Remember that sparrow? The one who nearly trampled us, trying to get out of The Beast’s path?”
Christopher J. began gesturing wildly. “Well, he swooped in just as The Beast was about to capture both Julius P. and me! He closed in on the collar of my vest with his claw and he flew us right out of the forsythia! Julius P. was wrapped in all 8 of my legs and I held on for dear life, terrified I was going to drop him! It was spectacular! And let me tell you, I was ever so glad Mum had made sure all my vest buttons were secure before I left for my travels, as if they'd popped, we would have been goners for certain! The Beast was, for once, not quick enough to pull us out of the sky, which is odd, really, when you consider how rather chubby Spiro is, and that he was carrying both a spider and a cricket, weighing him down even more.”
Christopher J. smiled. “Yes, Spiro T. Winger, of the Great Maple Wingers. He became the third in our traveling trio." A little giggle escaped the spider and he continued, "though we weren’t certain at first that he hadn’t rescued us only to make a meal of us later!”
“Oh, my! Where did he fly you to after the rescue from The Beast, er, Pedo?”
“Straight to his nest in the Great Maple. And that? Is a story all unto itself. My goodness, it is.”
“Well, I want to hear it! But first, I need another cup of tea. Would you like some?”
“Oh, dear me, yes. Thank you. All this storytelling has me parched!”
Christopher J. sat back down on his Kleenex bed, clearly spent from reliving his ordeal, and I made my way quickly to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
To be continued...