The Spider That Caught The Fly

Submitted into Contest #57 in response to: Write a story about someone who’s famous for something they never actually did.... view prompt

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Kids Drama Funny


August 21st 2020: The Present


He pulled out the heavy suitcase from beneath the old coffee table in the attic, immediately covering his nose as he felt the tingles of a sneeze in the making. The room was dusty, as was expected, as his parents had not ventured up there for years. It was a big day. In more ways than one. For the first time since he was admitted, Mason was going to visit his father at the nursing home. The timing too was fitting as the day marked nine years since his sister's passing.


A few tugs and some unfastened clasps later, he pulled out the bag that lay folded neatly atop the contents of the moth-eaten luggage. The costume was intact, its blue and red fabric glistening beneath the tattered plastic covering, the shiny silver goblets - the eyes of the mask -reflecting the pensive expression on his face.


It would be totally out of character for Mason to show up at the Wings of Care Nursing Home, dressed as a superhero, but it was much more than his character that was at stake. As if on cue, a spider scuttled hurriedly across the web-tangled floorboard in front of him and Marley's laughter echoed reminiscently in his ears. He felt her presence then, cheering him on in the silence of the empty house, convinced that what he was about to do was good and right.


*****



Marley


I’m Marley Cadence Elliott and I’m the baby that Geoffrey and Lisa Elliott had planned for. They were high-school sweethearts that stayed in love even after attending college in separate states in the US. They tied the knot a year after they graduated and began trying for a baby in their fourth year of marriage.


Geoffrey’s a musician who loves Reggae and Rhythm and Blues. He attended Juliards on a scholarship, going on to manage a chain of radio stations called Citadel Group and founded a small recording studio in Miami.


Lisa Elliott is the daughter of the prestigious dentist Albert Atkins, fondly known as "Dr. Tatskins". He gained the nickname after running a marketing ad for his practice, featuring a teenage girl on anesthetics getting her tongue twisted saying "Stanks Dr. Tatskins. Sthat didn't hurth a bith". Lisa was a brilliant academic, an aspiring dental surgeon like her father, but midway through college, she discovered a greater love for animals instead. Graduating with honours from veterinary school, she became employed at a licensed Vet clinic as the lead Dentist and Oral Surgeon after three years in residency.


I was supposed to be their bouncing baby boy. Geoffrey coveted the name Marley, after the famous titled reggae singer Bob, because during the early stages of their pregnancy, I responded with kicks and thumps whenever they played me songs by the popular band The Wailers. As they claim, the sequence of my movements seemed to be rhythmic and purposeful, like a cadence. Hence my unusual middle name. It wasn't until the third trimester that I turned in the womb, the gynecologist noting no sign of testicles on the ultrasound image, indicating that a little girl was on the way.


My parents were mentally unprepared for a daughter, far less one that was diagnosed with PKU. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inborn error of protein metabolism, a condition which has no known cure. The rare disease occurs in children, usually from birth, commonly inherited from their parents. It prevents the body from properly breaking down proteins, specifically phenylanine. When the body is unable to break these down, phenylanine builds up in the blood causing problems throughout the body which commonly result in seizures, developmental delays, memory lapses, irritability, behavioural issues and intellectual disability.


My parents were devastated when a simple breakout of eczema and the pediatrician's shrewd observation of my delayed growth at my three-month checkup led to the diagnosis. No one in either of their families had the condition and it was unfamiliar territory for them both.


Oddly enough, I grew steadily throughout infancy and toddlerhood and I’d even dare say that I’m a smashingly successful thirteen-year-old-girl with ailments. I’m smart and observant, respond well to my treatment and strict diets, despite my occasional episodes of mood swings, seizures and anorexia nervosa.


My parents were so busy working around me - my treatment, special education, diet and routines – that the morning sickness, fatigue and general inertia experienced by my Mom went unnoticed until she stepped on the bathroom scale one morning and recognized that she had gained six pounds! That was nine years ago. The time that I learned that I was going to be a big sister. This time the baby was not one in the planning but they were extremely fidgety, always doing checkups, nervous and anxious, and - the part they would not say out loud but I knew to be true – praying that the baby would not be like me. I prayed hard for that too. And for me to have a healthy baby brother.


*****


Mason


It’s difficult being the second child in a family where your older sibling isn’t the same sex and also has special needs. That's mostly how I feel whenever I’m alone in my room and my parents are busy fussing over Marley. It helps that my older sister is not a fan of the attention but chooses to rise above her disabilities, lavishing me, her younger brother, with all the love and attention that our parents unconsciously withhold; taking on the world one day at a time, with the energy of an all-male football squad (it’s her and my favourite sport).


