by Jim Barrett
I had an opportunity today. I sat in my chair—trying to work out a plot problem when I pushed away from my howling computer (yeah—it howls, even snarls, when I can’t figure shit out) and leaned back in my chair. I looked skyward, really, ceilingward (if that’s a word) at the light above my head. It was then that I noticed a life and death struggle. There was a spider caught in the bowl of the light. I saw it clearly—a black eight-legged outline against the forty watt bulb that illuminated it. I was transfixed.
The bug struggled up the bowl enclosure—making pretty good progress until it skidded half way down, catching itself at the last moment.
I thought, ‘isn’t it always until?’ How many times have we as humans cruised through our existence—UNTIL . . .
I began rooting for the spider. “Keep goin’, dude. One foot—not foot—(what do spiders have) in front of the other?” “You can do it!” I actually shouted at this insect. It climbed, paused once, no doubt out of breath. I too was out of breath so I pulled a whiskey bottle out of the desk drawer and took a healthy gulp. When I looked up again, the spider had slid back (how can you slip with all of those legs)? I lurched forward in my chair—perhaps a rescue was in order. But the spider’s legs grabbed and I sat back, air whistling through my open mouth in relief. I tried to calm myself—whiskey was usually the answer so I titled up that bottle.
What brought me here, I asked myself. Why did I give a shit about a black insect struggling against a lighted globe? I thought for a moment and then I knew—it was only a microcosm of what I did every day—struggling against life’s impediments.
I’d done the same—pulled myself out of the most intense quagmire of human existence—faced death in the jungles of Vietnam—experienced the cries, tears, urine, and yes—the shit of my ending. Yet, I was content in watching this bug struggle for its life.
Suddenly, the spider slipped again—down, down, down to the bottom of the bowl. The insect slid next to the light bulb, and after a brief struggle, slowly curled up, no doubt taking a last breath. I watched with fascination – thought I should have rescued the spider—I mean spiders are the good guys in our world, right?
I didn’t help that spider—it has to make its own way—just as I do.
Now that spider’s body is just a dark spot against the bulb—one I’ll have to clean out someday.
Jim Barrett is the author of five published books, numerous magazine articles and many screenplays, one of which is currently optioned. He served with the U.S. Army’s First Aviation Brigade in Vietnam from 1968-1969. After leaving the service Jim worked in law enforcement for thirty years.