If Spiders Thought

The city girl’s name was Nicole. She brought her Honda Civic to a stop at the dusty intersection and wondered which way she should go. Left was south, back toward Denver. Right was north, toward Wyoming. Straight ahead, the Rocky Mountains. All around her, dry grass. Nobody, nothing around. Not even a bird.

Just then the sun came out from behind a cloud and glinted on something at the edge of the road.

Nicole wondered what it was. She stepped out of her Civic gingerly, unused to seeing road dust cling to its shiny black finish, unused to road dust under the soles of her Adidas, which had never seen a basketball court or a soccer field, much less the side of a gravel road. Whatever the sun had found, it was under the old road sign lying bent and faded in the dry grass.

The GPS app on Nicole’s phone said she was on County Road 19. Nicole wasn’t sure what county she was in. Larimer? Weld? She’d been on the interstate, took an exit on a whim, drove past the fast-food and gas pumps and through a run-down town named Wellington toward the mountains. 

Nicole hadn’t noticed, but County Road 19 started where Main Street ended. Nothing marked the spot except a ripple in the asphalt where the county took over road maintenance.

Years ago, County Road 19 had been Red Roan Road, which was a bit of a mouthful, all those Rs, so the locals had called it Triple-R, but those days were long gone. The ranchers who had loved and worked the land and red roans and cattle were gone, and these days nobody who worked at the gas stations and fast food places cared about all the dry grass between the highway and the mountains.

Folks had cared, back when. But they’d been left with no choice but to move on when a multinational corporation bought up all the water rights for hundreds of miles around. Water that used to grow grass that fed beef cattle and horses and eventually the town now went into plastic bottles wrapped in plastic labels printed with a picture of purple mountains. 

Folks would have shaken their heads at that if they’d been around to see it. But they weren’t, and so the world had forgotten about Red Road Road until Nicole took Exit 287 on a whim and drove west toward the mountains.

None of that forgetting was Nicole’s fault. Her parents had immigrated when she was a baby. Somehow, they’d scraped together enough money to buy a convenience store. Nicole still remembered her mom putting her in a five-gallon bucket with a teddy bear and telling her to be quiet, customers didn’t like hearing children cry.

Nicole had learned about business in that convenience store and she’d learned about finance studying online and by the time she put it all together with the work ethic she got from her parents, she could have replaced her Civic with something much, much fancier, but spending money like that just wasn’t her way. She did have a nice stereo put in her old car, though, and it played Julia Kent’s Fontanarossa softly as Nicole leaned forward and pushed the tall grass aside to see that the sun had glinted off an old, film-style camera lens.

The lens looked intact, and the rest of the camera did, too. A spider had strung its web between the camera body and the fallen road sign. The same spider — Nicole wondered if a spider would take over a web woven by another — sat in one corner of the web, waiting patiently, timelessly.

Pleased the camera was being put to good use, Nicole relaxed her hand and stood up straight. The grass moved back into place. The spider remained still.

Nicole got back in her Civic, closed the door softly. 

The sun, high above, shone down on the dusty grass and the dusty car that turned left, back toward the city.

While she drove, Nicole wondered how many of the spider’s eight eyes had registered her face and what the spider had thought of her, if spiders thought.

Prompted by madelinepratchlerauthor (spider, camera, county road).

Leave me a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt.

Photo by Jim Latham