I’m the baby of the family and the “normal” kid. Everyone expected me to be like my Mom: fierce and determined, especially when she gets her hands on a drill (it’s part of her profession as a “doggy dentist”). That’s why they named me Mason. Mason Albert Elliott. But the only drills I’m good at are the ones where my family stops in the middle of dinner and a movie to rush to Marley’s aid in her episode of a seizure. Or my enrollment in football summer camp that would be cancelled as they have to use funds to go out-of-state with Marley for treatment. Or the bi-monthly sibling support therapy sessions I’m forced to attend with other kids with special-needs siblings. I’m nine-going-on-ten and overly acquainted with these drills that have become an integral part of my life.


Marley had been doing really well for the past eighteen months until she suddenly lost seven pounds in under two weeks. She started having tantrums, forgetting things and being really crabby with everyone, including me. Her doctor referred her to a specialist at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, which is out of state. Dad had a huge contract signing for an album recording with a local artist who’s getting really popular and Mom has rolled-over vacation (whatever that means) so she booked the trip with Marley. They’ve been gone for over a week. Dad just got off the phone with Mom and it sounds like Marley isn’t doing so great, but the good news is that they’re coming home. He doesn’t bother to tell me what’s happening in detail, just the tidbits that he assumes my little nine-year-old brain can absorb. Maybe it’s because I’m shy and timid, mostly reserved and quietly observant. Except when Marley and I are together. And she’s having one of her good days. I’m happy she’s coming back but also confused as to why I’m sad to give up the attention I’ve been receiving while it’s just been Dad and me. At least we’re half-way through summer and football camp doesn't end for three weeks, so I just might get a late enrollment.


*****


July 28th 2011


He wore a Spiderman costume to greet her at the airport as it was her favourite superhero. He didn’t care about the long stares and the wary looks of the masses. His wife and his daughter were coming home after being at a children’s hospital in Boston, where the latter had been undergoing treatment for PKU for the past eleven days. Marley was his pride and joy, his little girl that he admittedly didn’t hope for initially, but the child that strummed all the musical strings of his heart. When she was eight, he had read her the children’s fictional called Charlotte’s Webb and she'd become enthralled with spiders ever since. When Marvel comics launched the modern remake of the blockbuster Spiderman Movie, she was already in her pre-teen phase and she immediately idolized the character. It was her smarts, coupled with her innocence, that caused Geoffrey Elliott to love her fiercely. Her illness never defeated her as she was as resolute and determined as her mother. Marley had the spirit of his wife Lisa which made her a fighter. He would do anything to make his daughter smile and today, smile she would, when she came through those arrival gates. At least that was the plan.


He sat patiently with his son Mason as they watched scores of people filter by. The flight had landed on schedule and his wife and daughter should be looking to disembark at any minute. Suddenly, in a fit of nerves, he needed to pee. He had not factored in getting out of the suit to take a leak but couldn’t hold it too long. An elderly lady that sat next to them offered to watch Mason while he slipped off into the nearby washroom.


Meanwhile, a guy acting suspiciously was being shadowed by airport authority officers. He slipped out of the washroom hastily as Geoffrey was entering. He noticed the guy mainly because the hem of his white shirt was sticking out of the fly of his dark blue cargo pants.


“Hey!” Geoffrey called out, stalling the guy in the process. “Check your fly man” he continued as the stranger slowed his pace, glancing sheepishly down at his trousers. Just then, three officers approached and suddenly the man took off running in a sprint.

Everything happened quickly – armed officers encircling, people pulling away in a frenzy, voices echoing through walkie-talkies, sirens and shouts over the PA system.


They caught him, sequestered him and grilled him with questions. Geoffrey was making his third attempt to get out of his Spidey suit after the frenzy died when officers entered the washroom, evacuating everyone inside. They found a bomb in one of the stalls. It was chaotic. Flights were delayed, others rerouted. Airport wing had to be evacuated. Marley and her mother, along with other incoming passengers had to be cordoned off at an evacuation point away from the landing strip. He never saw them until many hours later that day.


Somehow, a video still-shot of him in his Spiderman suit calling out to the bomber was captured and circulated on the evening news. The running reports tagged him as “The Spider that Caught the Fly”. He was credited as the hero who managed to alert authorities of a man who had somehow managed to plant a bomb at an international airport in broad daylight and without detection.




May 12th 2015


Fame seemed destined to follow her and she had become tired of it. Her father was well-known. Her practice was the most popular in the state. And her husband had made their family a household name when he was tagged four years ago as The Spider that Caught The Fly. Maybe to the world he was a hero, but to Lisa, her husband had failed.


Losing a child is difficult for any parent. So when their daughter Marley died three and a half weeks after the airport bomb fiasco, she felt like her world had come crashing down. Sure, she was not the anticipated baby they had hoped for. Marley was supposed to be Mason. Her firstborn should have been a boy as she had wanted and as they had planned. But she loved that little girl with the fire in her eyes and music in her blood. Now, Lisa Elliott couldn’t face the tune of silence in the aftermath of her only-daughter’s being. What made her grief compounded was her husband Geoffrey’s bizarre behaviour that subsequently ensued. He became irrational, uncompromising, an overly-emotional alcoholic, who was apathetic toward her and particularly to their son Mason. The therapist said it was unconscious and unintentional, an unhealthy form of coping with his grief. But the behaviour, and his subsequent medical diagnosis took its downward toll on their marriage, bringing Lisa to a point of no return.


