Daddy Longlegs

BY Gary Holmes
Posted 7/26/19

The stones were not as hot as before, cooled by the shade which had crept across them. Kiri tested one and sat down, leaving her towel on a chair. She put one hand over the patio ledge and into the …

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Daddy Longlegs

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The stones were not as hot as before, cooled by the shade which had crept across them. Kiri tested one and sat down, leaving her towel on a chair. She put one hand over the patio ledge and into the shallow inlet, fingers flicking the water. It felt warmer than usual for late August. An almost breeze soothed her. She watched a fish idling in the slip, checking out her movements, clearly expecting bread crumbs. She smiled.
Time to chill, to decide whether to just swim the cove or all the way to the clubhouse, eyes closing to the sky, the stones and air cocooning her.
A tickle a touch a jerk of her arm. Kiri’s head bolted up. Ahh… a daddy Longlegs climbing the hill of her wrist. She eased the arm back down and watched the spider step off as if nothing had happened. “Hello!”
The traveler made its way to the patio’s edge and started down the foot-long cliff. Must be going to one of the cracks to hide or rest or whatever daddy Longlegs do.
Kiri moved her head around so she could observe the descent. It made its way with slow deliberation, picking up the front legs, putting them down and then following with the back, its own private rhythm.
She had spied on a lot of daddy Longlegs—there were a lot of them around—and wondered if this was one she had seen before. Crawling through the grass, on the patio, on the chairs where she was continually brushing them off—nothing to eat on a chair, silly things.
But this one seemed to have a purpose. It had ignored the holes and gaps and was now right at the water’s edge. She watched amazed as it first put a couple of its legs on to the water, then all. And slowly started to walk on top, eight little dimples holding it up.
“Where in the world are you going?” was her admonition to this daring adventurer. She had never seen a daddy Longlegs do that. Water spiders, yes; they raced across the water like speedboats. But never a Longlegs. And there was nowhere to go except across to the rocks on the other side, not four feet away—but miles to the spider, she imaged. And can it see that far? That side of the slip could be like a foreign country. She laid herself down flat, head hanging over the ledge, intent on the spider’s every watery step.
Hmmm. Maybe its home—did they have homes?—was on the other side of the slip and it wanted to take the short cut. Maybe it had a nest over there. Maybe it was a mommy Longlegs! A giggle. Kiri was full of ideas, charting the spider’s progress.
Then it just stopped. About eight inches out. “Why did ya’ stop there, silly?”
And then the spider did the strangest thing; it took its little round body and slowly lowered it into the water. And up and out and down again. Is it drinking, is it cooling off? How much could it drink? Kiri waited. But daddy Longlegs wasn’t coming back up; it was still down in the water.
Kiri’s curiosity turned to concern. The little thing is going to drown. Maybe it can’t get back up and is trapped by the surface tension. It has to have realized it’s made a mistake.
Kiri took her hands and scooped it out and back up to the rocks. She couldn’t take her eyes off the poor wet thing, “Come on, come on….” The spider was stark still for more than a few moments, then started flexing its legs. Kiri’s intake of breath matched her relief. She smiled, knowing that it probably wasn’t aware she even existed and certainly didn’t know what happened. Or that she had most probably saved its life.
Kiri was even more pleased when the spider began walking, start and stop at first and slowly gaining speed, which made her glad. But she could not believe her eyes when it then made its way once more to the patio edge, down the stones and stepped out on the water.
“What are you doing? Where are you going???” But the spider was not listening. Don’t spiders have ears? “What is wrong with you?” But maybe it had learned what to do now. She had heard spiders actually could learn things.
Kiri shook her head and watched the spider go to the same place, practically. And it did the same thing. Up and down and up and then just down, the little round body in the water, legs sticking up like light posts. And watched transfixed as the spider’s once tense and stroking legs went limp, crumbled and fell into the water. A deep breath, knowing the what but not understanding the why. She could only look down on the circle of the body and the still strands stretching out of it.
A sudden splash. Daddy Longlegs was gone, a widening ring of ripples marking the fish’s strike.
A moment. Another. Kiri finally looked away, stood up, took her towel and started a slow walk back to the cabin. Maybe she would swim tomorrow.

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