At the beginning of each summer, there was the necessary trip to the hardware store to comb through the aisles for glue traps. Each year, she counted how many traps were needed, based on what she found as she bent over couch-backs, crawled into corners, and reached behind bookcases to pull out the previous year’s traps. There were wolf spiders mostly, but occasionally a centipede, who had wandered onto the smooth, sticky surface. She examined the paths of the creatures who somehow managed to crawl deeper and further into the trap until they could no longer turn around or escape the cardboard tent folded neatly along the seams, tabs held tightly in the corners.
Throughout the year she occasionally thought of the eight-legged guests who visited her house, the unwanted webs spun between the walls or in the crawlspace below. As she now tore the plastic off of her new clean traps, she felt a tinge of remorse for all the small creatures who found themselves lost and alone, dying slowly, abandoned by peers who knew better than to be attracted to the peanut butter smell of the polymer substance. But then, she’d think of the time she woke up to what felt like kisses, only to discover an uninvited creature on her cheek. She sat on the double bed in the guest room, now her room, staring at her new traps while shuttering, listening for movement in the dark corners of a space she no longer believed was her own. There was good reason for these traps, and despite the circumstances, she would continue the ritual of setting them up.
Flipping to the back of the package, she re-read the directions carefully and nodded in agreement that yes, the directions for all the how-to’s were indeed tried and true. She opened the plastic and peeled back the sticker, taking a whiff of the new smell of the insect attractant. She began to fold the middle section along the crease and fold over the sides along the lines. This would be each creature’s final home. She made several of these little A-frames and lined them up along the patches of her grandmother’s quilt draped over the guest bed. She thought of the many times she had proudly pointed out to visitors that her grandmother had lovingly made her this security blanket when she moved away to college all those years ago. She breathed in a deep breath and released a long sigh.
Then the sound of him moving in the back of the house, the scuttle of his feet on the wooden floorboards, drew her into a quick reaction. She swept all the newly folded tents into the plastic shopping bag and quickly pushed it behind the stacked pillows so that he wouldn’t see them if he happened to come back downstairs and throw open the door. Now she was suddenly aware that she was doing something that might be on his list of the many things he did not like about living with her. She acted much older than she truly was. She was too much of a home-body. She spent too much time worrying about their savings. She was much too controlling. Now she knew that making and laying spider traps might fit into all the categories he hated about her.
Just a week ago, he had asked her to come home from work early. As she left her office, she imagined them leaving for an evening hike or a drive through the mountains after picking up ice-cream. But when she got home, he called her downstairs and poured words into the air that she had never heard him use before like trapped, stuck, stagnant. Before she begged him to explain what he meant by this, she sat pushing back her cuticles, staring at his mouth move through the reasons why he needed to leave her. In one short hour, he had unraveled a reality she never knew was bubbling under the one in which she thought they lived.
Today, he was picking up his keys to his new apartment and she could hear him talking softly on his phone as he moved clothes from his closet to the boxes he had folded and neatly lined against the wall of their once-shared master bedroom. She listened to the sounds of him moving around on the floor above her. She listened to the rhythm of his voice. None of these sounds were his. In the past week, between crying, calling her mom, and arranging meetings with various real estate agents, divorce lawyers, and her work friends, she tried to pin point any moment when she might have missed the exact time when things between them had shifted. When was it that he decided he could not turn and talk to her? When was it that the safety of their home became a place that he felt he could no longer stay? What was it that she had said or done that made him feel he was stuck? She could think of no specific time but thought of each specific instance when and how he may have felt she folded the corners too tightly around him, quietly pushed in the walls along the creases.
It wouldn’t be long now, she thought, that he would leave the house for the last time. He would take his clothes, the car, and leave her here. He would leave the cat, he told her, a mouser they picked out together at the animal shelter but one he didn’t like. He would leave the furniture as he said he would acquire new antique pieces he had seen downtown and wanted. He would take his new mountain bike which he rode to work each day, his long, silk-brown hair never tied back and free to blow in the wind. He would leave behind all the kitchen utensils, but he would cook for her if she needed help adjusting to the change. All she had to do was call him if he needed her, but she wouldn’t need him, he had said aloud. She just needed to take down all the pictures and get rid of all the ‘we’ things in the house. She would be fine, he told her. She would be just fine.
And as she imagined their A-framed home on the side of the mountain crumbling all around her, she listened to his footsteps as he descended the stairs for the last time. He paused, and then scurried back to pick up something he had surely forgotten. She rocked back and forth on the bed, glued to the space she thought was theirs but was now only hers.
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Hi RK- really great woven story of grief and loss. personally i have a phobia of spiders and wolf spiders in particular good tension throughout! congratulations on being shortlisted!
Thank you so much!
Such a wonderful story! I had no idea where it was going in the beginning but I loved how you took her laying insect traps and revealed the entire story! Her character and the plot really came through so subtly. Really enjoyed it!
Thanks so much!