As she sat in the courtroom, she registered no disappointment at Geoffrey’s absence for the divorce hearing, his lawyer instead stepping in to act on his behalf. It was almost four years since their daughter died and her marriage had officially reached its point of death in pursuit. Thoughts of her son and a resolve to do better by him are what kept her chin upright as she listened to the lawyer’s recital of her husband’s missive – one in which he resolved to let her take everything (as she was the breadwinner in the marriage) including full custody of young Mason.



June 6th 2013


His name was recognized in his new school and people began to pay attention to him. Many of the boys wanted to be his friend. He loved the attention, craved it actually, and bought into the stories that developed in his head. He was the son of the famous Spiderman that stopped an airport bombing by pulling on the hem of a man’s shirt through his open fly. That was Mason’s polished version of the story as an eye-witness to the event. His embellishments of the facts of that day were grossly exaggerated but for once he was among the cool kids and he felt it necessary to keep up whatever façade was needed to bolster his newfound social status.


His parents did everything in their power to show him love but he never felt like he was loved as much as his sister. After Marley’s death, his father started behaving weird, much like his sister would whenever she had relapses, and his parents started fighting frequently. He never showed any physical evidence of his need for their cuddling so they always assumed that he was alright. Marley’s death took a toll on him too. But as usual, they were too preoccupied with themselves and with Marley’s loss to truly notice.


It was Career Day at school and they were tasked to dress as the professions they intended to become. His mother fancied him for engineering and design, or anything along the lines of drilling and concrete works (she silently pressured him to consider dentistry like his grandfather and her). His father was neither here nor there, lackluster in his energy or interest in what his only son would become. But Mason saw himself as his father’s son. It was his Dad who had made him famous at his new school, his father who had indirectly won him the attention that he needed. He told his parents over breakfast that morning that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He dressed in one of his smart suits that his grandfather had bought him to wear to Sunday Mass, but secretly, he stashed the Spiderman costume that his father had never removed from Marley’s bedroom.


He was at the front of the class, dressed in the Spidey suit that was too big and too long for his tiny frame, addressing his classmates, teachers and the parents that took time off to be in attendance. As Mason explained that he wanted to be a superhero when he grew up, he went into his made-up version of the airport bomber incident with his Dad. Just then, the doors to the classroom flung open and his father came barging in. He was angry and seemed ready to tear Mason to pieces as he spotted him donning the precious costume. But as his father listened to Mason talk about how much he’d loved his sister Marley and how he wanted to be a hero Dad to a little girl in the future, just as his father had been to her, tears fell steadily down his face and he ran up to Mason and embraced him. It was the first time in Mason’s memory that his father had hugged him so passionately and whispered words of love and comfort to him. That was the last time they had shared a tender moment, before his father was diagnosed with FLTD and their family was ripped further apart.




August 21st 2020: The Present


Much had happened in my life over the years and I'm thankful for my psychological growth. Life has dealt me so many bad cards that I could become bitter or better as a result. Thoughts of what life would have been like if my sister Marley had not died often flood me, leaving me overwhelmed with regret. But I've learned to be thankful. There's a reason and an explanation for everything that happened. Though I may never get the answers to the “whys”, I find solace in the fact that hope still lives. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the cause of my father’s behaviour. Grief and compounded traum are the causes of my mother’s steely countenance and her defensiveness. Significant loss and changes in my early childhood are the reasons for the many mistakes I've made and the difficult journey I endured to becoming my true self. I will salvage the remains of the relationships I've lost with the persons that I love the most. My mother Lisa will be there today too...


A sense of peace engulfed Mason as he pictured his father’s expression when he would learn that Spiderman was at Wings of Care and had come to pay him a visit that day.


****

September 04, 2020 05:35

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6 comments

Lily Kingston
12:11 Sep 08, 2020

Great story. I like the different personalities. Keep up the good work and keep writing!!

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12:27 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you for the positive feedback Cara!

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Evan Rocker
22:56 Sep 08, 2020

Your story tugged at my heart. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed the different points of view. I look forward to reading more, keep writing!

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00:27 Sep 09, 2020

Hey Evan Rocker - You Rock!! 😊😊💖 Appreciate the encouragement to keep up my writing!

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Paige Leppanen
04:07 Sep 08, 2020

This is a fantastic story!

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12:26 Sep 08, 2020

Awwww....Thanks so much Paige! I wasn't sure if the melancholic theme would overpower so your feedback is encouraging :)

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