Fluorescent light gleamed on the steel blades shaking in Ang’s right hand. Thunder sounded somewhere behind her, and the shaking worsened. An old lady pushed her cart around the corner of the aisle, saw Ang, frowned, and backed away, out of sight.
“Ang,” I said, “don’t do it.”
The scissors wavered in her hand.
“Because I’m begging you not to.”
Ang took a deep breath and lowered her arm. She said, “I’ve always hated spiders.”
Behind her, thunder faded and water misted from hidden nozzles onto artfully arranged lettuces and herbs grown in greenhouses thousands of miles to the south and flown north to this rainy city built where centuries-old trees once stood. The trees had been cut down to make cheap furniture and extra-soft toilet paper.
“Thank you,” I said.
Ang set the scissors at the base of a pyramid of avocados. A bag of tortilla chips balanced on top. Taken as a whole, the structure seemed a temple built to honor the god of snacking.
“I don’t know what these scissors are even doing out here.” She said it as if their presence had required her to menace the tiny spider dangling from a sign announcing the low, low price of the mangoes piled next to a mound of pineapples and some slowly dehydrating pre-cut coconuts. “These avocados are terrible,” Ang said, poking at knobbly green skins. “I think they’re hard enough to crack a windshield.”
“Please don’t test that hypothesis,” I said. “My windshield has enough cracks.”
Ang fiddled with the scissors, opening and closing them. They made a faint snick snick noise. “Why do you care so much anyway? It’s just a spider.”
The spider, perhaps sensing her animosity, crawled slowly up its web, likely telling itself to avoid any sudden movements. I put six Honey Crisp apples in the cart and reached for some Anjou pears. “Have you ever gone caving?”
Ang’s head snapped around. “Crawl into a hole in the ground on purpose? Hell no.”
“There’s life in there, way back, where it’s always dark. Bacteria that literally eat rocks. Blind shrimp that swim in pools of water that haven’t seen sunlight in thousands of years, if ever.”
Ang dropped a bag of grapes imported from Chile into the cart. “What does that have to do with me killing a spider?”
“Bacteria take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide while they’re eating rocks. You, me, that spider, the cave bacteria, the cave shrimp, chipmunks, bobcats, and so on—we’re all breathing the same air. We’re all connected.”
“Connected or not, it’s just one spider. If I kill it, something will eat its dead body. Circle of life and all that. Haven’t you seen The Lion King?”
I sighed and looked at Ang. She looked back at me, eyebrows raised, earbuds in, playlist no doubt cued. “Ang, in case you haven’t noticed, the circle of life is getting smaller every day. It’s not a stretch to say that the environment as we know it is hanging by a string—so anything that’s alive, let’s try to keep it alive, okay?”
My story was prompted by Justin Deming of Along the Hudson (spider, scissors, produce section of a grocery store).
Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash