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Of Sheila and Spiders

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I could write several blog posts containing spider stories. My arachnophobia was instilled in me at a young age. Growing up in the Southeast, my siblings and I were often warned to be wary of black widow spiders and brown recluses. I never really knew what a brown recluse spider looked like until I was nearly an adult, but the image of the black widow was distinct in my mind from a very young age.

My favorite toy when I was a kid was a Sit n’ Spin. One day I left it outside. A few days later when I went back out to get it, a large, black spider came running out at me from beneath it. Shrieking, I ran and got my dad and he torched the spider. It had been a black widow and it shook me up quite a lot at how close I had come to potentially getting bitten. That was the first time I had actually seen a black widow spider. Sadly, I was scared to play on my Sit n’ Spin after that.

I’ve come a long way since then. I respect spiders and am fascinated by them. I don’t like them crawling on me or too close to me, though. I also do not kill them. If inside, I catch or collect them and place them outside.

The black widow in the picture above was in my garden a few years ago. I remember doing some weeding and talking to another little spider that was making its way along the side of the house (yes, I talk to spiders and, no, they don’t usually answer back). I had just turned away from him when a flurry of movement caught my eye. I turned to see the black widow in its tangle web alongside the house. It had captured the other spider I had been talking to. I promptly freaked out because I hadn’t realized how close I had been to the black widow and I ran into the house, tearing my clothes off as I went (‘cause I had this horrible thought that there had been more than one and it was probably crawling on me as I had been brushing up against the house as I made my way down the garden). Once calm, I determined I would have to move it to the woods, but it had disappeared by the time I worked up the nerve to do it.

I always knew I would have to write a spider story at some point. I should probably write several, as a cathartic process. “The Sewing Lady’s Daughter” came about as I was considering writing a story about a black widow. I wanted to tap into the idea of the black widow killing its mate (which I found out later is a myth) and at the same time not be cliché with it. I thought…what if she had a child? What if it was a girl and she was half-spider? What would happen if she wanted to have a child?

Hence, the story is about the daughter. I like the fairy tale element of the spider falling in love with a human, but the creature instinct still being present. The original version of the story was about fifteen pages with much more build up and exposition. I think I like the shorter version better.

You can read “The Sewing Lady’s Daughter” in my short-short collection “A Curse and Three Blessings” for free.

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